Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Jellybean Candy in a Jar

The Wisdom of Crowds: Are Crowds Really Wiser Than Individuals?

According to the theory, with a large number of guessers, the median number is very likely to be close to the true value

Statistician Sir Francis Galton went to a country fair in 1907 where a prize was to be awarded to the person who made the most accurate guess of the butchered weight of an ox that was on display. Galton collected and analyzed the 787 guesses and, not surprisingly, found that some guesses were far too high and others were much too low. However, the average guess (1,197 pounds) was only 1 pound lower than the actual weight (1,198 pounds). The average was more accurate than the guesses of the vast majority of both the amateurs and the experts. In the 1980s, a finance professor named Jack Treynor (1930–2016) performed a similar, and now legendary, experiment with jelly beans. Professor Treynor…

a mouse with a tree / green it

Could Carbon Computing Make Computers More Environment Friendly?

As a key component of life forms, carbon is abundant and energy efficient

Carbon, a very abundant chemical element, is one of the building blocks of life, partly on account of its stability. It is a minimalist element, compared to the silicon used in computing today: … carbon dioxide is is a small gaseous molecule consisting of two oxygens both forming a double bond with a single carbon while silicon dioxide is a massive behemoth of a molecule made of huge numbers of alternating oxygen and silicon atoms and is more commonly known as sand. S. E. Gould, “Shine on you crazy diamond: why humans are carbon-based lifeforms” at Scientific American (November 11, 2012) But there’s something else about carbon. As George Gilder puts it, carbon-based life forms, like humans, consume very little…

Autonomous vehicles on highway with self driving cars sensing environment by radar and operating safely on speedway thanks to artificial intelligence and control systems, automated transport concept

What Real Advantage Do Self-Driving Cars Provide?

It’s time for a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the pursuit of fully self-driving cars

More and more people are realizing that autonomous (self-driving) vehicles are not a road to automotive prosperity. To recap, Level 5 self-driving is what most people think of when they hear the term “self-driving.” You type in an address and the car takes you where you want to go while you sleep in the back. That car is not going to hit the road anytime soon. Level 4 self-driving is similar but only works within well-defined areas or situations. In practice, Level 4 essentially relies on either intelligent infrastructure or a territory that is so predictable and well-mapped that it obviates the need for intelligent infrastructure. Huge amounts have been invested in self-driving vehicles. The Information estimated that $16 billion…

Communist Party Monument, Pyongyang, North-Korea

Computer Science Explains Why Communism Can’t Work

Successful communism is not only morally and practically flawed, it is mathematically impossible

Communism has been the target of many criticisms. The strongest deal with the mismatch between central planning and individuals’ desires for their lives and with the horrific human rights record of communist nations. Some scholars place the toll in human life due to communism at above 100 million in the 20th century. Those are criticisms of the practicality and ethics of communism. But is it also intrinsically flawed at a fundamental mathematical level? It turns out that the answer is yes. The basic idea behind central planning is this: If the central government makes most decisions that, in a freer society, individuals or small communities would make for themselves, more efficiency will follow—and, as a result, more prosperity. It doesn’t…