Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


collection of alien planets in front of the Milky Way galaxy, nearby exoplanets

Why Search for Extraterrestrial Life? Why Not Make It Ourselves?

A NASA astrobiologist’s bold suggestion is likely to spark debate

Recently, we have been looking at the question of why we don’t see aliens, with as many as 75 hypotheses offered. But one astrobiologist has a bold suggestion: Why not just seed life on various suitable exoplanets, once we have the means to do it? We need not search for extraterrestrial life if we can learn how to create it ourselves. There are a lot of reasons to think very carefully about doing something like that, as Betül Kaçar (pictured), director of the NASA Astrobiology Consortium MUSE, acknowledges: Rather than regarding the overwhelming majority of planets and moons as failures unworthy of further study, we should instead recognise them for what they are: they’re not empty. In fact, a very…

Asian doctor wearing face shield and PPE suit to check elder woman patient protect safety infection Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak at quarantine nursing hospital ward.

Why Did New York Have COVID Policy That Killed Elderly Patients?

For all practical purposes, the government directive was essentially an order to spread COVID to people in nursing homes

This is a difficult post to write, and a difficult post to read. I’ve thought about it for months, and what I’m going to say must be said. I see no way around the conclusions I’ll draw. So here goes. On March 25, 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York State, the New York State Department of Health, under the signatures of Governor Andrew Cuomo, DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Executive Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin, issued a directive to New York State nursing homes requiring nursing homes to accept patients for re-admission or admission regardless of their COVID-19 status. The salient paragraph is: No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based…

Blue hydraulic Clow Crane used for picking up scrap metal at recycling yard

Is It Ethical To Scrap Star Trek’s Commander Data for Research?

A philosopher offers a thoughtful review of the case

In a thought-provoking essay, San José State University philosopher Anand Vaidya asks, should it be okay to dismantle Star Trek‘s robotic crew member Data for research purposes, as proposed in the “The Measure of a Man” episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Some of the Trek brass seemed to think so: Vaidya disagrees: As real artificial intelligence technology advances toward Hollywood’s imagined versions, the question of moral standing grows more important. If AIs have moral standing, philosophers like me reason, it could follow that they have a right to life. That means you cannot simply dismantle them, and might also mean that people shouldn’t interfere with their pursuing their goals. Anand Vaidya, “If a robot is conscious, is it…

Ai identify person technology for recognize, classify and predict human behavior for safety. Futuristic artificial intelligence. Surveillance and data collection of citizens through city cameras.

The Information We Just Give Away Obliterates Privacy

Privacy may turn out to be one of the biggest political issues of the new decade

A story came to light at VICE in 2017, that the CIA spied on people through their smart TVs. Without getting into those weeds, note this conventional warning offered by manufacturers: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.” An old birdwatcher’s tip: If you can see them, assume they can see you. If the internet is wide open to us, we are potentially wide open to the internet. Here are three surveillance issues worth pondering, about the systems we take for granted: ➤ Alexa employees listen in: Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people…

With the global spread of the new coronavirus pneumonia, an automated line of disposable medical masks makes the masks ready for an epidemic 24 hours a day, COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 Response Exposes Racism in China, amid Harmony Claims

The lid blew off when African leaders broke the accustomed silence imposed by their dependence on Chinese high-tech loans

The coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic has exposed two longstanding ugly problems: underlying racist views of Africans living in China and the burden debt to China lays on several African countries. The key flashpoints creating tension between China and Africa are 1) Mistreatment of citizens of African countries living in China, particularly in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province (pictured) and 2) Beijing’s position on granting debt relief to countries in Africa so they can direct resources to dealing with the coronavirus. In one incident, Nigeria’s speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, posted a video of himself summoning Chinese Ambassador Zhou Pingjian to his office where he expressed his displeasure about a Nigerian man being evicted from his home. While nobody…

Smart car, Autonomous self-driving concept.

Daimler, Waymo, and GM Make Big Gains in Level 4 Self-Driving

GM has been given a permit to test five driverless cars on streets in San Francisco later this year

The Society for Automotive Engineering (SAE) has identified five levels of self-driving which describe how much a particular vehicle is able to handle its own driving tasks. Level 1 means that the vehicle handles either the speed or the steering, but not both, and it requires supervision. While ordinary cruise control technically falls into this level, most people associate cruise control with adaptive cruise control, which slows down or speeds up with traffic. A Level 2 car can control the speed and the steering but the driver must still maintain full vigilance. At Level 3, the driver need not maintain total vigilance but must still be able to take control upon request. Level 4 is “full self-driving” but limited to…

Liquid Nitrogen bank containing suspension of stem cells. Cell culture for the biomedical diagnostic

Can We Make Brains in a Dish? Can We Make MINDS in a Dish?

Experiments with brain organoids have left many wondering whether we should be concerned about creating brains-in-a-dish

In a recent report, Nature addressed several studies on disembodied brains grown in the lab. One of those studies, published last year by Alysson Muotri of the University of California, San Diego, showed that brain organoids (organized clusters of brain cells) displayed electrical signals reminiscent of a twenty-five-week-old pre-term baby. the electrical activity continued for several months until the experiment was eventually stopped. Experiments with such brain organoids have left many wondering whether we should be concerned about creating brains-in-a-dish. Organoids, such as those made of kidney or liver cells, have been used to study drug development and disease. They are made either from embryonic stem cells—an ethically problematic source because they involve the destruction of an embryo—or induced pluripotent…

Pink Neon sign 'Don't quit'

Are Deepfakes Too Deep for Us? Or Can We Fight Back?

Keeping up with the fakers is becoming more of a challenge

Since 2014, there has been a new twist to misrepresentation in politics: deepfakes—computer-generated images that seem quite real. Adam Garfinkle of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University explains how the technology, generative adversarial networks (GANs), works: A GAN operator pits a generator (G) against a discriminator (D) in a gamelike environment in which G tries to fool D into incorrectly discriminating between fake and real data. The technology works by means of a series of incremental but rapid adjustments that allows D to discriminate data while G tries to fool it. Adam Garfinkle, ““Disinformed”” at Inference Review Once the problem is reduced to a giant calculation, a giant computer learns much more quickly than the rest of us. And it can then…

Analysis of a sample of water.jpg
Analysis of a sample of water from a river or sea, ocean. The scientist in the glove took water in a test tube.

Information Today Is Like Water in the Ocean. How Do We Test It?

Often, we must sort through many layers of bias in information to get at the facts that matter
Examining specific types of bias in our thinking will help us evaluate the information on key issues that inundates us today. Read More ›
speak no evil

Psychologist: Children Use Reason, not Gut, for Moral Problems

Audun Dahlis thinks that the case against moral reasoning has begun to unravel

A psychology prof (pictured) at University of California, Santa Cruz offers us a surprising message about children: They do not rely merely on feelings, but rather reason, when making moral choices: For decades, research on children – unlike research on adults – has overwhelmingly concluded that participants do reason about moral issues. (Strangely, psychological research often portrays children more favourably than it does adults.) In one classic study from the 1980s, researchers interviewed six- to 10-year-old children in the United States. They asked about several fictional moral violations: for instance, a child who pushed another child off the top of a slide. When asked why pushing was wrong, children typically explained that it could hurt the victim. Accordingly, most children…

kung fu bamboo stick.jpg
kung fu bamboo stick.jpg

Mulan: Disney Talks Freedom at Home, Toes the Line in China

Films we see get altered in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to conform to the requirements of CCP propaganda

China’s government allows only about thirty-four Hollywood movies to be shown in Chinese theaters. As a result, entertainment companies like Disney go out of their way to make sure a film appeals to both North American crowds and Chinese Communist Party’s censors. Of course, what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allows and doesn’t allow in films is vague and subject to change, which keeps foreign film-makers guessing. Mulan, Disney’s latest attempt to please both the North American and the Chinese market, has failed to do either, for a number of reasons. Financially, Disney is already hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters in the U.S. either remain closed or permit only limited-capacity seating. In response, Disney released Mulan on its streaming…

Ethics Integrity Fairness Ideals Behavior Values Concept

AI: Design Ethics vs. End User Ethics — the Difference Is Important

The major ethical challenge in AI design is unintended consequences. It’s up to end users to debate which consequences SHOULD be intended. Read More ›
Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Will We Outsource Religion and Spirituality to AI ?

A philosopher makes the case. But he worries, are we really outsourcing caring about others?

Last Sunday, we looked at the question raised by Professor David O’Hara of Augustana University (South Dakota) as to whether AI could someday have mystical experiences. Of course, a lot depends on whether AI can have any experiences at all. An agnostic himself, O’Hara has also asked us to consider how robot priests will “change human spirituality”: What matters is not whether we have invented true artificial intelligence, but whether we believe we have invented it. If we trust the machine, we might let it function as a mystic or a priest, even if it isn’t one. This raises the interesting question of what to do when someone makes a machine that is actually intended to play the role of…

nave espacial

Are the Aliens We Never See Obeying Star Trek’s Prime Directive?

The Directive is, don’t interfere in the evolution of alien societies, even if you have good intentions

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope, astronomers recently scoured a part of the sky known to contain at least 10 million star systems for evidence of alien technology (“techno signatures”). And the result? “With this dataset, we found no technosignatures — no sign of intelligent life.” Professor Tingay said even though this was the broadest search yet, he was not shocked by the result. “As Douglas Adams noted in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, ‘space is big, really big’.” International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, “Australian telescope finds no signs of alien technology in 10 million star systems” at ScienceDaily The paper is open access. Various sources offer explanations for the absent aliens; the most popular is that…

Online exam

What’s To Be Done About Cheating with Chegg in the COVID era?

College-level solutions to specific problems can be texted, for a fee, to students writing exams

Academic dishonesty is a fancy term for cheating. With profit-motivated websites like Chegg.com, cheating is now easier than ever. When taking an exam, take a photo of a problem that stumps you and send it to Chegg. In literally minutes, you’ll be sent the answer over your cell phone. How do they do it? Often they employ smart nerds from poor countries who, by local standards, are paid big bucks for their efforts.Chegg, which charges $14.95 per month for its service, does not see itself as a site for cheaters but as a resource to help with homework. It advertises: With over 21 million homework solutions, you can also search our library to find similar homework problems & solutions. Browsing…

Bottle of prescription medication.

The “Morality Pill” Hormone Does Not Make People “Nicer”

After an initial buzz as a “love hormone” we should all be dosed with, oxytocin started to reveal a big down side

Recently, we looked at the revival of enthusiasm for a morality pill on the grounds that it could make people do what authorities say with respect to COVID-19. Many of these proposals focus on the neuropeptide oxytocin. As a current advocate explains, These substances interact directly with the psychological underpinnings of moral behavior; others that make you more rational could also help. Then, perhaps, the people who choose to go maskless or flout social distancing guidelines would better understand that everyone, including them, is better off when they contribute, and rationalize that the best thing to do is cooperate. Paul Crutchfield, The Conversation, “‘Morality pills’ may be the US’s best shot at ending the coronavirus pandemic, according to one ethicist”…

falling pills

COVID-19 Drives the Latest Proposal for a “Morality Pill”

Those who don't comply with government policy would be urged or forced to take it

University of Western Michigan philosophy professor Parker Crutchfield (pictured) recently suggested getting people to take a pill to promote more “pro-social” behavior in order to better fight off COVID-19. He argues that the United States is not equipped for a fight against the disease just by expecting everyone to work together, as in, say, World Wars I and II: It seems that the U.S. is not currently equipped to cooperatively lower the risk confronting us. Many are instead pinning their hopes on the rapid development and distribution of an enhancement to the immune system—a vaccine. But I believe society may be better off, both in the short term as well as the long, by boosting not the body’s ability to…

Incognito warrior in iron helmet and red cloak.

What would Plato Say About Antifa? Or Darwin?

A careful reading of Plato and Arendt goes a long way toward explaining the current scene—but it is unsettling reading

In college, I hated Plato. We read his Republic, and, as a patriot and an idealistic young (small “d”) democrat, I was appalled at the hegemony of the Guardians and at Plato’s disdain for democracy. It seemed to me that his Guardians were the archetypal totalitarians, and that it was a fundamental human right — enshrined in the Constitution — to be ruled only by consent of the governed. In my dotage, I am more sympathetic to Plato — it’s remarkable how much smarter the old philosopher has gotten in the past 40 years! I am still uncomfortable with Guardians, at least of the secular sort. But I think John Adams got it right when he observed that “our Constitution…

China stock market graph ticker

Tech Investment Analysts Strategize How to Deal With China Today

China’s assertions of power in recent years have left many uncertain about the future of business relationships

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Bob Kelly, Managing Partner of Ignition Partners, focusing on the panel he moderated at COSM 2019,“The Crisis of Big Tech: The US and China.” They explored the technological competition between the U.S. and China and what it means for the future. The panelists were futurist George Gilder, Wendy Liu, China market strategy analyst at multinational investment bank UBS, and Gary Rieschel, a venture capitalist in China and the United States. From the interview: Jay Richards: So what was the core controversy if you had to summarize it neutrally? Bob Kelly: I guess I’d say the core controversy really is what stance do we as Americans, or in the technology arena, take towards China? And there’s…

Man In A Tesla Car. Behind The Wheel Concept.

German Court Rules: Tesla Autopilot Is False Advertising

In America, for reasons many people can’t quite comprehend, the regulatory agencies haven’t said much about the inflated claims

Here at Mind Matters News, we have long been critics of Elon Musk’s claims about his “self-driving” Teslas. Autopilot is a cool feature but marketing it as “full self-driving” is simply a lie, and a dangerous one at that. Musk (right) has been making false claims about Autopilot for almost half a decade now. He claimed in 2016 that all Teslas that left the factory were equipped with the hardware for Level 5 full self-driving. If you’re not aware of the levels of self-driving defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Level 5 means that the car will take you wherever you want to go and you can sleep in the back. Level 4 means that, in some situations…