Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryMachine Learning

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If Computers Thought Like Fruit Flies, They Could Do More

But even with more sophisticated buzz, there remain "non-computable" things that a computer cannot be programmed to think

Recently, researchers discovered that fruit flies use a filter similar to a computer algorithm to assess the odors that help them find fruit, only the flies’ tools are more sophisticated: When a fly smells an odor, the fly needs to quickly figure out if it has smelled the odor before, to determine if the odor is new and something it should pay attention to,” says Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory. “In computer science, this is an important task called novelty detection. Computers use a Bloom filter for that, Navlakha, an integrative biologist, explains: When a search engine such as Google crawls the Web, it needs to know whether a website it comes across has previously Read More ›

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Can Big Data Help Make Your Book a Best Seller?

It’s more likely to help you picture your odds more clearly and clarify your goals
What does Barabási’s Big Data tell us that we couldn’t just guess? Well, for one thing, that there is a “universal sales curve” which means that a book’s only chance of making the list is shortly after publication. Read More ›
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That Plant Is Not a Cyborg

Or a robot. The MIT researcher's underlying idea is a good one but let’s not “plant” mistaken ideas
If plants could move around freely, they would move into the most beneficial lighting arrangement. They compensate for their rootedness by growing in the optimum direction and constantly repositioning their leaves. An MIT researcher has helped out a plant by fitting it with electronic sensors attached to robotic wheels. Read More ›
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Quantity vs Quality: Can AI Help Scientists Produce Better Papers?

What happens when scientists simply can't read all their peers' papers and still find time for original research?
Quantity is definitely a solved problem. STM, the “voice of scholarly publishing” estimated in 2015 that roughly 2.5 million science papers are published each year. Some are, admittedly, in predatory or fake journals. But over 2800 journals are assumed to be genuine. Read More ›
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AI Winter Is Coming

Roughly every decade since the late 1960s has experienced a promising wave of AI that later crashed on real-world problems, leading to collapses in research funding.
Nearly all of AI’s recent gains have been realized due to massive increases in data and computing power that enable old algorithms to suddenly become useful. For example, researchers first conceived neural networks—the core idea powering much machine learning and AI’s notable advances—in the late 1950s. The worries of an impending winter arise because we’re approaching the limits of what massive data combined with hordes of computers can do. Read More ›
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Facial Recognition Aids Persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims

Western companies still seek business ties with an increasingly authoritarian regime
The crackdown on religion is said to stem from Xi Jinping, who became President in 2012. After he got term limits removed in March 2018, some have begun to privately call him “Emperor Xi.” Read More ›
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AI, it turns out, can solve any problem

As long as we are not too persnickety about what we consider a solution
The machine that knows what we mean instead of what we say is still in the concept stage. Meanwhile, Deep Mind researcher Victoria Krakovna keeps a running list of ways that generate "a solution that literally satisfies the stated objective but fails to solve the problem according to the human designer’s intent.” Read More ›
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If a Robot Read the News, Would You Notice a Difference?

The Chinese government thinks not. Is this the way of the future?
The robotic news readers of China serve a quite different purpose from the independent news outlets and commentators of the West; the robots help disseminate controlled information rather than finding and developing information. Read More ›
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The “superintelligent AI myth”

The problem that even the skeptical Deep Learning researcher left out
I largely agree with what François Chollet said last year as to why there will be no explosion of general artificial intelligence. But when he challenged the fear of an AI-driven “intelligence explosion,” he, perhaps unwittingly, said more than he meant. Read More ›
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Who needs wisdom? We’ve got algorithms!

On a decision about a TV series, the Algorithm offered a narrow view (ratings) while Hollywood offered a “big picture” view. Who was right?
While we are seeing some pushback against the movement to “algorithmicize” everything, few lay out explicitly the limitations as well as the benefits of the algorithms increasingly used to make decisions. Read More ›
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Brains are not billions of little computers

Despite the hype. Also, life forms are not machines and neurons are not neural networks
Life forms exist in a dance with their environment (homeostasis) that requires constant adjustment, an adjustment generated by the inner drive to continue in existence. How does the drive come to be there? The analogy between life forms and machines like computers is not particularly convincing, on close examination. Read More ›
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Can Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, save it from humanity?

Berners-Lee has launched a global campaign for a Magna Carta to “protect people’s rights online from threats such as fake news, prejudice and hate”
Not everyone sees Berners-Lee’s project as realistic. For one thing, acquiring and using masses of personal data without consent is the very basis of the business of the big social media companies, who are more powerful than many nation states. Read More ›
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Canada demands intimate banking data from a half million citizens

The goal of the program, recently uncovered by media, is to develop a “new institutional personal information bank” for government use.

A Canadian TV station  recently provided a dramatic insight into how far Western governments are prepared to go, using advanced data gathering techniques, to surveil the lives of citizens: Statistics Canada is asking banks across the country for financial transaction data and personal information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge. Global News has learned. Documents obtained by Global News show the national statistical agency plans to collect “individual-level financial transactions data” and sensitive information, like social insurance numbers (SIN), from Canadian financial institutions to develop a “new institutional personal information bank.” Andrew Russell and David Akin, “EXCLUSIVE: Stats Canada requesting banking information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge” at Global News Further investigation showed that the government agency has already Read More ›

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Human intelligence as a halting oracle

Jonathan Bartlett proposes to model the human mind as a halting oracle.
A common objection to Bartlett’s idea is that humans cannot be halting oracles because we embed any unsolvable math problem as the halting condition for a loop and a human cannot tell us whether the loop will halt or not. This objection misses the fact that there is a range of oracles between plain Turing machines and a complete halting oracle. Read More ›
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Did AI show that we are “a peaceful species” triggered by religion?

No, but this episode shows how science media sometimes help mislead the public
Unfortunately, most of the public knows about science only through science media professionals. And it is apparent that science media professionals often know little to nothing of what they are talking about. Read More ›
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A chilling snippet from mass surveillance in China

China is helping other countries restrict their citizens’ internet, while shunning the U.S.
Overall, governments worldwide are restricting the freedom of the internet, especially around election times, and the big social media companies are conspicuous by their silence.   Read More ›
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Life after Google: More private and more profitable?

Reviewing Gilder’s Life after Google, Ralph Benko asks, If our attention is worth billions, shouldn’t we market it?
In a more open market, the user’s time and attention would no longer be a free service of nature. One expects incentives to follow naturally from more competition for the user’s attention.
Read More ›
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Facebook is said to be exploring minting its own cryptocurrency

If Facebook wants to mint private currency, can it still be the judge of morals and manners among users?
A software engineer and tech blogger sees ideas sprout up all over, including both the absurd and the brilliant, as traditional companies try to incorporate cryptocurrencies into their business model. Read More ›
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Too late to prevent being ruled by The Algorithm?

Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams, tells Ben Shapiro why he thinks politicians soon won't matter
Adams recently offered Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire a curious analysis of where AI in politics is taking us. He worries that Donald Trump will be the “Last Human President” and that politics will be dominated by AI algorithms in the future. But he thinks that “the algorithm” will eventually somehow unite us. Read More ›
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Who assumes moral responsibility for self-driving cars?

Can we discuss this before something happens and everyone is outsourcing the blame?
Level 4 self-driving vehicles will bring with them a giant shift in the moral equation of driving. Unfortunately, in a culture that seems to think that the future will take care of itself, little thoughtful public discussion is taking place. My hope is to start a discussion of how coming technological changes will affect the future moral landscape. Read More ›