Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryGlobal Technology

-stockpack-unsplash.jpg

China: COVID-19’s True History Finds an Unlikely Home — GitHub

The Chinese Communist party, rewriting the COVID-19 story with itself as the hero, must reckon with truthful techies

For a brief window of time at the beginning of 2020, China’s internet censors didn’t block stories about Wuhan and COVID-19, the coronavirus. Caixin, a widely-read news magazine, published a multi-page investigative report on everything leading up to the outbreak, including the way in which the provincial authorities in Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, suppressed knowledge of the virus. Fang Fang, an award-winning novelist, kept a Wuhan diary online on Weibo, which was recently published as a book in the U.S. (HarperCollins 2020). For that short time, comments on the coronavirus were not being censored (Wired) at WeChat. Many people were thus able to vent their frustrations and pay their respects when 32-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower Li Wenliang…

crypto-currency-background-with-various-of-shiny-silver-and-golden-physical-cryptocurrencies-symbol-coins-bitcoin-ethereum-litecoin-zcash-ripple-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Crypto currency background with various of shiny silver and golden physical cryptocurrencies symbol coins, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, zcash, ripple

Has COVID-19 Helped or Harmed Crypto and Blockchain?

Cryptocurrencies rebounded after an initial slump earlier this year

The recently aired discussion at COSM about the future of bitcoin and other privately minted cryptocurrencies took place last October, before COVID-19 was much thought of in the Western world. Catching up, the cryptos and blockchain had a rough ride earlier this year but they have stabilized recently. In February, as the pandemic sent markets scurrying, things were looking grim for the cryptos: During the last week, the spread of the coronavirus has been all over the news; the virus, which had remained well-contained in China, spread throughout South Korea, Iran, Italy, and is now reaching its fingers into other parts of Europe. The New York Times reported on Thursday that “the signs were everywhere…that the epidemic shaking much of…

modern-way-of-exchange-bitcoin-is-convenient-payment-in-global-economy-market-virtual-digital-currency-and-financial-investment-trade-concept-abstract-cryptocurrency-with-gold-bitcoin-background-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Modern way of exchange. Bitcoin is convenient payment in global economy market. Virtual digital currency and financial investment trade concept. Abstract cryptocurrency with gold bitcoin background..

Are Crypto and Blockchain Key to a Tech Renaissance?

A former director of the US Mint thinks that the market will gravitate toward these solutions

A panel discussion at COSM explored the future of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and blockchain technologies in general. What might they mean for global money, global security, and internet architecture? The panel, moderated by Wired contributing editor Spencer Reiss, comprised futurist George Gilder, Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media, Ed Moy, former Director of the U.S. Mint, and William Dembski, mathematician, entrepreneur, and philosopher: Can Crypto and Blockchain Reverse the Tech Decline (and Enable an Internet Renaissance)? Here are some snatches from the dialogue (aired September 11, 2020): George Gilder (on what’s wrong with the internet): It’s a broken paradigm. How do you tell a broken paradigm? The more money you spend on it, the worse it gets.…

department-store-shop-class-luxury-near-the-red-bridge-historical-buildings-of-saint-petersburg-in-the-background-the-city-and-st-isaacs-cathedral-dome-of-golden-color-in-the-evening-at-sunset-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Department store shop class luxury, near the Red Bridge, historical buildings of Saint-Petersburg. In the background the city and St. Isaac's Cathedral dome of golden color, in the evening at sunset.

Russia Aims to Close the Technology Gap With the United States

Independent since 1991, the vast nation offers a government version of Silicon Valley culture

In this week’s podcast, “AI development in Russia, Part 1,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks talks with Samuel Bendett about Russia’s struggles to develop AI for entrepreneurship and free enterprise, rather than military uses. It turns out to be mainly a cultural struggle, as historic institutions must adapt to an environment where market dominance is more important than military dominance. Mr. Bendett, who is fluent in Russian and English, is an advisor to the Russia Studies Program and the Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence of the CNA Adversary Analysis Group. And how is Russia faring? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-103-Samuel-Bendett.mp3 From the transcript: (Show Notes, Resources, and a link to the complete transcript follow.) Robert J. Marks (pictured): What I want…

sunset-on-a-yurt-in-the-grassland-of-mongolia-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
sunset on a yurt , in the grassland of Mongolia

High-Tech Suppression of China’s Mongol Region Provokes Protests

But Mongolian protesters against Chinese-dominated schools are threatened with loss of social credit, which means no jobs or loans

China is removing the Mongolian language and culture from the curriculum and textbooks in Inner Mongolia (see outline map), an autonomous region in China. In August, leaked government documents showed that language and literature, civics, and history will be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian in schools where Mongolian is the primary language. Additionally, the new textbooks replace stories about historic Mongolian heroes with Chinese ballads and expunge a popular folk verse that expresses pride in the Mongolian culture and language. In response, many parents in Inner Mongolia (called Southern Mongolia locally) have been keeping their children from attending school on September 1. In retaliation, state authorities threaten their jobs and social credit status: Southern Mongolia has quickly become a…

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…

3D illustration of an autonomous shipping vessel controlled remotely by artificial intelligence software managed by sensors on the shipping freight
3D illustration of an autonomous shipping vessel controlled remotely by artificial intelligence software managed by sensors on the shipping freight

Will Your Next Water Outing Be on a Crewless Watercraft?

Crewless ships get much less attention than driverless cars but they are much more obviously practical

The new robot Mayflower, scheduled to set out across the Atlantic from Portsmouth next spring (tracing the voyage of the historic Mayflower in 1620), is one of a growing number of autonomous vessels. It must make many decisions based on its programming. Like most crewless ships at present, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS)’s mission is information, not transportation. That mission includes gathering data on plastic pollution and marine mammals, according to IBM, the technology partner of U.K.-based marine research organization, Promare. Here are some reasons autonomous (crewless) vessels offer advantages: ➤ With 70% of Earth’s surface covered by water, only 20% of which is mapped, there are too few humans trained to do the scientific, commercial, and patrol jobs. Much…

unusual-robotic-eye-in-steampunk-style-focused-robot-look-background-pattern-close-up-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Unusual robotic eye in steampunk style. Focused robot look. Background pattern close-up.

What Goes Right and Wrong When We Predict a High-Tech Future

A pundit who predicted the internet also thought that the horse would be nearly extinct by now

An article in Ladies’ Home Journal predicted 2001 a century earlier. Here’s a video version: Futurism is a hit and miss business: Fast food is predicted (3:40) but so is the extinction of the horse (3:20). Apparently, the futurist, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., did not foresee a future for horses in recreation and sports except for “the rich.” He predicted the internet and wireless communications in principle (5:57, 13:29): “A husband sitting in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago.” But, surprisingly, he did not see much of a commercial future for the airplane but rather favored dirigibles and electrified ships (8:20ff). He predicted high-speed trains but also…

Digital globe with mosaic of images
Digital globe with mosaic of images

Why Some Nation States Are Banning TikTok

The United States is not alone in questioning the social medium’s allegiance to the Chinese government

Why is TikTok so controversial? It’s the first Chinese technology company that has reached a billion users outside of China. Its main demographic is Generation Z—teens and twenty-somethings. If you take a look at TikTok videos, most are goofy and irreverent. They’re frenetic shorts of everything from fashion tips to pranks and, of course, (bad) dancing. TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What could go wrong? Here’s what. Working with China, as Disney and the NBA can attest, comes with certain strings attached, including acquiescing to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules for acceptable speech. Because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company (although partly owned by investors from the U.S. and Japan), the Chinese Communist…

constructed face and skeleton.jpg
Skin flaking off face, reveals skull, robotic head. 3d render

Is Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Nearer or Still Impossible?

AI might help us unlock our potential, a panel concludes, but it won’t take over
A panel of experts wrestle with Ray Kurzweil's prediction at the COSM 2019 Technology Summit that we will merge with our computers by 2045 — The Singularity. Read More ›
business-finance-marketing-and-budget-report-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Business Finance Marketing and Budget Report

What Happened When 1950s China Dreamed of “Total Information”?

When China rejected random sampling in favor of exhaustive enumeration of individuals, masses of “data” flooded in, but what did it mean?

A historian of modern China recounts the outcome of a momentous decision that China’s new Communist rulers made in the 1950s. They decided to abandon conventional methods of gathering statistics that use probability and adopted the method of exhaustive counting of everybody and everything. Why did their dream of total information became a nightmare? Harvard historian Arunabh Ghosh (right), author of Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (2020), explains that in the 1950s, newly communist China faced a choice about how to survey the population accurately while making “a clean break with the past.” For philosophical reasons, debates about how to gather statistics came to the fore: In a speech in 1951, Li…

woman-passenger-sitting-in-the-backseat-and-selects-a-route-when-her-self-driving-car-rides-on-the-highway-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Woman passenger sitting in the backseat and  selects a route when her self-driving car rides on the highway.

If Self-Driving Cars Become the Norm, What Will It Feel Like?

Already, Millennials are more likely than their parents to see transportation as simply a means to an end

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Bryan Mistele, founder and CEO of INRIX, on the non-fiction future of the self-driving car. INRIX provides data systems for analyzing traffic issues relevant to self-driving (autonomous) vehicles. He sees a bright future, amid many misconceptions: From the interview: Jay Richards: What do you think is the key misconception that people have about this technology? Bryan Mistele: I think the biggest misconception is that it’s just about autonomous vehicles. That you’ll go to a dealer, you’ll buy an autonomous vehicle. That’s not really the vision of what people in the industry are pursuing. It’s about what we call the ACES, Autonomous Connected, Electric, and Shared, all working together to deliver, basically, mobility as a service. Certainly…

concept-of-future-technology-5g-network-wireless-systems-and-internet-of-things-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
concept of future technology 5G network wireless systems and internet of things

Valley Insider Peter Thiel’s Comments Last Year Proved Prophetic

China’s recent takeover of Hong Kong and the campus Cancel Culture spotlight his warnings for our culture’s future in the age of 5G

Peter Thiel, who spoke by interactive video to the COSM conference last October, is probably the most remarkable of the Silicon Valley insiders. A fuller version of his discussions with tech philosopher George Gilder has just been released. What makes Thiel (think PayPal, Facebook, Palantir, Airbnb, Lyft, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX) unique is that he so much contradicts the Valley stereotype and is certainly not afraid to tell the Valley its faults. In fact, he moved down to Los Angeles in 2018, fed up with the Valley as a one-party state. He suggested in 2019 that Google be investigated for treason for refusing to work with the Pentagon but helping the Chinese military. Most of the time, though, Thiel prefers…

iron-chain-and-castle-on-the-silk-national-flag-of-hong-kong-with-beautiful-folds-the-concept-of-a-ban-on-tourism-political-repression-crime-violation-of-the-rights-and-freedoms-of-citizens-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office…

breaking-through-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Breaking Through Concept

Michael Egnor: Denying Free Will Is Totalitarian

Specifically, “The denial of free will is the cornerstone of totalitarian systems.” That’s what he told podcaster Lucas Skrobot in the second of two podcast discussions: Dr. Michael Egnor | Free Will and Totalitarian Ideologies (Part 2 of 2) [E152] Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has written a fair bit on free will for Mind Matters News. Here are some selections to consider: No free will means no justice: “Free will is the cornerstone of all human rights and the cornerstone of our Constitutional rights. The denial of free will is, literally, the denial of human freedom. Without free will, we are livestock, without the presumption of innocence, without actual innocence, and without rights. A justice system that has no respect for…

abstract round light background.jpg
3D rendering abstract round light background

John Lennox: How AI Raises the Stakes for All of Us

This is an excerpt from John Lennox‘s 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (Zondervan 2020) published with permission: In April 2018 at the TED talks in Vancouver physicist and cosmologist MaxTegmark, president of the Future of Life Institute at MIT, made this rather grandiose statement: “In creating AI [artificial intelligence], we’re birthing a new form of life with unlimited potential for good or ill.” A study by Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson entitled The Digital Ape carries the subtitle How to Live (in Peace) with Smart Machines. They are optimistic that humans will still be in charge, provided we approach the process sensibly. But is this optimism justified? The director of Cambridge University’s Centre for the Study…

Phone-Screen-for-Hel-modified
Phone-Screen-for-Hel-modified

China’s Health Code App: One More Way to Track Citizens

For the Chinese Communist Party, SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus) has provided an opportunity to expand its massive surveillance system. The current extensive network of facial recognition cameras has left some gaps. People could avoid recognition, for example, by wearing a face covering to curb the spread of a respiratory illness. Now, China is looking to fill those gaps by keeping the Alipay Health Code app, launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a mainstay for its citizens: Compared to omnipresent facial recognition software and other surveillance systems in China, the health code mechanism covers more people and collects a broader range of personal information. The state can also impose stricter control as people now have to use health codes…

round-robots-eye-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Round robot's eye

Exclusive!: John Lennox Answers Our Questions About AI in 2084

In his new book, 2084, the Oxford mathematician doubts that AI, now or then, will out-think humans. Our real worry is how they will be used. Read More ›
crypto-currency-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
crypto currency concept

Is Crypto Just a Flash in the Pan?

Or, to put it more bluntly, will blockchain ever grow up to be a real financial system? Forbes says yes, cautiously
Will blockchain and other non-government currencies ever grow up to be a real financial system? What about the weird Canadian crypto uproar in which the only a dead man knows the code to release the missing millions? Read More ›
Line-of-Actual-Control-public-domain
Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) Between Trees Looks Up and to Right Winter - captive animal

The Age of the Wolf Warrior: China’s Post-Pandemic Strategy

The younger diplomats take their cue from a Chinese Rambo-style movie and the rewritten history they learned at school

While countries around the world have been dealing with the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), China has claimed disputed areas in the South China Sea, taken over the Hong Kong government, and flown planes over Taiwan. One result was a standoff between warships from the U.S., Australia, and China. A 2016 international tribunal in The Hague ruled that China has no legal sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. China, saying that the ruling was void, claims areas that are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Japan. The Chinese Liberation Army has also increased the number of troops at its border with India (the Line of Actual Control) disputed since the Sino-Indian war in 1962 (below…