Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryEthics

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Little brave pawn wearing artificial paper crown suit on chessboard with figures, business entrepreneur leadership concept

Do You Have a “Selfish Prefrontal Cortex”?

Do you tell “white lies” only for selfish motives?

A recent neuroscience paper claims to determine whether your motives are selfish: You may think a little white lie about a bad haircut is strictly for your friend’s benefit, but your brain activity says otherwise. Distinct activity patterns in the prefrontal cortex reveal when a white lie has selfish motives, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience. White lies — formally called Pareto lies — can benefit both parties, but their true motives are encoded by the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). This brain region computes the value of different social behaviors, with some subregions focusing on internal motivations and others on external ones. Kim and Kim predicted activity patterns in these subregions could elucidate the true motive behind…

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Young man using modern mobile phone

Does the Company Selling You Tech Have the Same Worldview As You?

A worldview is how we view the world and our place in it.

Much of the technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell. And if you Chromebook, you’re likely to use Gmail and maybe have a Pixel. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if you’re going to commit to a tech company by being part of their ecosystem, it’s important to compare the worldview of that company to your own and…

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Human skull with a syringe holds in the mouth and vaccine bottle on space of brown paper, Bad side effect concept

Michael Egnor: Stop Making Killing a Form of Cure

Euthanasia and abortion are not forms of medicine, he says

Recently, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor pleaded with medical colleagues to take a stronger stand on the rapid normalization of killing as a form of “cure” in our society: The medical profession should take a clear stand on this issue: doctors who deliberately kill — whether by abortion or by physician-assisted suicide or by euthanasia — are not practicing medicine when they kill. Medical practice always entails the maintenance of health, the treatment of disease, and the relief of suffering. Ending the life of a patient or of the child in his mother’s womb is neither the maintenance of health nor treatment of a disease nor the alleviation of any suffering. It is simply the killing of an innocent unwanted child. I…

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Melting Watch

Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold

An employee wants to rebel against the greed and injustice but then she would run out of time …

“The Bargain” at DUST by Eleonora Mignoli (May 18, 2021, 10:57 min) “Hired by a man who buys and sells time, a young bodyguard is torn between serving her master and fighting for the people he ruins with his power.” Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to…

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Two ants. Conflict, ants fight. Conceptually - dialogue, conversation, meeting, showdown, difficult negotiations. Beautiful rainbow background. Ants large, raised abdomens

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Insects Could Put Humans on Trial?

In Science+, a shrunken inventor finds himself facing Ant Justice

“Science+” at DUST by Leela Varghese (February 28, 2021, 11:11 min) “When Matt accidentally shrinks himself and is captured by the ants whom he has unwittingly been squashing, he must find a way to escape their clutches and his impending death sentence.” Review: This is what good comedy looks like. Matt is filming himself doing various science projects for his (possibly) YouTube program “Science+”, when he gets shrunk by his own shrink-o-matic. The ants, seen face to face, turn out to be roughly like people, of whom — Matt discovers — he has killed nearly 3500. They learned English from humans in Britain but otherwise they speak Ant. You must hear that. And no more spoilers. The story raises some…

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Robot vs man. Human humanoid robot work with laptops at desk.

Will Humans Ever Be Fully Replaceable by AI? Part 3

Data outlines what can be quantified but does not show the comparison between AI and human performance at the most important points

To get the right answer to the question of whether artificial intelligence will ever become capable of replacing man we must get the ontology, epistemology, and metrology right. Ontology seeks to understand the essential nature of things and the relationships between different things. Epistemology looks at what we can know and how accurately we can know what is knowable. Finally, metrology explores how we make measurements and comparisons. To get the right answer we must measure the right things (ontology), select what we will measure (epistemology), and determine how we make our measurements and comparisons with accuracy, precision, and repeatability (metrology). Mistakes in any of these areas will lead to a bad outcome. A common mistake is to measure what…

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communicator technology on wood table top view

Apple’s Supply Chain Includes Forced Labor in China

Big companies like Apple claim they try to avoid forced labor but maybe not hard enough

The Information, an online periodical covering the tech industry, found that Apple’s supply chain includes companies that use the forced labor of members of minority groups in China, particularly Uyghurs — Chinese citizens who are ethnically Turkish and mostly Muslim: The Information and human rights groups have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China. At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found. The revelation stands in contrast to Apple’s assertions over the past year that it hasn’t found evidence of…

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Sci-fi Saturday: In “No Guarantee,” Brain Uploading Proves Costly

In a ruined mid-21st century Britain, a couple gains tickets to a virtual world — if their brains can be uploaded. But can they?

“No Guarantee” (2016) by Stuart Black and Nick Mather (at DUST, May 11, 2021) 5:22 min. A couple living in the ruins of London 2056 must decide whether they should upload their consciousnesses into the mysterious Cloud 9.” Fuller description: “London 2056 – the city is dying and those living in the smog-clogged ruins live by their wits. Those who can afford to opt out of the desperation upload their consciousnesses to Cloud 9. This is advertised as a one way ticket to virtual heaven – but can the Company who run it really be trusted? Virgil and Mary have different attitudes: she wants to go, he doesn’t. Can she persuade him to ‘ascend’ before he dies from terminal illness?…

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Drones fly over the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. A natural landscape with drones flying over it. quadrocopter

Marks: We Can’t Do Without Autonomous Killer Robots in Combat

As an expert in swarm intelligence, he thinks drone swarms offer specific advantages

Over a year ago, Robert J. Marks argued in The Case for Killer Robots for developing autonomous military weapons. As an expert in swarm intelligence, he thinks drone swarms should be given priority: Two battling drone swarms can have numerous agents who, in order to be effective in combat, individually require reaction times in the milliseconds. Humans cannot react quickly enough for one, let alone hundreds, of interacting swarm agents. Autonomous operation can be appropriate. Marks asks us to picture two gunslingers in the Old West, facing each other on Main Street. The faster draw wins. The second fastest draw is usually dead. Military strategists call the response to a threat the OODA loop: observe–orient–decide–act. Swarm conflict, in Marks’s view,…

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Frozen British traditional post office mailbox

Who Will Your Boss Believe? You or That Glitzy New Computer?

In the largest miscarriage of justice in decades, the British Post Office chose to believe the computer, resulting in bankruptcies, jail, and suicide. At last the truth emerged…

Texas State professor of electrical engineering Karl Stephan (pictured) has the story, reprinted with permission from his blog Engineering Ethics. Dr. Stephan is the author of Ethical and Otherwise: Engineering in the Headlines, a collection of his writings on ethics and technology: Suppose you enjoy a secure government job at which you work diligently, and you have advanced to the managerial position of a sub-postmaster in Post Office Ltd, the quasi-public organisation that provides postal services in most of the UK.  Then your organisation installs a new computerised system called Horizon that promises to eliminate a lot of paperwork accounting and make things easier for everybody.  But soon after it is installed, you find that your accounts are not matching up with…

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Nairobi, Kenya : Ranger feeding orphaned baby elephant in David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust conservation center

There Is No Escape From Human Exceptionalism

Author Melanie Challenger thinks we should embrace our true animal nature. But that’s impossible

Melanie Challenger, author of How to Be Animal (2021) thinks we would be less messed up if we could just accept our animal nature. She writes at Aeon, “Human exceptionalism is dead: for the sake of our own happiness and the planet we should embrace our true animal nature.” Further, Today, our thinking has shifted along with scientific evidence, incorporating the genetic insights of the past century. We now know we’re animals, related to all other life on our planet. We’ve also learned much about cognition, including the uneasy separation between instinct and intention, and the investment of the whole body in thought and action. As such, we might expect attitudes to have changed. But that isn’t the case. We…

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boy standing and looking at broken golden gear wheels, digital art style, illustration painting

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned

Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does…

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Futuristic and sci-fi human android portrait with pcb metallic skin and binary code green background. AI, IT, technology, robotics, science, transhumanism 3D rendering illustration concepts.

Sci-fi Saturday: The Artist’s Android Has a Surprise for Him…

He makes the fateful decision to allow her to depart from her programming during a crisis

“Muse” (2020) by Azhur Saleem and (April 13, 2021 at DUST, 12:33 min) “An artist turns to his android muse for help when trying to sell his newest paintings, but events take a dark and disturbing turn when the android learns what has inspired the work.” An artist welcomes in an art gallery owner to view his latest offerings, his in-house android at his beck and call. When the meeting turns sour and the guest tries to leave, Alderman calls on Kay and… So begins the next day. When police officers come knocking regarding an altercation outside, it transpires that Alderman has amended Kay’s CPU to respond to un-programmed demands – including murder to which she complies and the police…

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Collage of portraits of young emotional people on multicolored background in neon. Concept of human emotions, facial expression, sales. Listening to music, delighted, winner, shocked. Flyer for ad

AI Prof Sounds Alarm: AI “Emotion Detectors” Are Faulty Science

An industry worth over $30 billion uses emotion recognition technology (ERT) on school children and potential hires

Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft, and author of Atlas of AI (2021), is warning at Nature that the COVID-19 pandemic “is being used as a pretext to push unproven artificial-intelligence tools into workplaces and schools.” The software is touted as able to read the “six basic emotions” via analysis of facial expressions: During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for monitoring workers and even children remotely. Take, for example, a system named 4 Little Trees. Developed in Hong Kong, the program claims to assess children’s emotions while they do classwork. It maps facial features to assign each pupil’s emotional state into a category such as happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise and fear. It also…

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Villa Melzi - Dante e Beatrice

One of the Greatest Poets Asks, Can We Be Good Without Free Will?

As a centuries old poem shows, materialism is a logical mistake and not really a coherent system of belief

Medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri, exiled for life from his native Florence, took the opportunity to write a magnificent trilogy — the Divine Comedy — in which he tours Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. The Comedy is more than a poetic masterpiece. It is a profound philosophical and theological reflection on this life and on eternity. Remarkably, although Dante’s immediate guides through the unseen worlds are, famously, the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC–19 BC) and later, a childhood sweetheart Beatrice (who died young), his philosophical guide is the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. The metaphysics, the ethics, and the theology of the Divine Comedy deeply reflect Thomas’s influence. That is remarkable, considering that Dante (1265–1321 AD), who was only a child…

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Bündel roher Baumwolle (Gossypium arboreum), Südindien

Clothing Retailer H&M Canceled for Revealing China’s Forced Labor

About a fifth of the world’s cotton is grown in Xinjiang, for which Uyghur labor is conscripted, partly through the detention camps complex

Recently, I wrote about the fact that many fashionable products consumed in the West are produced by forced Uyghur labor. Those who speak out pay a steep price, as Swedish clothing retailer H&M can attest. Two weeks ago, H&M was Canceled in China after the Communist Youth League decried the company’s comments on forced labor in Xinjiang on Weibo, China’s biggest social media platform. The comments themselves dated from last year (March 2020). The online vitriol is likely in response to sanctions recently imposed by the European Union, the U.S., the U.K., and Canada on Chinese officials for human rights abuses. Earlier in March (2021), Newslines Institute for Strategy and Policy, an international independent organization, published a report showing that…

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Arrested man handcuffed hands at the back

How China’s “Hostage Diplomacy” Traps Unsuspecting Visitors

Canada’s “Two Michaels” await their fate in prison in China, hostages to the growing tensions in a high-tech war

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor (pictured) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018 on charges of espionage and sharing state secrets, and held in prison since then. Spavor’s trial was on March 19, 2021, in Dandong near China’s border with North Korea. Kovrig’s trial was on March 22 in Beijing. As of this writing, no verdict has been announced. Their trials coincided with the U.S-China Summit in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18 and 19, 2020, which involved a tense back-and-forth between the two countries. Court proceedings were closed-door and Spavor’s and Kovrig’s lawyers were not allowed to be present. That, according to Canada’s deputy chief of mission in China, violates the Canada-China consular agreement. Prime Minister…

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Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

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Afro-american boy hiding in ruined building, escaped from dysfunctional family

Woke Medicine Is Very Bad for Everyone’s Health

The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed

Critical Race Theory and claims about structural racism in American society are infiltrating medical care and education. There is a major effort in medical education today to indoctrinate students and resident physicians into Critical Theory. This is, in my view, a deeply misguided approach.The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed. The question we face is: how can we protect medical education and practice from this latest iteration of Marxism, and at the same time work to improve deficiencies in education and medical care that Critical Race Theorists correctly point out? It is undeniable that there are structural problems in medicine. Many of these problems impede good medical care, especially…