Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategorySocial Factors

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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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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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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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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 ›
Brain Disease Therapy

Researchers find loneliness is hard on the brain

What we think about our lives really does affect our health.
What’s less often recognized is that loneliness could cause be a cause of brain damage as well, at least if we go by rodent studies. Read More ›
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Did AI show that we are “a peaceful species” triggered by religion?

No, but this episode shows how science media sometimes help mislead the public

Unfortunately, most of the public knows about science only through science media professionals. And it is apparent that science media professionals often know little to nothing of what they are talking about.

Read More ›
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A chilling snippet from mass surveillance in China

China is helping other countries restrict their citizens’ internet, while shunning the U.S.
Overall, governments worldwide are restricting the freedom of the internet, especially around election times, and the big social media companies are conspicuous by their silence.   Read More ›
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Too late to prevent being ruled by The Algorithm?

Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams, tells Ben Shapiro why he thinks politicians soon won't matter
Adams recently offered Ben Shapiro of The Daily Wire a curious analysis of where AI in politics is taking us. He worries that Donald Trump will be the “Last Human President” and that politics will be dominated by AI algorithms in the future. But he thinks that “the algorithm” will eventually somehow unite us. Read More ›
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Should robots run for office?

A tech analyst sees a threat to democracy if they don’t
In an adapted excerpt from Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (2018), titled “Mr. Robot goes to Washington: How AI will change democracy,” lawyer and tech writer Jamie Susskind: envisions AI as not only fighting “fake news” but voting for us and helping to draft legislation. It’s a sobering thought, how far some tech analysts would be prepared to go in order to impose their own vision of order on an unruly but stable political system. Read More ›
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Is Technology Neutral?

Or does it change our world whether we like it or not?
People tend to be one of two minds when it comes to technology. One group views technology as directional—altering those cultures it reaches. They construct plausible narratives about how this or that technology has changed our culture. The second group views technology as neutral. They dismiss the narrative put forward by the first group, explaining that such changes are due to forces within the culture, not to technology. Read More ›
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Who assumes moral responsibility for self-driving cars?

Can we discuss this before something happens and everyone is outsourcing the blame?
Level 4 self-driving vehicles will bring with them a giant shift in the moral equation of driving. Unfortunately, in a culture that seems to think that the future will take care of itself, little thoughtful public discussion is taking place. My hope is to start a discussion of how coming technological changes will affect the future moral landscape. Read More ›
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How AI could run the world

Its killer apps, in physicist Max Tegmark's tale, include a tsunami of "message" films
In traditional fairy tales, an explanatory gap can be addressed by magic. After all, most readers will grant a writer one impossibility (for example, that a boy’s horse has human intelligence) just to get the story moving. Unfortunately, science fiction is one genre that doesn’t work that way. The author must make the claim sound like science, a problem Tegmark vaults right over. Read More ›
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How a Computer Programmer looks at DNA

And finds it to be "amazing" code
From 2006 through 2017, Dutch entrepreneur and software developer Bert Hubert contributed from time to time to a web page where he listed many of the ways the workings of DNA can be likened to coding decisions by programmers. Read More ›
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Self-driving vehicles are just around the corner

On the other side of a vast chasm…
Many cheerleaders have wrongly assumed that the progress from one level of automation to another should be a direct, linear process but it clearly isn’t. Rather, the transition from Level 4 to Level 5 automation is multiple orders of magnitude more difficult than all the other levels combined. Its completion should not be taken as a foregone conclusion. Read More ›
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Could AI write novels?

George Orwell thought so, as long as no thinking was involved
Serious literature will always be written, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, in “blood, toil, tears and sweat” because imaging the human condition accurately is part of its nature. And if the writer lives in an unfree society, serious literature will also be written in fear. Read More ›