Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryMachine Learning

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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.

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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.
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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 ›
Car windshield view of Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, California, USA

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 ›
Am Abgrund

Self-driving vehicles are just around the corner

On the other side of a vast chasm…
Many cheerleaders have wrongly assumed that the progress from one level of automation to another should be a direct, linear process but it clearly isn’t. Rather, the transition from Level 4 to Level 5 automation is multiple orders of magnitude more difficult than all the other levels combined. Its completion should not be taken as a foregone conclusion. Read More ›
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Could AI write novels?

George Orwell thought so, as long as no thinking was involved
Serious literature will always be written, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, in “blood, toil, tears and sweat” because imaging the human condition accurately is part of its nature. And if the writer lives in an unfree society, serious literature will also be written in fear. Read More ›
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How Do Bitcoins Work Anyway?

And what's their future? A roundup for non-geeks

Everywhere these days one hears people foretelling the fortunes of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin—like so many fairies, good and bad, wishing around a cradle. Most people, including New Yorker staff writer Nick Paumgarten, have hoped to just avoid the scene, partly because few enthusiasts can even explain what the cryptocurrencies are or why they exist. But Paumgarten dove in and his recent long form article offers helpful explanations along with illuminating profiles of digital currency pioneers. First, why? Bitcoin and Ethereum enthusiasts want, in Paumgarten’s words, “a better, decentralized version of the World Wide Web—a Web 3.0—more in keeping with the Internet’s early utopian promise than with the invidious, monopolistic hellscape it has become. They want to seize back the tubes, and Read More ›

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Would Google be happier if America were run more like China?

This might be a good time to ask
A leaked internal discussion document, the “Cultural Context Report” (March 2018), admits a “shift toward censorship.” It characterizes free speech as a “utopian narrative,” pointing out that “As the tech companies have grown more dominant on the global stage, their intrinsically American values have come into conflict with some of the values and norms of other countries.” Read More ›
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AI computer chips made simple

The artificial intelligence chips that run your computer are not especially difficult to understand
Increasingly, companies are integrating“AI chips” into their hardware products. What are these things, what do they do that is so special, and how are they being used? Read More ›
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Hacks damage Facebook, kill Google+

The internet changes everything. For example, it makes the Big Guys more vulnerable, not less vulnerable, than bit players
Facebook gets blamed for everything from what Russia does to what American voters do. But the people who seem to think Mark Zuckerberg and company have superpowers for changing the world are mistaken. Facebook was not able to fend off a damaging hack. Read More ›
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Did AI teach itself to “not like” women?

No, the program did not teach itself anything. But the situation taught the company something important about what we can safely automate.

Back in 2014, it was a “holy grail” machine learning program, developed in Scotland, that would sift through online resumes, using a one-to-five star rating system and cull the top five of 100, saving time and money. Within a year, a problem surfaced: It was “not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way.”

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I, Robot, am gathering dust in the sales room …

Why do robotics experts think that customers will warm to robots because they look like people?
The underlying assumption is surely incorrect. Robots like the Roomba succeed in part because they don’t look or act like people, let alone threaten people. They just do jobs people would prefer not to do or maybe can’t. Read More ›