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Worker sits inside a box outdoors

Amazon’s “Mindful Practice Rooms” Backfire

It turns out the human soul needs far more than a telephone booth with a computer

Amazon posted a video this week featuring a “mindful practice room” – a new company initiative to give employees a mental and emotional break during their work day. The room is just one component of their WorkingWell program, which is intended to ease worker stress by providing them with tools and training for better physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The video did not go over as hoped, however, and Amazon took it down. The Guardian called the rooms “coffin-like booths”, Gizmodo called it “a dystopian solution” to long work hours and harsh conditions, and Twitter users went to town with their own sarcastic tweets and memes. The now-deleted video featured Amazon worker Leila Brown, creator of the “ZenBooth”, which she…

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Science laboratory research and development concept. microscope with test tubes

Lab Leak Theory Vindicated: What That Means for Fighting COVID-19

What was the U.S. government's role in downplaying the lab leak theory?

Vanity Fair adds to the growing number of investigative articles pointing to a lab accident as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article looks at the U.S. government’s role in downplaying that lab leak theory. Behind closed doors, however, national security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public. Katherine Eban, “The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins” at Vanity Fair At a time when the Mainstream Media has sullied its reputation by parroting experts rather than seeking multiple viewpoints and checking sources, several articles stand out as excellent pieces of long-form writing and…

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scientific publication

Inside the Economics of Science Papers

Here’s an inside look at who pays if you read for free

When a scholarly paper is published, someone has to pay. Publishers like Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), my professional society, and Springer charge big bucks to read their papers. The fees are billed to individual subscribers and, more commonly, to companies and universities who want to give their employees access to the papers. My own university, Baylor, like most research universities, has a considerable library budget on account of these publisher fees. There is growing pressure to kill these fees in favor of “open access” to scholarly papers. Thus, anyone can read a scholarly paper at any time for free. Free access takes the money from the pockets of publishers so they push back. Someone has to pay,…

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Digital eye. Green matrix background. Concept of Artificial Intelligence

Researcher: Fear of AI Caused by Four Common Misconceptions

AI isn't panning out the way so many popular media articles predicted and there are reasons for that, a computer science prof says

As part of the Demystifying AI series, software engineer Ben Dickson, founder of TechTalks, tackles some of the most serious misunderstandings he thinks the public has about AI. For example, while AI can win in board games, where the map is the territory, “some of the early goals of AI like housekeeper robots and self-driving cars continue to recede as we approach them.” So why isn’t AI panning out the way so many popular media articles predicted? Dickson points to a recent article at ArXiv by professor Melanie Mitchell of the Santa Fe Institute, author of Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans (2019): The year 2020 was supposed to herald the arrival of self-driving cars. Five years earlier, a…

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Neural networks of the human brain. 3d illustration of abstract nerve centers. Electrical impulses in brain. Bright full color

Young Filmmaker Tackles the Hype About Computing the Brain

In Silico, in which Noah Hutton sorts hope from hype, goes livestream today

Twelve years ago Noah Hutton (pictured), who had some background in neuroscience, heard prominent neuroscientist Henry Markram tell viewers in a TED talk that he had determined how to simulate a complete human brain, via supercomputers, within a decade. At the time, Hutton didn’t question that and he started to document the Blue Brain project that Markham directed, which started with a mouse brain. But then things stalled: As Hutton recounted in Scientific American yesterday, “there were magnificent fly-through visualizations of the first square millimeter of simulated rat brain set to The Blue Danube available in a visitor’s screening room, but a definite lack of progress along the road map towards a human brain.” There was, however, the recognition that…

Intelligent robot machine pointing finger 3D rendering
Intelligent robot machine pointing finger 3D rendering

New Book Massively Debunks Our “AI Overlords”: Ain’t Gonna Happen

AI researcher and tech entrepreneur Erik J. Larson expertly dissects the AI doomsday scenarios
AI researcher and tech entrepreneur Eric J. Larson has just published a book debunking the claims that AI is taking over. Read More ›
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cyber bullying concept. people using notebook computer laptop for social media interactions with notification icons of hate speech and mean comment in social network

When Half Our Time Is Spent Online, We Live in a Delusional World

A historian warns that many of us now live in bubbles where we need interact only with people who agree with us

Historian Adam Seagrave (pictured) reflects on the finding that more than half of Americans spend more than half of their waking time in “virtual worlds”: Living through electronic media, especially social media, causes us to live in entirely different worlds even from near neighbors: “The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.” According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, roughly eight in ten Americans go online at least daily. Almost three in ten American adults say they are “almost constantly” online. According to a 2019 Digital Information World report, internet users in the United States spend an average of 6 hours and 31 minutes online every…

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Lorem ipsum text that has been redacted

What Your News Feed Will Look Like If Big Tech Runs It

Reading Elkus’s essay, one wants to ask, “Who is the collective ‘we’ who are supposed to be out of control?”

In an essay at The New Atlantis, Adam Elkus, a graduate student in computational social science at George Mason University, reflects on a curious change in public panics in recent years: Pundits’ obsession with AI doom has given way to “primal fear of primates posting,” with demands that top government or Big Tech crack down on social media: Once upon a time — just a few years ago, actually — it was not uncommon to see headlines about prominent scientists, tech executives, and engineers warning portentously that the revolt of the robots was nigh. The mechanism varied, but the result was always the same: Uncontrollable machine self-improvement would one day overcome humanity. A dismal fate awaited us. We would be…

Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.
Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.

AI Researcher: Stop Calling Everything “Artificial Intelligence”

It’s not really intelligence, says Berkeley’s Michael Jordan, and we risk misunderstanding what these machines can really do for us

Computer scientist Michael I. Jordan, a leading AI researcher, says today’s artificial intelligence systems aren’t actually intelligent and people should stop talking about them as if they were: They are showing human-level competence in low-level pattern recognition skills, but at the cognitive level they are merely imitating human intelligence, not engaging deeply and creatively, says Michael I. Jordan, a leading researcher in AI and machine learning. Jordan is a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science, and the department of statistics, at the University of California, Berkeley. Katy Pretz, “Stop Calling Everything AI, Machine-Learning Pioneer Says” at IEEE Spectrum (March 31, 2031) Their principal role, he says, is to “augment human intelligence, via painstaking analysis of large…

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Information censorship - Typewriter locked with a chain

Columbia Professor Wants Government to Regulate News Media

The journalism professor argued before a government regulatory committee that "an open market without regulation will always favor bad actors over good"

During a subcommittee hearing on misinformation, disinformation, and extremism in journalism, a Columbia University professor advocated for the regulation of news media to create “a more vibrant, truthful news environment.”  Emily Bell (pictured) is a professor of journalism at Columbia University, and founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Prior to her appointment at Columbia, she was an award-winning writer and editor at Guardian News and Media in London. She offered her comments at a February 24 hearing titled, “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media”, hosted by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce. Bell testified as a witness. She sees a “policy role” for government to play in…

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The concept of building a business network Businessmen experience a global network and global online trading development system exchange.

Wikipedia’s Bias Meets a Free-Speech Alternative

The famously free encyclopedia’s pages on abortion, communism, and historical figures reveal a left-leaning bias

Last December, Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger announced that he would be launching a free speech alternative to Wikipedia, a website that Sanger believes has lost its credibility as a neutral source of information. Sanger’s Encyclosphere is meant to be “an open encyclopedia network” (Sanger compares it to “the blogosphere”) with the goal of “build(ing) a network that … all of humanity owns and no one exclusively controls.”  One of Wikipedia’s declared “fundamental principle(s)” is NPOV – neutral point of view. Wikipedia defines NPOV as “representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without editorial bias, all the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic.”  “This policy is non-negotiable,” the website states. But according to Sanger, “Wikipedia’s ‘NPOV’ is dead.” …

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Asian woman is wearing facial mask during virus epidemic

Was the WHO Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin Thwarted by China?

The World Health Organization team was not really allowed to conduct a proper investigation in China

On January 14, 2021, an international team from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan in Hubei province in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. From the outset, the investigation was plagued with three issues: 1) It ‘s been a year since the outbreak in Wuhan, which makes an investigation into the origins of the outbreak difficult. 2) WHO has catered to the Chinese government since the beginning of the pandemic, and 3) the scientists involved in the investigation had to be approved by Beijing. Two of them had conflicts of interest. When the WHO team arrived, they faced additional barriers to a thorough investigation. They were quarantined for two weeks so they…

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newspaper on brown wooden table

Facebook Unfriends Australia, Blacks Out Critical News

It started as a trade dispute but the growing power of Big Social Media to impose news blackouts threatens freedom of information, even safety

Last week, in a business dispute with the government of Australia, Facebook wiped news from Australia from its 2.6 billion users’ feeds. Michael Cook (pictured), editor of Australia-based MercatorNet, explains what that meant: So when you checked your Facebook feed on February 18, you didn’t see anything from The Australian, The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph or, initially, the Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services, Western Sydney Health, South Australia Health, various state health services and some state Governments. This is in the middle of the fire season and a Covid-19 pandemic, for which many people rely on Facebook for updates. You also didn’t see anything from MercatorNet or BioEdge,…

Seattle, Washington - November 22, 2019: General view of Amazon office building in Seattle, Washington

Little-Known Civil Rights Law Could Bring Big Tech to Its Knees

Many tech giants have considerable assets and many employees in Seattle's jurisdiction

SEATTLE—As state and federal lawmakers consider drafting new legislation to counter big tech censorship of dissenting political voices, few seem to realize that an anti-discrimination law already on the books could spell big trouble for big tech companies that engage in political censorship.  Ironically, the law was enacted by one of the most politically progressive cities in the country: Seattle.  Unlike most political jurisdictions in the United States, Seattle expressly forbids discrimination on the basis of “political ideology.” Seattle defines political ideology expansively as any idea or belief, or coordinated body of ideas or beliefs, relating to the purpose, conduct, organization, function or basis of government and related institutions and activities, whether or not characteristic of any political party or group. This…

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Courthouse with judge's gavel and sign NO. concept of censorship and the production of restrictions and laws on restriction. Anti-popular laws, usurpation of power, conservative views. Lack of justice

“Disinformation”: Do We Really Need a “Reality Czar”?

Canada dodged a bullet in 2014. The United States will not be so lucky if it adopts Big Tech's new proposals against “disinformation” online

Recently, a New York Times technology columnist, back from a consult with Big Tech in Silicon Valley, urged U.S. President to appoint a “reality czar” to go after people who provide “disinformation” online. He concedes, “It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant.” Well yes, rather. And the czar would probably soon find himself in conflict with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Kevin Roose (pictured), who says he has spent several years tackling “our national reality crisis”, begs us to hear the czar’s supporters out: This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe…

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Female reporter or TV journalist at press event. Journalism concept.

In Big Tech world: The Journalist as Censor, Hit Man, and Snitch

Glenn Greenwald looks at a disturbing trend in media toward misrepresentation as well as censorship

At Substack, one of an increasing number of independent news and opinion sites, lawyer and civil rights activist Glenn Greenwald looks at a disturbing trend in journalism today. The rise of the journalist as tattletale and censor, rather than investigative reporter: A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism. Glenn Greenwald, “The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers…