Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryGlobal Technology

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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…

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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,…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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.…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…