Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategorySocial Factors

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No, Twitter Is Not the New Awful

It’s the Old Awful back for more. It’s the Town Without Pity we all tried to get away from
We need to decide: Is Twitter the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or interconnected private gossip klatsches where anyone can say whatever they want, whatever ensues? Read More ›
Little boy playing with robot toy at home.

Consumers Were Not Buying Robots as Friends This Year

The market for drudgery busters remains strong. For dogs and pals, not so much
Some consumer robotics will surely find a place under the Christmas tree. The robotic vacuum cleaner market is healthy and expected to grow, in a world where the demand for vacuum cleaners is growing anyway, doubtless due to more urban lifestyles. 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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Science Confronts Credibility Issues?

Not to worry, prestigious researchers blame them on social media trolls and bots
And another thing: The researchers phoned the Seventies and asked them to please come back. Soon. Seriously, that’s the impression I get from reading a paper in PNAS, stemming from the National Academy of Sciences’ Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium November 2017 Read More ›
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Who Does the Concept of “Intellectual Property” Really Benefit?

Was traditional copyright law meant to protect algorithms that decide people’s financial fate?
The title question is more complicated than we might at first suppose. The short answer is, not necessarily the starving artist, says Samir Chopra, a Brooklyn College philosophy professor and co-author with Laurence F. White of A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents. Read More ›
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Does Democracy Demand a War on Twitterbots?

A key concern is that citizens could be induced to vote for a demagogue by Twitterbots spreading fake news.
Underlying much of the angst about the political impact of bots is a basic premise: Most of us need help thinking for ourselves and protection from the many bad influences that we are not able to recognize, the way our betters can. Read More ›
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Tom Stoppard’s New Play Tackles Consciousness Itself

Consciousness is a hard problem for science, principally because no one quite understands what makes us the subjects of our experiences.
According to one critic, the problem that has preoccupied Stoppard throughout his career is “Are the materialists right, or is there more to man than mere flesh?” Read More ›
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Too Big to Fail Safe?

If artificial intelligence makes disastrous decisions from very complex calculations, will we still understand what went wrong?
A neuroscientist offers an example of the kind of thing that can go wrong, while the AI system is still small and focused enough to be easily understood: Read More ›
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AI Social Media Could Totally Manipulate You

Deep learning specialist: And the scary thing is, the AI needed is not especially advanced
Readers familiar with The Two Towers will recall that that’s precisely what Worm-Tongue did to Theoden King: The king heard nothing but what was conveyed to him from his would-be overlord by Worm-tongue, until someone separated him, rather forcibly, from his "social medium." Read More ›
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How the KGB Found CIA Agents

An illustration of complex, specified information (CSI) in the world of foreign intelligence agencies
The concept, which has been controversial with respect to the universe as a whole, can be conveniently illustrated on a smaller scale in the events of our time. Consider the case of the phantom Soviet moles. Read More ›
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The Death of the Ad Agency Was Widely Publicized

But, like so many industries, advertising turned out to be weathering the digital storm after all
A recent surge in jobs could be temporary. But it’s beginning to look as though the iconic ad culture is adjusting to the digital age. There's a film in that too. Probably a lot of them.   Read More ›
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Is the Future of Work Relentlessly Urban?

Amazon’s new combined New York and Washington headquarters may provide an unintended test
The idea of two different locations would likely be unworkable apart from the internet. But some wonder if Amazon has grasped all the implications of the internet. 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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Google.com or Google.gov?

A political analyst argues that Google is beginning to mesh with governments whose values are compatible with its own.
Readers who follow the growing controversies over the free flow of information will find much to reflect on in Adams’s long-form discussion of how Google shapes the search for information in the pursuit of its social goals. Read More ›
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The virtual bride

The answer to relationship problems: Your new spouse is a hologram. So far, only in Japan
While the marriage does not, at present, have legal standing, Gatebox, the company that produces the hologram, has issued more than 3,700 certificates for such "cross-dimension" marriages. 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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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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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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Is social media the best communications tool that ever happened?

The worst communications tool that ever happened? Or something less comfortable than either?
We hear all three views aired frequently these days, along with many prescriptions for reform. Some sound the alarm over the success of political movements they disagree with and long for more control Read More ›