Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryProgramming

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Young african male programmer writing program code sitting at the workplace with three monitors in the office. Image focused on the screen

Have a Software Design Idea? Kaggle Could Help It Happen for Free

Okay, not exactly. You have to do the work. But maybe you don’t have to invent the software

In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas about what’s happening — and isn’t happening — in artificial intelligence today. The big story turned out to be all the free software you can use to advance your own projects. This time out, Dr. Bui focuses on what open source (free) Kaggle software can do for you, including competitons. Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 12:58 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Justin Bui: Kaggle is owned by Google; I…

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Bright light Developer programming and coding technology. Website design Safety of tahe social world Cyberspace concept.

Jonathan Bartlett: An Interview With the Author

"Learn to Program with Assembly" teaches programmers the language needed for a better understanding of their computer

“Learning assembly language is about learning how the processor itself thinks about your code. It is about gaining the mind of the machine.” Jonathan Bartlett, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, p. 1 Jonathan Bartlett is a man of many talents: an engineer, a software developer, a mathematician, a researcher and writer. He has been a faithful contributor here at Mind Matters News for many years, on topics ranging from programming and coding to math to education to technology. His books have become required reading at Princeton and DeVry Universities. Now, he has written a new book, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, and he sat down with Mind Matters to talk…

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Judge's gavel on table in office

Rittenhouse Trial: Are Attorneys and Judge Tech/Math-Challenged?

Does simple pinch and zoom change pixels? The devil, though, is in the details

In one of the many exchanges between lawyers and Judge Schroeder in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the degree to which pinching and zooming change cell phone images was addressed. Rittenhouse lawyer Mark Richards claimed it does. The district attorney Thomas Binger claimed there is no change. Richards first claimed that an image prepared by the prosecutor changed pixels using AI and logarithms. If AI is defined as any “gee whiz” technology, he was right. But pinch and zoom was invented in 2007 by Steve Jobs and uses nothing that can be considered modern AI. All nerds should laugh at the claim that “logarithms”  were used in the pinch and zoom.  Attorney Mark Richards obviously meant “algorithms”  To his credit, Richards confessed he knew…

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Thank You

Search Engines: Closing the Gap for Minority Languages

Thousands of the world’s languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 people. At COSM 2021, Phil Parker outlined a plan for giving them access to information

We’ve all consulted “Dr. Google” for a health ailment or to find a recipe or learn how to fix something perhaps. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But what if you asked Google something — and it didn’t even recognize your language? Phil Parker, speaking at COSM 2021, told the story of a woman in Ethiopia searching for “lump in breast,” using one of the over 80 languages or dialects spoken in the region. Her language was one of thousands spoken by only a comparatively small population. The search engine did not recognize her input and returned no hits. She tried her query in Swahili, but there was nothing she found informative about “breast lumps” in Swahili. She finally tried her search…

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Colorful numbers background

How Even Random Numbers Show Evidence of Design

Random number generators are actually pseudo-random number generators because they depend on designed algorithms

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Many questions arose during the discussion. Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How…

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Close-up image of coder typing on computer

The Search for the Universal Algorithm Continues

Why does machine learning always seem to be rounding a corner, only to eventually hit a wall?

DeepMind, a part of Alphabet (i.e., Google), has made many headlines in the past. The biggest was its development of AlphaGo, which used reinforcement learning to beat the number one Go player at the time (2017). DeepMind generalized this into AlphaZero, which is supposedly able to solve any two-player game of perfect information. DeepMind has come back into headlines recently with the attempt to build an AI which can generate any algorithm. While they are starting with map data, the goal is to generalize this and generate any desired algorithm. The search for such a “universal algorithm” has been essentially equivalent to the search for a perpetual motion machine in physics. The allure of both is obvious. In physics, if you…

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Bright light Developer programming and coding technology. Website design Safety of tahe social world Cyberspace concept.

Code Debt is not Real Debt

Equating code debt with monetary debt can lead to strategic technology mistakes

The term “code debt” in computer programming refers to the idea that certain decisions in writing computer code will lead to future consequences which have to be dealt with. By saving time now, the programmer is setting himself up for the need to take more time later. In other words, he is “borrowing” from the future. While this metaphor is helpful to use in many situations, there are some significant differences between code debt and real debt, and those differences need to be included more often in software development discussions. First, for those who are not familiar with the concept of code debt, let me give a simplified example. Let’s say that I need to deliver a project next week,…

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Confused businessman with stressed and worried about  working mistake and problems.

The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake In New Technology Ventures

As a new entrepreneur, you won't make it to 100,000 users unless the product works well for your customers

I’ve worked with many tech startups over the years. By and large there has always been one overriding factor that has caused tech startups to falter — trying to build their application to handle too much traffic upfront. The goal of every tech entrepreneur is for everyone in the country to use their next product. Everyone is going to make the next star application, like Facebook. In order to accomplish this, tech entrepreneurs give a command to their tech team that is probably their worst mistake: “Make the application able to scale to millions of users.” That might sound like a reasonable request, but I can assure you that it is absolutely the worst possible plan of attack. Programming legend…

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Printed circuit board

“Listen to the technology; find out what it’s telling you…”

That’s the motto of CalTech’s Carver Mead, who will speak at COSM 2021

A COSM 2021 speaker that tech watchers won’t want to miss is CalTech’s Carver Mead (1934–), best known in computer history for pioneering the automation, methodology and teaching of the integrated circuit design used in microprocessors and memories. According to the Lemelson–MIT Student Prize program, “Carver Mead has made many of the Information Age’s most significant advances in microcircuitry, which are essential to the internet access and global cellular phone use that many people enjoy and take for granted every day.” Mead is also honored as a teacher. Forty years at CalTech, he advised the first female electrical engineering student there, Louise Kirkbride, who went on to become a tech developer and inventor in her own right. He has helped…

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Developing programmer Team Development Website design and coding technologies working in software company office

The Two Most Common Problems with Outsourced Code

And how to mitigate against them

I have had many opportunities to work with developers outside the United States in a variety of capacities. To begin with, let me assure readers that there are great developers all over the world. The sun never sets on the current team I work with. The great thing about software development is that you can find great talent wherever the Internet is. There are great individual developers in every country, but I have found that, in many countries, the culture of software development has not evolved to where it is in America. When hiring individual developers, this rarely matters. The proper developers tend to gravitate to whatever level you are hiring at (or, alternatively, you can have a headhunter screen…

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The code is on a laptop on a wooden table in front of the window  in the dark with a view of the lights of the night city, color lighting in the room, home decor

Know When to Hold ’em, Know When to Fold ’em

Taking control of the rewrite reflex

Computer programmers are a pretty predictable bunch. Every time they approach legacy code, the gut reaction is “let’s rewrite this from scratch.” The reaction is understandable for many reasons.  First of all, code written by someone else (or even yourself a long time ago) is hard to understand. Even good documentation can’t cover every detail you need to know, and there is nothing that helps you understand the problem better than writing the code yourself. Second, as time goes on, and you think about a problem, you always come up with better (or at least different) approaches. You might realize that some aspect of your code could be factored out. You might think that rearranging the code would make it…

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Young man using modern mobile phone

Does the Company Selling You Tech Have the Same Worldview As You?

A worldview is how we view the world and our place in it.

Much of the technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell. And if you Chromebook, you’re likely to use Gmail and maybe have a Pixel. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if you’re going to commit to a tech company by being part of their ecosystem, it’s important to compare the worldview of that company to your own and…

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Couleur

How Google’s Chromebook Erodes Your Digital Freedom

A Chromebook is designed to serve up Google services, allowing Google outsized control of your computing experience and your digital identity.

This month, Chromebook turns ten years old. It’s a good time to take a look at Google’s latest Chromebook offering and show you why you can do better. Much better. Although the Pixelbook Go has a hefty price tag and is lighter, thinner, and faster than ever, it’s still just a Chromebook. Here’s why using a Chromebook weakens your computing power, erodes your digital freedom, and reduces your ability to learn and think. “I’ve got the power,” goes the famous 90’s song by Snap!, but you wouldn’t be able to sing that with confidence holding a Chromebook. Somewhere between netbook and notebook, the Chromebook is a physical manifestation of the Google ecosystem, giving customers who already use Google services a…

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Fresco at Palace of Knossos in Crete

How a Searchable Database Is Helping Decipher a Lost Language

A cryptographer “solved” Minoan B from ancient Cretan culture in the 1950s but Minoan A remained a mystery until recently

There was once a flourishing civilization on the island of Crete called the Minoan culture (3000–11100 B.C.). Two languages are associated with it, Minoan A and, later, Minoan B. Minoan B was deciphered but Minoan A has remained a mystery that has “tormented linguists for many decades,” as Patricia Klaus puts it. Deciphering it would give us a window back as far as 1800 BC.: Linear A, which was used by the Minoans during the Bronze Age, exists on at least 1,400 known inscriptions made on clay tablets. The language has baffled the world’s top archaeologists and linguistic experts for many years. Patricia Claus, “Minoan Language Linear A Linked to Linear B in Groundbreaking New Research” at Greek Reporter (May…

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Texture background abstract black and white or silver Glitter and elegant for Christmas

Researchers Make a Trillion Aluminum Atoms Behave as Single Wave

Such demonstrations show that quantum computers, which could solve much bigger problems much faster, are viable

Just recently, researchers managed to “entangle” two very tiny aluminum drums as if they were merely quantum particles — a first that helps pave the way for quantum computing. But it’s an unsettling first because the world above the level of the electron (macroscopic world) is supposed to behave according to Newton’s classical physics rules, not weird quantum rules under which two entangled particles sync no matter how far apart they are (non-locality). Like conductors of a spooky symphony, researchers have ‘entangled’ two small mechanical drums and precisely measured their linked quantum properties. Entangled pairs like this might someday perform computations and transmit data in large-scale quantum networks. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Quantum drum duet measured” at…

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Spread your influence and opinions to other people. Good cultural and powerful bad effect. Undue unwholesome sway. Business leader concept.

How Erik Larson Hit on a Method for Deciding Who Is Influential

The author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence decided to apply an algorithm to Wikipedia — but it had to be very specific

Here’s another interview (with transcript) at Academic Influence with Erik J. Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do (2021). The book was #2 at Amazon as of 11:00 am EST today in the Natural Language Processing category. In this interview, Larson talks about how he developed an algorithm to rank people by the amount of influence they have, using Wikipedia. That was one of the projects that got him thinking about myths of artificial intelligence. It began with his reading of Hannah Arendt, a philosopher of totalitarianism: Excerpt (0:04:25.0) Erik Larson: And she has a whole philosophy of technology that I was reading as background to write The Myth of Artificial…

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Car and bus accident, bumper to bumper

Automated Driving and Other Failures of AI

How would autonomous cars manage in an environment where eye contact with other drivers is important?

Yesterday I posted a review here of philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. There’s a lot more I would like to say. Here are some additional notes, to which I will add in a couple of future posts. Three of the failures of Big Tech that I listed earlier (Eugene Goostman, Tay, and the image analyzer that Google lobotomized so that it could no longer detect gorillas, even mistakenly) were obvious frauds and/or blunders. Goostman was a fraud out of the box. Tay a blunder that might be fixed in the sense that its racist language could be mitigated through some appropriate machine learning. And the Google image analyzer — well that was just pathetic: either retire the image…

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Closeup of woman's hands holding windup toy, selective focus

Before Digital: The World’s Most Amazing Windup Toys

Before electronics, there was mechanics — and it’s amazing what human ingenuity can do with a simple windup mechanism

Windup toys were what we had before we had electricity and robotics. Some very elaborate ones were designed by clockmakers, starting in the late sixteenth century. Most of these clever clockworks, if they survived at all, survive only as faithful replicas. In order of approximate dates, here are some that did — remarkable testimonies to human skill, artistry, and cleverness: 1560s: One of the earliest is a mechanical monk: “The lore surrounding the monk is that King Philip II, son of Charles V, commissioned [clockmaker Juanelo] Turriano to create the penitent automaton after Philip’s son had recovered from a deathly illness. The king of Spain had prayed for his son’s recovery, promising a miracle for a miracle, and this machine…

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Omega, the letter of a Greek alphabet. Greek numerals, mathematical eight hundred number concept. Abstract, digital, wireframe, low poly mesh, Raster blue neon 3d illustration. Triangle, line dot

Is Chaitin’s Unknowable Number a Constant?

One mathematics team has succeeded in the first 64 bits of a Chaitin Omega number

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number. In this segment, Dr. Marks and Dr. Chaitin discuss whether the unknowable number is really a number… or is it a constant? In earlier podcasts linked below, they have discussed a variety of topics ranging from gifted mathematicians of the past through how to understand creativity in a mathematical way—and more. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-128-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 01:32 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): I want to clear up something first of all. Stanford’s Thomas Cover and Joy Thomas wrote a book that…

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Arrested man handcuffed hands at the back

How China’s “Hostage Diplomacy” Traps Unsuspecting Visitors

Canada’s “Two Michaels” await their fate in prison in China, hostages to the growing tensions in a high-tech war

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor (pictured) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018 on charges of espionage and sharing state secrets, and held in prison since then. Spavor’s trial was on March 19, 2021, in Dandong near China’s border with North Korea. Kovrig’s trial was on March 22 in Beijing. As of this writing, no verdict has been announced. Their trials coincided with the U.S-China Summit in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18 and 19, 2020, which involved a tense back-and-forth between the two countries. Court proceedings were closed-door and Spavor’s and Kovrig’s lawyers were not allowed to be present. That, according to Canada’s deputy chief of mission in China, violates the Canada-China consular agreement. Prime Minister…