Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategorySocial Factors

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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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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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Canada demands intimate banking data from a half million citizens

The goal of the program, recently uncovered by media, is to develop a “new institutional personal information bank” for government use.

A Canadian TV station  recently provided a dramatic insight into how far Western governments are prepared to go, using advanced data gathering techniques, to surveil the lives of citizens: Statistics Canada is asking banks across the country for financial transaction data and personal information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge. Global News has learned. Documents obtained by Global News show the national statistical agency plans to collect “individual-level financial transactions data” and sensitive information, like social insurance numbers (SIN), from Canadian financial institutions to develop a “new institutional personal information bank.” Andrew Russell and David Akin, “EXCLUSIVE: Stats Canada requesting banking information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge” at Global News Further investigation showed that the government agency has already 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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Life after Google: More private and more profitable?

Reviewing Gilder’s Life after Google, Ralph Benko asks, If our attention is worth billions, shouldn’t we market it?
In a more open market, the user’s time and attention would no longer be a free service of nature. One expects incentives to follow naturally from more competition for the user’s attention.
Read More ›
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Facebook is said to be exploring minting its own cryptocurrency

If Facebook wants to mint private currency, can it still be the judge of morals and manners among users?
A software engineer and tech blogger sees ideas sprout up all over, including both the absurd and the brilliant, as traditional companies try to incorporate cryptocurrencies into their business model. 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 ›