Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategorySocial Factors

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STEM EDUCATION 2. Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to be a Nerd

How do you identify extroverted nerds? When you are talking to them, they look at YOUR shoes
If I am made to confess that college courses in Shakespearean sonnets will make me a better person, then English literature majors had better confess that calculus makes them better people. Read More ›
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The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves

The patterns uncovered by machine learning may reflect a larger reality or just a bias in gathering data

Because Machine Learning is opaque—even experts cannot clearly explain how a system arrived at a conclusion—we treat it as magic. Therefore, we should mistrust the systems until proven innocent (and correct).

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Remember the Luddites!

The Luddites became famous for breaking machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Were they entirely wrong?
People often think that the Luddites were merely anti-technology because they opposed automation during the Industrial Revolution (1760–1840). The story is more complex. As we face increasing automation today, we might want to see what we can learn from their history. Read More ›
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Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Expose a Key Problem

Most moderators are not skilled and have only a few seconds to decide on a post
Censorship is part of the larger question of whether social media are the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or unregulated private klatsches. Or something else altogether? Read More ›
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Research Showing That Fake News Easily Fools Us Collapses

A recent paper claiming that low-quality news (“fake news”) spreads as quickly on social media as accurate news has been retracted by its authors.
A team from the Shanghai Institute of Technology sought to study whether accuracy made any difference to whether a post goes viral on social media. They cited a concern about “the digital misinformation that threatens our democracy.” Read More ›
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It’s 2019: Begin the AI Hype Cycle Again!

Media seemingly can’t help portraying today’s high-tech world as a remake of I, Robot (2004), starring you and me.
I have a problem with the possible outcomes when people who don’t know the difference between technology fact and fiction make important decisions based on information from journalists who write as if every computer is a potential personality like HAL from Space Odyssey 2001. Read More ›
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Can an Algorithm Be Racist?

No, the machine has no opinion. It processes vast tracts of data. And, as a result, the troubling hidden roots of some data are exposed
It’s tempting to assume that a villain lurks behind such a scene when the exact opposite is the problem: A system dominated by machines is all calculations, not thoughts, intentions, or choices. If the input is wrong, so is the output. Read More ›
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How Can Information Theory Help the Economy Grow?

New information is the true source of new wealth; everyone wins when we learn how to produce it more efficiently
What gives humans the ability to increase in prosperity, according to Eric Holloway, is our ability to “read” from Plato’s Library of new ideas, thus providing an ever-growing supply of side information that powers the economy. Read More ›
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4: Making AI Look More Human Makes It More Human-like!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Technicians can do a lot these days with automated lip-syncs and smiles but what’s behind them?
This summer, some were simply agog over “Sophia, the First Robot Citizen” (“unsettling as it is awe-inspiring”) Read More ›
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5: AI Can Fight Hate Speech!

AI can carry out its programmers’ biases and that’s all
Putting these kinds of decisions in the hands of software programs is not likely to promote vigorous and healthy debate. Read More ›
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9: Will That Army Robot Squid Ever Be “Self-Aware”?

AI help, not hype: What would it take for a robot to be self-aware?
The thrill of fear invites the reader to accept a metaphorical claim as a literal fact. Read More ›
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Google Search: Its Secret of Success Revealed

The secret is not the Big Data pile. No, Google found a way to harness YOUR wants and needs

Google is one of the most widely misunderstood success stories of our time. Many of us equate Google with “Big Data,” that is, amassing huge quantities of data and then finding useful statistical patterns. But is that how it succeeded? In Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy, George Gilder criticizes Google primarily on two fronts: First, it is a “walled garden,” a great platform, but inherently isolated and closed. That is a point worth exploring, but not the focus here. The second point, the one I want to touch on, is that Big Data’s day has come and gone. Because Google is a Big Data company, its brightest days are behind it. Read More ›

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Study Shows Eating Raisins Causes Plantar Warts

Sure. Because, if you torture a Big Data enough, it will confess to anything
Enormous data sets compiled by Big Data methods have a higher probability of meaningless correlations than smaller ones compiled by traditional methods. More than ever, common sense is needed. And common sense only comes from programmers writing their own common sense into the software. Read More ›
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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 ›
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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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Retro robots

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 ›