Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryGlobal Technology

sheet of white paper conceal
A sheet of white paper is held by a protester in China.

China: Protesters Evade Censors and Confront State Surveillance

Chinese citizens are known for their clever plays on words to evade social media censors.

The graffiti on the bathroom wall at the university said there would be a gathering in honor of the people who had died in an apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Bathrooms usually do not have surveillance cameras, so this announcement would probably go unnoticed by censors. It is better than risking punishment by posting on social media. In another city, Chinese citizens discretely shared information about the location of a vigil for the Urumqi victims on WeChat in the guise of dinner plans. A number of people died in the fire, whose toll was likely inflated because emergency vehicles were unable to access the building due to zero-Covid measures. Social media posts showed doors that were barred shut and barricades Read More ›

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Man in gas mask is showing an Ok gesture by his hand close up on gray background.

China: Massive Protests at Cell Phone Plant Continue

One accusation against Apple is that it has consistently failed to live up to its responsibilities as a global leader at the top of the supply chain.

At the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou where thousands of employees walked out on October 29, protests broke out on November 23. They were led by new hires staying on a campus dormitory after they learned that they would have to work an additional two months at lower pay before they receive their promised bonuses for coming to Foxconn to cover for the October exodus. Additionally, workers complained of inadequate food and fear of Covid exposure. Workers were offered 25,000 yuan (US$3,500) for two months of work, a 50% increase on the posted maximum wage. When they learned of changes in their agreement, employees at the dorm responded by pulling down outdoor tents (for Covid testing) and destroying a surveillance camera. Read More ›

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Electric Cars at COSM 2022

Are Electric Cars Really the Future?

Panelists at the 2022 COSM conference discuss the pros and cons of electric vehicles

On November 10th, the COSM conference hosted a special panel on electric vehicles (EVs for short). Brian Mistele, founder and CEO of Inrix, a leading provider of traffic information, car services, and transportation analytics, moderated the discussion. Aside from Mistele, the panel included Howard Hayden, professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and editor of The Energy Advocate, Walter Myers, Principal Manager on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-based platform, and Tony Posawatz, an automotive industry pioneer and chief executive of Fisker Automotive. They brought a range of perspectives on the pros and cons of EVs and where the auto industry is heading. Posawatz kicked off the panel by giving a brief overview of automobile history. He said, There was electric and folks Read More ›

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The zero covid text on china flag 3d rendering

What Your Made-in-China iPhone Really Costs – Updated 2

Chaos has ensued as workers have fled Xi’s latest Zero COVID lockdown at the iPhone factory

Updated as of November 2, below the first vid: Fresh off an unusual third term as President, Xi Jinping found his brutal zero COVID policy facing an uncharacteristically harsh light of publicity. The BBC zeroed in on Apple phone workers fleeing a targeted site: Workers have broken out of Apple’s largest iPhone assembly factory in China after a Covid outbreak forced staff to lockdown at the workplace. Video shared online showed about 10 people jumping a fence outside the plant, owned by manufacturer Foxconn, in the central city of Zhengzhou. Sam Hancock, “Apple: Chinese workers flee Covid lockdown at iPhone factory” at BBC News (October 30, 2022) Taiwan-based Apple supplier Foxconn, has hundreds of thousands of workers in Zhengzhou, capital Read More ›

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Haiti flag being pushed into the ground by a male silhouette. 3D Rendering

Haiti: Turning the Blazing Sun Into a Power Source

Brian Thomas and Kayla Garrett learned how to make solar power work in Haiti by listening to people, especially the Haitians they work with

In podcast Episode 209, Robert J. Marks continues the discussion with Brian Thomas and Kayla Garrett of JustEnergy about appropriate technology for energy-starved Haiti: Solar powering hospitals, orphanages & schools (October 20, 2022): Robert J. Marks: I was informed that people [in Haiti] on average make a dollar a day and they have to go out and they have to buy gas sometimes on the black market for $20, $30 a gallon. It’s just crazy.. So one of the things that you’re concentrated on as engineers is to increase the energy access to Haitians. So what’s the technology that you use to increase the energy access? Brian Thomas: Haiti doesn’t have any petroleum — any oil, gasoline, diesel… or even Read More ›

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Traditionelle Häuser, Fischerdorf Pestel, Haiti

How Solar Energy Ran a Haitian Hospital During the Energy War

Gangs seized control of the ports at which ships bringing fuel docked, cutting off supplies, in an effort to force the Acting President to step down

Yesterday, we looked at the first part of the “Appropriate Technology: the Haitian Energy Problem” podcast (October 13, 2022). Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed engineers Brian Thomas and Kayla Garrett of JustEnergy on the current shortage of energy sources in Haiti. In the second part of the podcast, they look at what might be done: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/10/Mind-Matters-208-Brian-Thomas-Kayla-Garrett.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, and additional resources follow. Brian Thomas: Let’s stop and think. If gasoline is $20, $25 a gallon — even if it’s $10 a gallon — and you make very little money or you don’t have a job at all… tThen gasoline is like cash. You can sell that. You can turn around and sell that. So gasoline Read More ›

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Pipe with valve and flag of Haiti. 3d rendering

In Haiti, Debates Over Electric vs. Gas-Powered Cars Are a Luxury

Never mind self-driving cars. The quest for “just enough” energy is a daily, sometimes life-and-death issue, as Kayla Garrett and Brian Thomas tell Robert J. Marks

In “Appropriate Technology: the Haitian Energy Problem” (October 13, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed engineers Brian Thomas and Kayla Garrett on a critical question: meeting the energy needs of a developing nation like Haiti sustainable — the only way it can be done: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/10/Mind-Matters-208-Brian-Thomas-Kayla-Garrett.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, and additional resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Not all countries need the latest technologies. Those in Third World countries don’t need high powered computers or the latest car from Tesla. They have more fundamental concerns like, how do I feed my family tomorrow? Where do I get clean water? And where can I get power? These needs typically do not involve the latest edge cutting technology. Supplying needed Read More ›

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Concept image of China-Africa economic relations, Bilateral trade,

Journalist: West Is Letting Africa Slide Into China’s Tech Orbit

Mathew Otieno points out that China slid easily into the space left by the former Soviet Union. — liked just for not being Western

Kenyan tech reporter Mathew Otieno warns that, as Africa goes high-tech, it is mainly on totalitarian China’s terms. He doesn’t spare feelings: “A combination of arrogance and indifference is proving fatal to Western interests” Most of Africa’s signature modern infrastructure projects, from railways and roads to dams and ports, have been, or are being, built or upgraded by Chinese firms, many of them state-owned, with funding from Chinese loans and grants. Even the building currently housing the headquarters of the African Union was a wholesale Chinese gift, from foundations to rafters. Mathew Otieno, “The West is letting Africa slide into China’s orbit. It doesn’t have to” at MercatorNet (August 31, 2022) Many warn of a debt trap for the emerging Read More ›

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Network connected across planet Earth ,  view from space. Concept of smart wireless communication technology . Some elements of this image furnished by NASA

Google Cloud’s Ankur Jain To Speak at COSM 2022

One of his key initiatives is bringing internet connectivity to less well-served parts of the globe.

Ankur Jain, VP Engineering for Google Cloud for Telecom, Distributed Cloud, and Immersive Stream, will be speaking at COSM 2022, November 9–11 in Bellevue, Washington. Go here to get the Early Adopter rate before September 15 (tomorrow). At work, he has focused on cross-Google programs like cloud computing, mobile communications, 5G, and privacy issues. One of his key initiatives is bringing internet connectivity to less well-served parts of the globe. He noted in 2017, “As people increasingly access the Internet through their mobile devices, mobile operators are now designing their next-generation networks based on many of the same principles that we’ve adopted to power our own networking infrastructure.” In his current position, he leads Google Cloud’s Telco, Distributed Cloud Edge, Read More ›

cpu electronic parts
Spare electronic parts isolated on gray background. 3D illustration

How Federico Faggin Put the Computer’s Brain on a Chip

In the Marvel Universe, a story like this would, of course, start with a portentous meeting of top AI brains in a secret mountain stronghold, holding the world’s future in their hands…

Federico Faggin, one of the inventors of the microprocessor, will be speaking at COSM 2022 (November 9–11 in Seattle). He was leader of the team that developed the Intel 4004, the world’s first commercial microprocessor — essentially, the brains of the affordable modern computer. A few key microchips have replaced the complex, room-size computers of the mid-twentieth century. In a sense, he is one reason why so many people worldwide can afford electronics today. Go here to get the Early Adopter rate before September 15. In the Marvel Universe, a story like this would, of course, start with a portentous meeting of top AI brains in a secret mountain stronghold, holding the world’s future in their hands… This isn’t the Read More ›

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China Taiwan and USA flag print screen to microchip on electronic board for symbol of military conflict war and economic business partnership concept.

Taiwan Has Bet Its Uncertain Future on Advanced Microchips

An increasingly belligerent China has long claimed to own Taiwan, which manufactures 90% of the world’s *advanced* microchips

Taiwan is the world’s largest manufacturer of microchips*, and not just by a small margin. Taiwan manufactures 65% of the microchips used in everything from smartphones to missiles. This compares to the U.S. at 10% and China at 5%. South Korea and Japan produce the rest. More important, Taiwan manufactures 90% of the world’s advanced microchips. In other words, without Taiwan, the world’s supply of microchips would come to a standstill, something that has been keenly felt since 2021 when chip shortages affected the auto industry. So far, the world’s dependence on Taiwan’s chips has protected the self-governing island nation from a potential invasion or ruinous trade sanctions from China. Earlier, we looked at U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit Read More ›

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Information field around the Earth

Musk’s Starlink Tied to Traffic Chaos in Orbit and on Earth

If nothing else, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has brought public attention to the future of space, who it belongs to, and how it is paid for

This week has seen quite a struggle for Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its satellite-based internet service Starlink. SpaceX had recently pocketed some interesting wins for Starlink. Its offer to keep Ukrainians online in the midst of the recent crisis earned Starlink favor in the eyes of both the military and Eastern European nations. It has also started launching operations in Latin America. Just days ago SpaceX performed its 35th launch of the year, adding 52 more Starlink satellites. However, Starlink has also faced a number recent headwinds which could spell trouble for the service. While its public beta test performed well for many users, as the service has expanded, the capabilities of the network appear to be stretched. Despite promises Read More ›

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vehicles on road during daytime

Overcrowded and Chaotic Lagos Is Becoming Africa’s Silicon Valley

Welcome to Yabacon Valley! Mathew Otieno is your tour guide.

This piece by Mathew Otieno originally appeared at MercatorNet (August 7, 2022) and is republished here under a Creative Commons License. Flutterwave is an online payment infrastructure provider headquartered in San Francisco. Its customers include global giants like Uber and Microsoft and tiny local start-ups. In 2021, five years after it was founded, Flutterwave became a unicorn (valued at over a billion dollars). In early 2022, a series D funding round of US$250 million brought that value to $3 billion dollars. If things go well, it plans to IPO within the next two years. Impressive, right? But the most impressive part is that Flutterwave isn’t an American company. It was founded in Lagos by three Nigerians, and its biggest markets Read More ›

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businessman and technology

Sci-Fi Predictions for the Future That Really Happened

The 1950s was often right too. It may depend on how badly we need something to happen

Last week, we looked at a 1964 prediction of life in the 2020s that definitely did not happen: chimpanzees driving cars and doing housework. Back then, people who recognized that chimpanzees were intelligent seem to have known little about their natural characteristics. But in fairness, many predictions did come to pass, including the pocket-sized phone that could relay facial images, predicted in a 1956 magazine article: The journalist, Robert Beason, wrote about features such as touchtone dialing, video calling, voice recognition and small colour screens capable of being used as tiny televisions, built into compact devices. His interviewee, Harold Osborne, the retiring chief engineer of American Telephone & Telegraph also foresaw other common features of modern smartphones, such as quick Read More ›

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outpost

Three Simple Words Can Find Any Place on Earth

The “what3words system” of geolocation is easier to remember than many street addresses and may also work for passwords

What3words is an app and web-based service that can convert practically any location within 3 × 3 meters (or 10 × 10 feet) — the size of a typical small bedroom or den — to just three short English words if you can give it an address. Don’t believe that? Try it. The address of the Library of Congress is person.hotels.canny The address of the Louvre Museum in France is started.pelting.pops And … bluffs.alas.skater? That’s the address of a Canadian Tire store somewhere in Ottawa. Clicking Bing Maps at the What3Words site will give you that store’s street address, satellite image and tell you how to get there. So why do this? Math prof Mary Lynn Reed explains: This new Read More ›

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Chinese hacker. Laptop with binary computer code and china flag on the screen. Internet and network security.

The Internet Is Freedom? Not for Exiled Democracy Activists

Modern electronic communications ensure that persecution need not stop at the border, as many expat Chinese are discovering

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a U.S. citizen and four Chinese intelligence officers “had been charged with spying on “prominent dissidents, human rights leaders and pro-democracy activists” in the United States on behalf of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Americans and others who live in open societies may not be aware of this transnational oppression problem if they do not have contacts who have escaped totalitarian regimes. Briefly, today, the persecution doesn’t stop at the border. Modern electronic communications are part of the reason why not: “If anyone doubts how serious the Chinese government is about silencing its critics, this case should eliminate any uncertainty,” said Acting Executive Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. Read More ›

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3d render background illustration of ancient greek temple ruins with female goddess statue, rocks and columns burning on dark war backdrop.

Ancient Inventions That Feel Like Modern Ones

Tim Brinkhof looks at inextinguishable Greek fire and the 2000-year-old Chinese seismograph, among other wonders

New York City-based journalist Tim Brinkhof opens a window into the past on conceptually advanced technology from centuries ago or even ancient times. Take “Greek fire,” for example, that could set both enemy ships and the sea around them ablaze in an inextinguishable fire: Constantinople used it to sink the fleet of the Ummayid Caliphate in 678. The now-lost recipe probably involved petroleum, sulfur, or gunpowder. However, what makes Greek fire so impressive is not the chemistry of the fire itself but the design of the pressure pump the Byzantines used to launch it in the direction of their enemies. As the British historian John Haldon discusses in an essay titled “‘Greek Fire’ Revisited,” researchers struggle to recreate an historically Read More ›

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algae biofuel tube in biotech laboratory, Photobioreactor in lab algae fuel biofuel industry

Researchers Fuel a Microprocessor Using Power From Seaweed

When they photosynthesize, algae produce a current that can be captured and used to power a small device

It may seem odd that algae (seaweed) can power an electronic device. Cambridge researchers recently powered a microprocessor continuously for over a year using a common type of blue-green algae (Synechocystis), providing them with light and water. They suggest that algae might be able to provide power to small devices. Here’s how it works: Some advantages of algae, according to the researchers: ● Because algae use light as their energy source to produce a tiny electrical current, they don’t “run down,” like batteries. ● Systems for using algae to produce current can be made from “common, inexpensive and largely recyclable materials” according to the researchers, Paulo Bombelli et al., who developed the test device. Its main use is seen to Read More ›

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Close up of small caged colorful birds in pet store in morning sun

Can Elon Musk Really Stop Big Tech From Controlling Us?

We usually don’t realize how far it has already gone in efforts to control our thinking

Think it doesn’t control you? Andrew McDiarmid can offer you some examples of pervasive efforts to control our thinking: It appeared in Apple’s iPhone software update this year, when a “pregnant man” emoji was quietly added to keyboards. It’s seen in Google’s new (and currently stalled) “inclusive language” feature, which autocorrects gendered terms like “landlord,” “policeman” or “housewife.” Andrew McDiarmid, “Big Tech is subtly controlling our lives—and we need to fight back” at New York Post (May 7, 2022) Surely, almost nobody on the planet, apart from small pressure groups, had asked for a “pregnant man” emoji. The concept has nothing whatever to do with the serious problems many pregnant women face worldwide. Landlord? Again, many people worldwide face problems Read More ›

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Meta Suspends Hate Speech Policy in Countries Near Russia

Hate speech and death threats against Russian and Belarusian political leaders and their militaries are temporarily allowed in twelve Eastern European countries

In a dramatic change of policy, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) will temporarily allow users of Facebook and Instagram in twelve countries to post hate speech and death threats directed toward Russian and Belarusian military personnel and political leaders within the context of the conflict in Ukraine. The change was first reported by Reuters on Thursday morning. A Meta spokesperson told Reuters, “As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have temporarily made allowances for forms of political expression that would normally violate our rules like violent speech such as ‘death to the Russian invaders.’ We still won’t allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians.” Calls for violence against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are Read More ›