Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryData Privacy

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Black diagonal chain, a blockchain concept, double

Can Blockchain Help Ensure Fraud Free Voting?

Could blockchain have prevented the current controversy around voter fraud in the recent U.S. election?

In Wednesday’s meeting between Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Republican senators from the Pennsylvania legislature about potential voter fraud in the state, one state senator suggested blockchain as a potential cure for the type of voter fraud being alleged. A company called VOATZ has the technology to do this and was mentioned by name. Blockchain is the secret sauce that keeps bitcoin working. Each new bitcoin transaction is encrypted as a new link in the chain, which is distributed to numerous sites. If anyone tries to change a link in the blockchain, everyone who stores the bitcoin blockchain knows it, so the fraud is detected and removed. The beauty of blockchain is that trust is assured among people who…

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digital world

China’s Eyes Are Watching Africa Closely

In exchange for help with high-tech communication systems, China gets to install mass surveillance technology

Depending on who you talk to, the twenty-year relationship between China and several countries in the African Union has been described as everything from mutually beneficial to asymmetric and dysfunctional right down to exploitative and neo-colonialist. Recent pre-COVID-19 surveys indicate that citizens of several African nations see their country’s interaction with China as largely positive. But if some African science fiction writers are any indicator, others see a dystopian future. The current onslaught of high-tech surveillance technologies from China provides a chance to compare the two views. Recently, I have written about racial tensions between African nationals and local government in Guangzhou amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and about how the pandemic has worsened African countries’ debt crisis, particularly due to…

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Social media facebook dis-like

Facebook Goes After Research Group Studying Its Ad Policies

The researchers received information from volunteers in order to study apparent violations of ad policies during the recent U.S. election

Facebook, one of the most ambitious companies in modern history—it is, after all, contemplating its own currency—is also trying to shut down an academic research group it doesn’t Like. The Ad Observatory, a project of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, monitors ads on Facebook. In the most recent American election, they studied “Which candidates, super PACS, and dark money groups are spending most on Facebook advertising nationwide? What topics do they emphasize and what objectives do they seek to achieve with ads?” The project asked volunteers to install a plugin, Ad Observer, that automatically scrapes ads presented on Facebook and sends them in. Why does it matter? Because most of us see only a small proportion of the ads that…

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Schrodinger's cat

Does Schrödinger’s Cat Think Quantum Computing Is a Sure Thing?

It might lead to more security, though not to thinking computers

Some hope that a move to quantum computing—qubits instead of bits, analog instead of digital—will work wonders, including the invention of the true thinking computer. In last week’s podcast, futurist George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks looked at, among other things, what’s really happening with quantum computing: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-108-George-Gilder.mp3 (The quantum computing discussion begins at 15:04.) Robert J. Marks: What’s your take on quantum computing? It seems to me that there’s been glacial progress in the technology. George Gilder (pictured): I think quantum computing is rather like AI, in that it moves the actual problem outside the computational process and gives the illusion that it solved the problem, but it’s really just pushed the problem out. Quantum computing is…

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Ai identify person technology for recognize, classify and predict human behavior for safety. Futuristic artificial intelligence. Surveillance and data collection of citizens through city cameras.

The Information We Just Give Away Obliterates Privacy

Privacy may turn out to be one of the biggest political issues of the new decade

A story came to light at VICE in 2017, that the CIA spied on people through their smart TVs. Without getting into those weeds, note this conventional warning offered by manufacturers: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.” An old birdwatcher’s tip: If you can see them, assume they can see you. If the internet is wide open to us, we are potentially wide open to the internet. Here are three surveillance issues worth pondering, about the systems we take for granted: ➤ Alexa employees listen in: Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people…

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Group of friends using smartphones to communicate in social media. Concept of a generation of millennials who are online all the time. Warm hipster filter.

The Social Dilemma: You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product

A new Netflix documentary explores the techniques used to explore, then shape and sharpen, our attitudes, values, and beliefs

What is truth? This question has likely been pondered by man for as long as man has been able to ponder. How do you know that what you read or hear is true? How do you know that what you think is true? Why is it that people with different worldviews or belief systems can look at the exact same raw objective data and interpret it in radically different ways? The answers to these questions are important to “know”, insofar as anyone can know anything within a reasonable degree of certainty. However, in our society today, it is becoming more and more difficulty to determine what is true––with any degree of certainty. A recent 90-minute Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma,…

Digital globe with mosaic of images
Digital globe with mosaic of images

Why Some Nation States Are Banning TikTok

The United States is not alone in questioning the social medium’s allegiance to the Chinese government

Why is TikTok so controversial? It’s the first Chinese technology company that has reached a billion users outside of China. Its main demographic is Generation Z—teens and twenty-somethings. If you take a look at TikTok videos, most are goofy and irreverent. They’re frenetic shorts of everything from fashion tips to pranks and, of course, (bad) dancing. TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What could go wrong? Here’s what. Working with China, as Disney and the NBA can attest, comes with certain strings attached, including acquiescing to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules for acceptable speech. Because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company (although partly owned by investors from the U.S. and Japan), the Chinese Communist…

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Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima and the surounding garden in autumn at sunset on the side of Motoyasu River in Japan, with the Peace Memorial Park

Does Government Watch Us on Social Media? Yes… So Does Business

They may all be getting to know you way better than you feel comfortable with

Discerning public opinion on political and national security issues via social media platforms showed its worth during the Arab Spring of 2010. The protests, which began in Tunisia, spread throughout the Middle East, where social media were the key platform for expressing anger about corruption, poverty, human rights violations, unemployment, and authoritarianism. These protests resulted in changes to leadership and policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. They also resulted in immigration issues and sadly, even terror attacks, military conflicts, and civil war. Social media not only enables coordinated action such as rallies, strikes, resistance, riots, and other methods of activism but also provides status reports and communicates outcomes. One research team has developed an AI metric for predicting such events:…

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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them…

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iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office…

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AT&T CTO Says, Yes, You Can Live Without Your Smart Phone

At COSM 2019, Jay Richards interviewed AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch (the guy who says your smart phone will disappear). Is that true? And how will we live? From the interview: Andre Fuetsch: We are now on the brink of being able to connect many, many more things than we’ve ever seen before. And just by the fact of being able to connect more things … look at the more traditional wireless networks that we’ve had in the preceding generations. It frankly was just about connecting phones, right? “Some were sort of dumb phones, some were more feature phones. Some are now obviously more smartphones. And these were really more of kind of a one to one relationship with people. 5G,…

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Smart technologies in your smartphone, collection and analysis of big data

The Birds Aren’t Real. But Maybe the Spying Is.

A defense of our fundamental right to privacy

Technology frees us from drudgery but also enable surveillance that enslaves us. Then, far from computers becoming more like humans, we may become more like computers.

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cybercrime, hacking and technology concept - male hacker with headphones and coding on laptop computer screen wiretapping or using computer virus program for cyber attack in dark room

The New Cyber Cold War with China

Cybersecurity strategist Peter Singer told Wired that there has never been a better time than the COVID-19 pandemic to be a government hacker

The United States has formally accused China of both funding and operating cells of hackers who infiltrate research labs working on responses to COVID-19.

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Woman and man in social distancing sitting on bench

Five Surprising Changes To Watch for from COVID-19

Expect to hear much more about robots that can stand in for humans, as a way of enabling social distance

There are the Spanish police drones flying around, enforcing lockdown orders. And Singapore’s robotic police dogs, enforcing social distance. Will they go away?

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Great bundle of various colored cables with various connectors

No, Scientific American, Don’t Starve AI!

Don't unplug AI; just make sure everyone shares in both the creation and the benefits

While many are concerned about all the jobs that AI will eliminate, no one is talking about the fact that AI needs humans. Information is the fuel that powers AI, and only humans can create this information. So, the real revolution that AI will bring is not data exploitation, but the empowering of people all around the world to power our economy through creation of information. What’s bad news for authoritarian groups like the Chinese Communist party is good news for everyone else. 

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CCTV camera or surveillance operating in glass building

At Scientific American: Starve artificial intelligence!

Silicon Valley authors seek to limit AI's power. Jonathan Bartlett doesn't think it really has the power they are worried about

Jonathan Bartlett agrees with Valley pioneers Davidow and Malone, authors of The Autonomous Revolution (2020) that there are real problems with the misuse of AI. But, he says, that’s because we treat it as powerful. It is a servant but we make it a master.   

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Young woman using smart phone,Social media concept.

Is Contact Tracing a Simple Answer to COVID Lockdowns?

An engineering professor at the University of Austin asks us to look at the costs and benefits

The conventional science fiction fear of a superintelligent AI taking over the planet and ridding it of pesky humans distracts our attention from a much more realistic threat: Artificial intelligence (AI) makes both government and corporate surveillance much easier, cheaper, and more useful—whether it is in average citizens’ interests or not. If we are lucky, this will be the decade when we address the implications of that fact.

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Post-COVID: Five Ways Your Job Could Change

This is a good time to be a creative thinker and innovator.

Many COVID-driven innovations will likely endure, whether it’s vets doing telehealth, trolls harassing Zoom users, or cybercriminals targeting remote workers, the new opportunities and risks will stay with us.

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Hacker in data security concept. Hacker using laptop. Hacking the Internet. Cyber attack.

Can Your Tablet Really Tell People Where You Are?

Yes, and it'll talk louder with the next gen protocols. But there's a way to shut it up

If someone can see your traffic as it is transmitted across the “first hop” physical network and your devices are using the manufacturer-assigned MAC address, they can discover the unique address assigned to your device.

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