Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# CategoryEconomics

## Critical Lessons From the COVID Crisis — From a Leading Historian

Niall Ferguson sees the economic impact of the COVID shutdown as comparable to fighting World War II — or World War III

Earlier this month, historian Niall Ferguson spoke to COSM 2021 about the real lessons from the strange year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. A reader might be forgiven for wondering whether, in the cacophony of conflicting claims, opinions, and prophecies of doom, there are any useful lessons to be learned (other than: Turn off the TV). Ferguson thinks there are indeed lessons — if we compare the recent pandemic and how it was handled with pandemics of the past. In his recent book, Doom: The politics of catastrophe (2021), he argues that “All disasters are in some sense man-made” and that — despite advances in science — we are getting worse, not better, at handling them: Yet in…

## Gingrich at COSM: China Is the Greatest Threat to Global Freedom

Newt Gingrich fears America will lose to China. George Gilder argues that thinking that way is self-defeating and stupid

At COSM 2021, philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich sparred over U.S.–China relations. Gilder and Gingrich, a former U.S. Congressman, exemplify the two predominant views on China today. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author Gingrich says the U.S. should decouple from China, while economist and author Gilder sees collaboration with China as our best — and only — option. Gingrich: Optimism about a more open China is waning In his opening remarks, Gingrich recalled that he was once an optimist that Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping’s opening up strategy would usher in a more democratic China because Communism was incompatible with a free market economy. But, Gingrich, who has been a history…

## Book Review: “Ghost Work” Flops in Economic Understanding

"Ghost workers" are those unseen workers behind artificial intelligence

Here at Mind Matters, we have often covered the way that humans are used to supplement Artificial Intelligence. Artificial intelligence has generally been misunderstood as replacing human effort in society, while, in reality, it is usually leveraging it, instead. Whether using humans to find good training data, mining content for intentionality, or even using humans directly within machine learning algorithms, today’s most prominent “AI” systems are actually strange hybrids of humans and computers. As a matter of fact, the market for human supplementation of AI is so large that Amazon has an entire service built around it. While much of this work is done either for free (oftentimes through games on the Internet) or through traditional paid office work, a growing amount is being done through “microtasks,” through systems…

## Economics As If Time, Not Money, Drives the Bus

Business prof Gale Pooley told COSM 2021 that the information society has vastly increased the goods that our time will buy by increasing and automating knowledge

Brigham Young University business prof Gale Pooley figures that not only does time drive the bus but economics is much easier to understand if we take that fact seriously. That was one key point in his wide-ranging talk at COSM 2021 yesterday, “Knowledge vs. Doom.” As we all struggle with inflation, it’s worth looking at the money we earn simply from the perspective of how much of our time was spent earning it: “Money is time” essentially means that we buy things with money but we really pay for them with our time. Instead of dollars and cents, we can use hours and minutes to price things. We can use “time prices.” As he told the audience, Yale University economist…

## Is Online Learning Poised To Replace Universities?

Perhaps sooner than we think, if present trends continue. A degree may confer only social status — which depends on others’ acceptance

In 2019, freelance writer Allen Farrington wrote an insightful piece, asking a question many have avoided. Does the acceptance of Cancel Culture signal the irretrievable decline of universities? He begins by discussing a short documentary on the Bret Weinstein affair at Evergreen State College in Washington State in 2017. Weinstein, along with his wife Heather Heying, was driven from the campus by angry students because he spoke out against racial exclusion policies. Both were biology teachers with fairly liberal views: No matter how closely you followed the debacle at the time, there is really no substitute for this fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Evergreen academics can be seen meekly and repeatedly submitting to ideological manipulation, and on a number of…

## Destructing the Creative Destruction Myth

Debunking the argument that the Fortune 100 list is evidence of the productive vitality of capitalism

Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalist economies are not stagnant and calcified but, instead, by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1950 He believed that embedded in capitalism is an engine of change that revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1950 Schumpeter was no doubt influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin had written that the “extinction of old forms is the almost…

## Tech Stocks: Are the Unicorns Losing Their Horns? Their Magic?

Jeffrey Lee Funk and Gary N. Smith reveal at MarketWatch that widely publicized, iconic unicorns have never made money or made only a little

## Photonics: Because Light Travels Faster Than Electricity

Fibre optics (light) is used to transmit data via the internet but on the stationary computer, it’s the slower electrons that rule. Some researchers hope to change that

As Ryan Hamerly explains at IEEE Spectrum, optical fibers can carry more than electrical wires. But they face a limitation: But there is a big difference between communicating data and computing with it. And this is where analog optical approaches hit a roadblock. Conventional computers are based on transistors, which are highly nonlinear circuit elements—meaning that their outputs aren’t just proportional to their inputs, at least when used for computing. Nonlinearity is what lets transistors switch on and off, allowing them to be fashioned into logic gates. This switching is easy to accomplish with electronics, for which nonlinearities are a dime a dozen. But photons follow Maxwell’s equations, which are annoyingly linear, meaning that the output of an optical device…