Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryGlobal Technology

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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…

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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…

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Female scans face using facial recognition system on smartphone for biometric identification. Future digital high tech technology and face id

IRS Backs Off on Facial Recognition Demand

Starting this summer, the IRS would have required all online users to submit a facial recognition scan. Now, they've changed their mind

The IRS is abandoning a new security program that would have required all online users to submit facial recognition scans in order to access its online services. Last November, the IRS announced that in summer 2022, it would begin requiring all online patrons to verify their accounts via facial recognition. The program was to be operated by ID.me, a private, third-party partner of the IRS. ID.me also contracts with a select few other federal entities, as well as 27 U.S. states. Facial recognition technology is a controversial new form of security. It’s been widely embraced by the Chinese Communist Party in its effort to maintain social control over a large population, and it has begun to creep into some jurisdictions in Western…

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2022 Beijing Olympics: Politicizing the Olympic Games

One columnist wrote that unlike the 2008 games, the 2022 games “carries a distinct sense of foreboding.”

Despite admonitions to not “politicalize the games,” Beijing’s opening ceremonies for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games conveyed a political message to the world. Politics has always been part of the Olympic Games. The impetus behind the modern Olympic Games, as conceived by William Penny Brookes and Pierre baron de Coubertin, was to use sports for promoting peace among nations, an inherently political agenda. Decisions on whether dignitaries will attend or who lights the torch are intentional on the part of the visiting and hosting countries, particularly since the first televised Games in 1960. Therefore, when the Chinese Olympic Committee chose first-time Olympic athlete Dinigeer Yilamujiang, also spelled Dilnigar Ilhamjan,* a twenty-year-old cross-country skier of Uyghur heritage, the country was…

Bunch of old used outdated mobile phones and batteries. Recycling electronics

Surveillance and Silence at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Why are countries instructing their Olympic athletes to use burner phones?

In a previous article, I looked at the security issues with the MY2022 app, the official app for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, and the app that everyone who attends must download. The app has two key vulnerabilities that leave user data exposed when sending information over WiFi.* Aside from these vulnerabilities, the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab found a list of censored keywords in the app’s code, as well as the capability to report someone who has sent politically contentious content over the messaging service. The keyword feature does not seem to be active, but as Jeffrey Knockel, author of the Citizen Lab report, told the New York Times, they could censor content with “the flip of a switch.” This is one…

Blurred. Live broadcast blogger or journalist using a mobile phone in the auditorium. Pink background. Vertical photo or video mode. Soft focus. Copy space.

2022 Winter Olympics: Security Vulnerabilities in the MY2022 App

All Olympics attendees are required to download the MY2022 app to track their health and other personal data, despite security concerns

This February should be a time of celebration in China. The opening ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is the day after the beginning of Lunar New Year. The Olympic Games commence two days later on February 4th. However, the Chinese government has put a damper on celebrations by continuing to pursue its “zero-Covid” strategy even though every other country has eased restrictions and begun transitioning from a “pandemic” to “endemic” mentality.  People in Beijing along with surrounding regions have become exasperated over the daily testing protocols and harsh measures that are in place to ensure the Chinese Communist Party can save face over its prior claims of having defeated the virus. Among many of the issues plaguing the…

The flag of Beijing 2022 waving in the wind with the national fl

Xi’an Lockdown: Beijing Continues to Pursue “Zero-Covid”

With the Winter Olympics quickly approaching, China faces great internal stress for its strict COVID response

First, I hoped to escape lockdownLater, I hoped to get out to buy foodNow, I only hope I’m not hauled off a poem widely shared on Weibo about Xi’an; translated and reported by China Digital Times Rather than shifting gears, as much of the world has, Beijing continues to chase its zero-covid agenda. But the Chinese government’s heavy-handed measures to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and its messaging to the public to justify those measures, may have backfired. China is beholden to its “zero-Covid” strategy as the February 2nd opening ceremonies for the Beijing Winter Olympics nears and the Omicron variant spreads across the world.  The Chinese Communist Party constructed a narrative early in the pandemic claiming that China…

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China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

China’s Internet: The Biggest Influencer Is the State

How China uses social metrics to guide its censorship strategy

The Chinese Communist Party’s response to champion doubles tennis player Peng Shuai was about more than just dismissing an accusation and protecting a high-ranking Party member. It was about silencing influencers and suppressing social mobilization. In a previous article, we looked at how Beijing’s propaganda machine used fake Twitter accounts to amplify messaging around tennis champion Peng Shuai after she disappeared from the public and was censored on the Chinese internet. Wilson Center scholar Rui Zhong writes in Wired magazine, “This is not about topics. This censorship is fundamentally about the dismantling of social resources.” Rui Zhong’s article is helpful in contextualizing the Chinese Communist Party’s targets for online censorship. She says that most analyses of Chinese internet censorship focus on specific words, phrases, or topics, rather…

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Tennis ball in net on flag China background.

Peng Shuai Backtracks Her Accusations

This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how China's propaganda works

On December 19, Peng Shuai was stopped by a journalist with Singaporean Chinese-language state-owned newspaper Lianhe Zaobao while she was in Shanghai for the International Ski Federation’s Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour. The Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Chen Qingqing, of the Chinese state media mouthpiece Global Times, posted a short video on Twitter of Peng with former NBA and CBA basketball player and current chairman of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming hours before the Lianhe Zaobao interview was posted. In the interview Peng said that she never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting her. The Wall Street Journal reports: “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Ms. Peng said in an interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.” “There shouldn’t be any distorted interpretations,” she…

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Identification Documents

A French-Based Company Wants to Make Your IDs Digital

What kinds of security concerns should be addressed before we consent to their vision of convenience?

Imagine all of your information and documents – all of it – stored on your phone. We’ve grown accustomed to carrying around our banking and payment systems, address and phone books, and our social media apps on our phones, but now imagine even your passport and your driver’s license taking the form of a personal QR code. Imagine being asked to verify your identity not with a physical ID, but with the phone in your pocket. Thales Group, a French-based technology company, is asking you to imagine just such a reality. In October 2020, Thales posted a video to YouTube, showcasing their digital ID wallet and boasting of its many convenient qualities: The idea of storing your information in one…

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AI(Artificial intelligence) concept.

Understanding the de Facto Cold War With China

High tech is currently a battlefield between freedom and totalitarianism

In “Hyping Artificial Intelligence Hinders Innovation” (podcast episode 163), Andrew McDiarmid interviewed Erik J. Larson, programmer and author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence (Harvard University Press, 2021) on the wrong path he thinks some analysts are taking in terms of what machines can and can’t do. Plus they discussed Alan Turing’s change of heart. Then they looked at the critical fact that Big Data can easily be the enemy of new ideas. And now, the future …? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/34ce0d74-aa74-4ad9-9599-e9ddf2be56a7-Mind-Matters-News-Episode-163-Erik-Larson-.mp3 This portion begins at roughly 38:23 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. They began with: How do we determine that we are not simply manipulated by social media? Larson recommended a book by computer scientist…

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Big data futuristic visualization abstract illustration

How AI Changed — in a Very Big Way — Around the Year 2000

With the advent of huge amounts of data, AI companies switched from using deductive logic to inductive logic

In “Hyping Artificial Intelligence Hinders Innovation” (podcast episode 163), Andrew McDiarmid interviewed Erik J. Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do (2021) (Harvard University Press, 2021) on the way “Machines will RULE!” hype discredits — and distracts attention from — actual progress in AI. Erik Larson has founded two two DARPA-funded artificial intelligence startups. Inthe book he urges us to go back to the drawing board with AI research and development. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/34ce0d74-aa74-4ad9-9599-e9ddf2be56a7-Mind-Matters-News-Episode-163-Erik-Larson-.mp3 This portion begins at 01:59 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Andrew McDiarmid: Can you paint a picture first for us of what the AI landscape looks like today and why it’s not…

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#WhereIsPengShuai: China’s Star Tennis Player Went Missing

Peng re-appeared after two weeks, but her disappearance sparked a global outcry against human rights violations under the Chinese Communist Party

On November 2, two-time tennis doubles champion, singles semifinalist, and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai posted on her Weibo account an essay accusing the former vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, of rape and coercion. They had an on-and-off relationship that began ten years ago and, reportedly, had a fight several days before her post. (A partial translation of her post can be found here.) In 2014 Peng was the number one tennis doubles champion, having won two Grand Slams, and has toured with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She has also appeared in three Olympics for China. Zhang is a retired vice premier of the highest governing body in China, the Politburo Standing Committee, and unlike other government officials who have…

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Chinese flag and big brother data surveillance

On What Terms Is Co-Operation Between the US and China Possible?

China analyst Miles Maochun Yu thinks that China’s new goal is to become the new global power first, then implement its ideology

A panel at COSM 2021 aired a disagreement between philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich. Gingrich argued that China is the greatest threat to global freedom while Gilder felt that claims about forced labor, for example, are overstated and that we must co-operate with China for technological advances. In the background is China’s 24/7 surveillance of the entire population, the door-to-door identification of and crackdown on religious believers, as well as on civil rights activists. The situation in China has changed a great deal over the past half decade which marked the Uyghur internment camps and the premature takeover of Hong Kong. As Michael Schuman puts it: China today is in the grip of the most…

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Thank You

Search Engines: Closing the Gap for Minority Languages

Thousands of the world’s languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 people. At COSM 2021, Phil Parker outlined a plan for giving them access to information

We’ve all consulted “Dr. Google” for a health ailment or to find a recipe or learn how to fix something perhaps. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But what if you asked Google something — and it didn’t even recognize your language? Phil Parker, speaking at COSM 2021, told the story of a woman in Ethiopia searching for “lump in breast,” using one of the over 80 languages or dialects spoken in the region. Her language was one of thousands spoken by only a comparatively small population. The search engine did not recognize her input and returned no hits. She tried her query in Swahili, but there was nothing she found informative about “breast lumps” in Swahili. She finally tried her search…

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Robots dancing in the park. Artificial intelligence industry in China.

COSM 2021: Kai-Fu Lee Tries His Hand at Future Casting

The former president of Google China thinks that China is well equipped to lead the world in AI

At COSM 2021, Kai-Fu Lee — computer scientist, writer, venture capitalist and former head of Google China — provided a future cast of the five ways artificial intelligence will change the world. Lee’s predictions are compelling because he takes a tempered view of the capabilities of AI. Lee says some people misunderstand AI. It can’t replicate the human brain because it works differently from the brain. AI is good at using large amounts of data for numerical optimization and individualization, but very poor at extraction analysis, common sense, insight, and creativity. Lee told the gathering: … of course [AI] has no self-awareness, consciousness, or emotions or love. So, it is actually quite a good complement for human beings because we’re…

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一个人漫步在故宫中,你能感觉到自己内心的宁静,倾听历史的声音。历史中的记忆,我们无法完全的复刻,但是建筑带给我们的震撼,却历久弥新。

China Brief: Xi Jinping Is a Techno-Utopian

Is his optimism in fix-all technological solutions actually a weakness?

I attended a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Xi Jinping’s New Policy Framework. Jude Blanchette and Andrew Polk of CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies laid out their take on Xi Jinping’s governance model, the goal of which is to make China into a “great socialist nation” by 2035. This is a change from the Deng Xiaoping goal of making China into a “moderately prosperous society” and includes his common prosperity initiative. For those interested in some of the ins-and-outs of macro-economic policy, you can read the CSIS report, “Chinese State Capitalism: Diagnosis and Prognosis” here. Two key takeaways from the webinar are 1) Xi Jinping’s model is not a rehash of Mao or Lenin, although both…

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Blockchain , cryptocurrencies , bitcoin and distributed ledger technology concept..Block chain , network connect icons and earth furnished by NASA.

Is Bitcoin Just a Flash in the Pan? Peter Thiel Responds

He reveals that PayPal started out as a libertarian project to free money from central control but that proved harder than anticipated

In this fourth and final episode based on his talk at COSM 2019, Peter Thiel — who founded PayPal in part to help break up currency monopolies — offers some thoughts on cryptocurrencies’ future. In the earlier episodes of his discussion at COSM 1919 with philosopher of technology George Gilder, top venture capitalist Peter Thiel offered Three Contrarian Ideas: 1.Big Tech, as it operates today, is communist. 2. Big Tech is also slowing down. And 3. Learning today has almost nothing to do with the so-called educational system. Now, about the future of cryptos: This portion begins at 27:21 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. George Gilder: Peter, you started PayPal, in part to…

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Old-fashioned Telephones Mounted On Wall

COSM: The Trek From Phone to Smart Phone: What Have We Learned?

Daniel Berninger, a pioneer and activist in VOIP communications, shares his insights about keeping the internet free and accessible

Daniel Berninger, an activist in the transition from plain old telephone service (POTS) to the online world of the cell phone (“disruptive communications”), will be speaking at COSM 2021. He has been involved in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) since 1995, starting with the original assessment of VoIP at Bell Laboratories and was a founder of the VON Coalition, “keeping IP communications free from government regulation.” He is a frequently cited resource on regulatory, antitrust, and VoIP issues (for example, in Business Week, WSJ, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Forbes, Associated Press, Dow Jones, Info World and the trade press). He is also a founder of VCXC (Voice Communication Exchange Committee). His interests and approach: ➤ the decline of the…

Planet Earth from Space People's Republic of China highlighted, elements of this image courtesy of NASA
Planet Earth from Space, People's Republic of China warm glow highlighted state borders and counties animation, city lights, 3d illustration

LinkedIn Says Goodbye to China

If the blasé business world of LinkedIn cannot pass the Cyberspace Administration of China’s rules, then what platform can?

LinkedIn announced that it will no longer host social media and content sharing in China. Instead, it’s China-only app will be a job-board site. This comes after LinkedIn received criticism for blocking certain researcher profiles in China as well as human rights advocates and journalists who write on China. LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was one of the only U.S.-based social media outlets still operating within China. Twitter, Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp), and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, Inc.) are banned. Google (also owned by Alphabet, Inc.) left in 2010. Signal and Clubhouse were banned in 2021. Other apps, such as TikTok (owned by ByteDance, Inc.) have their own Chinese version that complies with censors and data regulators.…