Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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intellectual property. light bulb with chain

How’s the University of Austin Coming? It’s Actually Happening

The “intellectual freedom” university continues to take shape in a world of “death to free speech”

A very cautious article at Chronicle of Higher Education about the University of Austin fills in the rest of us. U Austin has come a long way since it was mocked at The New Republic as allegedly seeking to be “higher education’s premier institution of monetizing moral panics.” A couple of observations from senior Chronicle writer Tom Bartlett: The pioneer faculty have the money to get started: Chatter aside, the University of Austin is starting to take shape in the year since its raucous rollout. Curriculum is being developed. The accreditation process is underway. A deal for land in the greater Austin area is being hammered out. The university has lured several professors away from other universities and plans to…

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A sad young female student sitting at the table, studying.

Can We Rewire Our Brains To Be More Fluent in Math?

An artsy who flunked math — but later became an electrical engineering prof — says yes

Barbara Oakley, a self-confessed math phobe, nonetheless became a professor of electrical engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, as well as an author. In 2014, she offered some secrets: at Nautilus. Be warned: Her secrets are not “Forget homework!” or “Math is a tool of oppression!” No, this is quite a different message. It’s about neuroplasticity, the ways our brains adapt to our circumstances, to give us the tools we need. But to adapt, the brain needs practice: Japan has become seen as a much-admired and emulated exemplar of these active, “understanding-centered” teaching methods. But what’s often missing from the discussion is the rest of the story: Japan is also home of the Kumon method of teaching mathematics, which emphasizes…

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Teenage boy doing homework using computer sitting by desk in room alone

What Does AI in Education Mean for Critical Thinking Skills?

Students, as reported at Motherboard, are increasingly using GPT-3 and other text-generator programs to write essays for them

The COVID pandemic pushed a lot of school coursework to the internet, with an increased reliance on true/false and multiple-choice tests that can be taken online and graded quickly and conveniently. Not surprisingly, once questions went online, so did answers, with several companies posting (for a fee) solutions for students who would rather Google answers than watch Zoomed lectures. To fit into a true/false or multiple-choice format, the questions are generally little more than a recitation of definitions, facts, and calculations. Here, for example, are three statistics questions I found at a question/answer site: Question: True or false: A group of subjects selected from the group of all subjects under study is called a sample. Answer: True Question: You are…

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industry 4.0 concept: Man is holding product and teaching robot arm the points with control panel ( teach pendant ) on smart factory production line background. Selective Focus.

Preparing Students to Work in an Artificial Intelligence World

Technology innovations are rapidly changing the nature of work. Advancements in artificial intelligence are especially transforming the workforce landscape at an accelerating rate. Jobs of tomorrow will not resemble those of decades past, nor even those of today. Read More ›
Statistics Carlos Muza on Unsplash 84523

The Hyper-Specialization of University Researchers

So many papers are published today in increasingly narrow specialties that, if there is still a big picture, hardly anyone can see it

The Bible warns that, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Nowadays, the endless making of books is dwarfed by the relentless firehose of academic research papers. A 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal reported that the U.S. National Library of Medicine includes 113,976 papers on echocardiography — which would weary the flesh of any newly credentialed doctor specializing in echocardiography: We assumed that he or she could read five papers an hour (one every 10 minutes, followed by a break of 10 minutes) for eight hours a day, five days a week, and 50 weeks a year; this gives a capacity of 10000 papers in one year.…

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solving algebra equation on whiteboard in classroom

The War on Math Is Becoming an Entrenched Ground War

If math skills are rooted in white supremacy, as alleged, one current solution is tests that don’t require math skills

When we first started talking about the war on math, many readers may have thought we were joking. No. The war on 2 + 2 = 4 is getting some pushback but it continues. The basic idea is that the rules of math are rooted in white supremacy. Last December, the question was mooted at USA Today, “Is math racist?” The context was proposed changes to math education: After Ebri switched to emphasizing real-world problems and collaboration, her students, most of whom are Black, improved their scores on Florida’s math exam in 2020-21 – even with 1 in 3 learning from home. But other, bolder recommendations to make math more inclusive are blowing up the world of mathematics education. Schools…

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Cheating on a Test

Study: AI Fails To Catch Cheaters on an Exam

In a test of the Proctorio system, students who were told to try to cheat found a variety of ways to fool the system

Is AI the answer to student cheating on tests? Not that you’d know it from a recent study of AI detection system Proctorio at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Proctorio tracks students’ eye movements and body language while taking exams to flag “suspicious” behavior. So, as Vice tells it, 30 computer science student volunteers were told to take a first year exam that that system supervised. Six were told to cheat, five were told to act suspiciously without really cheating, and the rest were told to just write the test: The results confirmed that Proctorio is not good at catching cheaters. The system did not flag any of the cheaters as cheating. Some used virtual machines, a known…

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abstract ornate illustration

The Vector Algebra Wars: A Word in Defense of Clifford Algebra

A well-recognized, deep problem with using complex numbers as vectors is that they only really work with two dimensions

Vector algebra is the manipulation of directional quantities. Vector algebra is extremely important in physics because so many of the quantities involved are directional. If two cars hit each other at an angle, the resulting direction of the cars is based not only on the speed they were traveling, but also on the specific angle they were moving at. Even if you’ve never formally taken a course in vector algebra, you probably have some experience with the easiest form of vector algebra — complex numbers (i.e., numbers that include the imaginary number i). In a complex number, you no longer have a number line, but, instead, you have a number plane. The image below shows the relationship between the real…

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books

Brain for Hire: The Internet Makes Academic Cheating Much Easier

Dave Tomar, who wrote essays for students for hire for a decade, then wrote a book about it, thinks 40% of students cheat at least once

For many years, Dave Tomar was that bane that universities always claim to be doing something about but can’t (or anyway never) do — an essay writer for hire. Wait. Wasn’t the internet supposed to end cheating? The search engine reveals all, right?… No. Read on. In The Complete Guide to Contract Cheating in Higher Education (Academic Influence, 2022), Tomar, long a freelance writer and now a plagiarism expert, explains: Yes, that happened when Google became the default search engine in 2000 and the usual copy-paste and essay mill methods no longer worked. But… Cheaters and their enablers would just need to get more creative. If, before, there were just online repositories of essays and the people who curated them,…

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Literary fiction, police inspector, investigate crime and mystery story conceptual idea with sherlock holmes detective hat, smoking pipe, retro magnifying glass and book isolated on wood table top

Researchers: Learning by Inference Beats Learning by Association

They found that seeing the patterns underlying events (inference) allowed test volunteers to make predictions about future events

When we learn by association, we notice that some things occur together. For example, suppose three items are frequently seen together on a kitchen table — salt, ketchup, and vinegar. So we might learn to associate salt and vinegar with ketchup. But what, if any, is the relationship? When we infer information about the world around us, we don’t just associate items with each other. We see the pattern underlying them. By seeing the pattern in the group of condiments, we learn more: In this case, we infer that dinner will likely be fish and chips. If the group had been plum sauce, soya sauce, and Sriracha sauce, we would infer that fish and chips won’t be served this time;…

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African American smiling woman math teacher stands at black board with pointer.

Reviving the Relational View of Mathematics

Unfortunately, some textbooks teach number rules rather than relationships, so students may not know why the rule matters

While helping a friend’s teenage son with math, I was perusing the textbook used. I was dismayed by the presentation of the topic of translating graphs. More than that, I believe the issue reflects some general problems with how mathematics is typically presented to high school students. Specifically, the text addressed how to do graph transformations for exponential functions. That is, if you have a function with the form y = a ⋅ bx (where a and b are constants), how would you create a new equation whose graph was moved up, down, left, or right? The method the book proposed, while technically correct, misses a huge opportunity to help students. The book presents a general form for transforming exponential…

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Young man writing college or university application form with pen and paper. Student applying or filling document. Scholarship, grant or admission. School website in laptop.

The Scandal of US News College Rankings

The rankings are very important to many students’ futures — but that makes them easy subjects of manipulation

At Academic Influence, we learn: The U.S. News rankings are flawed. But are they better than nothing? True, they’ve led to a standardization of how certain college data are presented. Moreover, they are useful to high school students whose college counselors are absent or unavailable — if only to get some broad sense of which schools are good and which are better. But on balance, the U.S. News rankings make higher education worse. Schools are motivated to “game” the U.S. News rankings, introducing superficial and even counterproductive changes that raise their ranking but do nothing to provide a better education for students or a more productive environment for faculty. Worse yet, some schools will simply lie to U.S. News to…

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Girl solving mathematical addition

No, Civilization Has NOT Won the War on Math. Not Yet Anyway…

The war on math is now coming down to the race — not the ideas — of mathematicians

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley muses on the latest assault on math teaching in schools: We previously discussed the view of University of Rhode Island and Director of Graduate Studies of History Erik Loomis that “Science, statistics, and technology are all inherently racist.” Others have agreed with that view, including denouncing math as racist or a “tool of whiteness.” Now, as part of its “decolonization” efforts, Durham University is calling on professors in the math department to ask themselves if they’re citing work from “mostly white or male” mathematicians. According to the Telegraph and The College Fix a guide instructs faculty that “decolonising the mathematical curriculum means considering the cultural origins of the mathematical concepts, focusses, and notation we most commonly use.”  It adds: “[T]he question of whether we have allowed…

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We studied together now were graduating together. Portrait of a group of students taking selfies on graduation day.

Historically Black Colleges/Universities Crush School Rankings

According to a new metric that rewards per-dollar effectiveness as opposed to the benefits of lavish endowments, they took three spots out of the top five

While popular rankings of colleges and universities — like that of U.S. News and World Report — have always been top secret, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, working with a team of Reed College researchers, managed to “crack the code.” And, as Academic Influence tells it, an unhappy truth emerged: What troubled Gladwell is that schools like Dillard University and Reed College could never, given the way college rankings were set up, receive the recognition they deserved. The whole ranking system was rigged against them. Gladwell focused especially on Dillard University, an HBCU [historically Black college or university] in New Orleans. By making its mission to serve underserved populations, Dillard was, in effect, getting penalized by U.S. News & World Report, which puts a premium in its…

Students raised up hands green chalk board in classroom

What Do We Want With Mathematics Curriculum?

If we are going to dedicate such a large portion of our children's lives to learning mathematics, we had better know why

Modern policy discussions in America almost always leave out the biggest question – why are we doing what we are doing in the first place? Leaving out first principles always leaves people trying to find the most practical way to accomplish nothing in particular. We have become accustomed to not asking questions about first principles because they always sound too doctrinaire, but then we wind up, at best, making the misplaced assumption that everyone is reaching for the same goal, or, far worse, viewing the activities themselves as the goals. One place where this problem repeatedly rears its ugly head is education, and especially mathematics education. Why are we teaching math? What do we want people to get out of…

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Texture of multi-colored sweet marshmallows. Marshmallows candy for background.

Can Waiting for a Marshmallow Predict a Child’s Future?

Believing so was all the rage in recent decades but later research didn’t back up the idea

You’ve maybe heard of Stanford University’s “marshmallow experiment,” right? A child’s future can be predicted, we were told by psychologist Walter Mischel (1930–2018), by whether the child can delay gratification: Walter Mischel’s pioneering research at Bing in the late 1960s and early 1970s famously explored what enabled preschool-aged children to forgo immediate gratification in exchange for a larger but delayed reward… This research identified some of the key cognitive skills, strategies, plans and mindsets that enable self-control. If the children focused on the “hot” qualities of the temptations (e.g., “The marshmallows are sweet, chewy, yummy”), they soon rang the bell to bring the researcher back. If they focused on their abstract “cool” features (“The marshmallows are puffy and round like…

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Aerial view over Cupertino in Bay Area, California on a sunny day.

Is It Really the End for Silicon Valley or Just a Reboot?

A COSM 2021 panel looked at the effect of remote work, spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, on iconic locations like the Valley

“Is It the End for Silicon Valley?” was one of the discussions at COSM 2021 (2:00 pm, Wednesday, November 11, 2021). It featured Babak Parviz, Vice President of Amazon Inc. but best known as the inventor of Google Glass, who served as moderator Lynne Robinson, mayor of the City of Bellevue Walter Myers III, Principal Engineering Manager at Microsoft, and Bob Metcalfe, Engineer, Entrepreneur, and Professor of Innovation. The conversation turned on whether, in the internet age, one needs to work in any specific locality, like Silicon Valley. Some of their comments relating to where people will live in relation to their work and the problems they will face are transcribed below: Work where you live or live where you…

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The red human figure extends its influence to the neighboring figures. Spreading ideas and thoughts, recruiting new members. Infection of other people, zero patient. Leader and leadership, new team.

Why Influence Matters More Than People Realize

How do we go from defending ourselves to persuading others?

7 From Apologetics to Rhetoric During my years as a seminary professor, every course I taught had some connection with apologetics. One of the courses I taught that I liked best was rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Unfortunately, it is an art that Christian apologetics has failed to fully appropriate. Aristotle rightly distinguished three appeals of persuasion. These were logos, ethos, and pathos. You can try to persuade by logical argument. That’s logos, and Christian apologetics is hypertrophied in that department. But you can also try to persuade by the force of your personality, or by your reputation for moral probity, or by your demonstrated expertise and qualifications. That’s ethos, and it speaks to your standing and credibility in the act of persuasion.…

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Red arrows to go left or to go right

What If Your Schooling Meant an AI Telling You What To Do?

Lee and Chen are techno-optimists. They recognize the benefits of innovative technologies while acknowledging its inherent limitations and societal costs

Author, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, and former head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, shared with COSM 2021 his predictions for the future of AI. His presentation drew from his book AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future, co-authored with prominent science fiction writer Chen Quifan. AI 2041 offers seven short stories that explore the ethical and societal implications of machine-learning technologies on various industries, such as manufacturing, art, and education. The last three chapters address potential societal and geopolitical issues raised by artificial intelligence. Each short story includes an “analysis” section, authored by Lee, which delves into the issues raised by the story and its characters. Lee and Chen are techno-optimists. They recognize the benefits of innovative technologies while acknowledging…

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Alma Mater statue near the Columbia University library.

Should You Choose a College Based on Well-Known Rankings?

What goes into those rankings? Big Data has enabled newer ranking systems that may tell you more of what you need to know

Yesterday, philosopher of science Bruce Gordon interviewed physicist Jed Macosko and law professor Jeff Stake about how to read college rankings. What, exactly, lies behind those numbers, especially the ones from the iconic U.S. News & World Report? Are they something you can bank on or something you should know more about first? Macosko and Stake think you should know more. As Gordon’s introduction puts it, rankings are big business and can lead to outright fraud: A recent stark example of the financial implications of college and university rankings is the case of Moshe Porat, former dean of Temple University’s Fox Business School. Porat was convicted on November 29, 2021 of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to move the business…