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Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Will We Outsource Religion and Spirituality to AI ?

A philosopher makes the case. But he worries, are we really outsourcing caring about others?

Last Sunday, we looked at the question raised by Professor David O’Hara of Augustana University (South Dakota) as to whether AI could someday have mystical experiences. Of course, a lot depends on whether AI can have any experiences at all. An agnostic himself, O’Hara has also asked us to consider how robot priests will “change human spirituality”: What matters is not whether we have invented true artificial intelligence, but whether we believe we have invented it. If we trust the machine, we might let it function as a mystic or a priest, even if it isn’t one. This raises the interesting question of what to do when someone makes a machine that is actually intended to play the role of…

Digital globe with mosaic of images
Digital globe with mosaic of images

Why Some Nation States Are Banning TikTok

The United States is not alone in questioning the social medium’s allegiance to the Chinese government

Why is TikTok so controversial? It’s the first Chinese technology company that has reached a billion users outside of China. Its main demographic is Generation Z—teens and twenty-somethings. If you take a look at TikTok videos, most are goofy and irreverent. They’re frenetic shorts of everything from fashion tips to pranks and, of course, (bad) dancing. TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What could go wrong? Here’s what. Working with China, as Disney and the NBA can attest, comes with certain strings attached, including acquiescing to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules for acceptable speech. Because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company (although partly owned by investors from the U.S. and Japan), the Chinese Communist…

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senior woman with family photo on tablet pc screen

What Neuroscientists Now Know About How Memories Are Born and Die

Where, exactly are our memories? Are modern media destroying them? Could we erase them if we wanted to?

At one time, neuroscientists believed that there must be a “seat” of memory in the brain, something like a room with a door marked Memory. They settled on two structures called hippocampi, on either side of the brain’s base. The illustration shows the the hippocampus of the right hemisphere (public domain). But memories turned out to have no fixed address. Neuroscientist Matthew Cobb, author of The Idea of the Brain (2020, excerpt here), tells us, But the hippocampuses are not the site of memory storage. Rather, these brain regions are the encoders and the routes through which memory formation seems to pass. The memories that are processed by the hippocampuses seem to be distributed across distant regions of the brain.…

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Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima and the surounding garden in autumn at sunset on the side of Motoyasu River in Japan, with the Peace Memorial Park

Does Government Watch Us on Social Media? Yes… So Does Business

They may all be getting to know you way better than you feel comfortable with

Discerning public opinion on political and national security issues via social media platforms showed its worth during the Arab Spring of 2010. The protests, which began in Tunisia, spread throughout the Middle East, where social media were the key platform for expressing anger about corruption, poverty, human rights violations, unemployment, and authoritarianism. These protests resulted in changes to leadership and policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. They also resulted in immigration issues and sadly, even terror attacks, military conflicts, and civil war. Social media not only enables coordinated action such as rallies, strikes, resistance, riots, and other methods of activism but also provides status reports and communicates outcomes. One research team has developed an AI metric for predicting such events:…

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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them…

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Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) Between Trees Looks Up and to Right Winter - captive animal

The Age of the Wolf Warrior: China’s Post-Pandemic Strategy

The younger diplomats take their cue from a Chinese Rambo-style movie and the rewritten history they learned at school

While countries around the world have been dealing with the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), China has claimed disputed areas in the South China Sea, taken over the Hong Kong government, and flown planes over Taiwan. One result was a standoff between warships from the U.S., Australia, and China. A 2016 international tribunal in The Hague ruled that China has no legal sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. China, saying that the ruling was void, claims areas that are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Japan. The Chinese Liberation Army has also increased the number of troops at its border with India (the Line of Actual Control) disputed since the Sino-Indian war in 1962 (below…

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rfid tags

What You Need to Know About The Tactile Web

It’s a user-directed integration of technology into life

Many people have heard the term RFID, “radio frequency identifier,” a technology pioneered in the 1980s for creating tracking chips that needn’t be powered to work. This technology has improved quite a bit over the years. The technology area in which RFID originated is called NFC, for “Near-Field Communication.” In themselves, NFC chips are small and unpowered, but they can receive power from nearby devices, thus enabling them to communicate. The amount of work that modern NFC chips can do is amazing. The NXP firm, for instance, manufactures chips that can do full-blown data encryption and signing. These chips are not only powerful, they are also very inexpensive. NFC tags are available as label stickers at prices as low as…

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medical statistics and graphic charts with stethoscope

Making Sense of the Numbers Behind COVID-19

Media and politicians put statistics before us to sway our opinions. But what do they really mean?

Numbers can frighten or enlighten. The secret is making them explain themselves. Here’s a quick primer.

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Asian business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home..

Online Conferences, Part 3: Conference Documents and Technology Tests

Before we go live, what documents should we provide? What tests should we do?

Coordinating online events requires several important documents. Four packets of information are absolutely critical to running an online conference well.

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Online Conferences, Part 2: Conference Personnel

How the people who make it happen work their magic

Understanding various roles like Room Host and Master of Ceremonies, and finding the right people for them, will go a long way to making the conference a success.

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Photo by Gabriel Benois

Online Conferences, Part 1: Conference Technology

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked a demand for online conferences. Here’s how to make it work

The COVID-19 response has plunged many people who have never used online meeting software into the world of virtual meetings. One challenge that comes up is running an entire conference online. I’ve been doing that on and off since 2016 so I can outline some things you need to think about if you try. This three-part series covers 1) Conference Technology (below), 2) Conference Personnel, and 3) Conference Documents and Technology Tests. Part 1. Conference Technology Most of the meetings I have organized were on a tight budget so the solutions I will be suggesting are all free or extremely low cost. However, the main thing to recognize is that, as of right now, no one system has everything that…

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The Dragon’s Deception: Conspiracy Theories and False Numbers

China’s global attempt to rewrite the history of coronavirus (COVID-19) is running up against incriminating evidence

The Chinese Communist Party has touted the superiority of an authoritarian government over a democratic one in handling the virus outbreak. But American intelligence sources say that it was the punishment that local officials might receive from the authoritarian system that led to the initial coverup of the outbreak.

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Woman in medical protective mask applying an antibacterial antiseptic gel for hands disinfection and health protection during during flu virus outbreak. Coronavirus quarantine and novel covid ncov

AI Is Not Ready to Moderate Content!

In the face of COVID-19 quarantines for human moderators, some look to AI to keep the bad stuff off social media

Big social media companies have long wanted to replace human content moderators with AI. COVID-19 quarantines have only intensified that discussion. But AI is far, far from ready to successfully moderate content in an age of where virtual monopolies make single point failure a frequent risk.

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Group Friends Video Chat Connection Concept

We Will Never Go Back to the Pre-COVID-19 Workplace

The virus forced us to realize: Staying together apart has never been so easy

While many people (myself included) have railed against the excesses of technology and its tendency to weaken community spirit and understanding, it turns out that, in the present crisis, it is having the opposite effect. We aren’t really alone in the same way any more.

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Is Transhumanism Uncomfortably Tempting?

An ethicist asks us to stop and reflect

Jacob Schatzer identifies three issues in the essay, “The Allure of Transhumanism,” that might prompt some queasy recognitions in all of us, at times.

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face recognition technology concept illustration of big data and security in city with crowd

The Danger AI Poses for Civilization

Why must Google be my helicopter mom?

If I have a coffee cup with “AI inside,” it’s probably connected to the Internet, which is just another way of saying that my coffee cup is transmitting data to some company’s servers about my coffee drinking habits. Whatever benefit the app provides will come at a cost to my autonomy, privacy, and competence as a person.

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Rest in Peace Posters of Dr Li Wenliang, who warned authorities about the coronovirus outbreak seen at Hosier Lane in Melbourne, Australia. Hosier Lane is known for its street art.

Censorship? But Coronavirus Doesn’t Care!

Back when SARS was a threat, social media wasn’t the giant it is today. Censorship, secrecy, and detention are less effective tools of control now

Coronavirus provides a test. The Chinese Communist Party offers mainland Chinese people security and prosperity in exchange for the sacrifice of personal freedom. But when the government cannot uphold its end of the agreement—security—the people may become less tolerant of the human rights violations. And the age of information makes it much easier to discover them.

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Würfel Fact oder Fake

Do Bots Spreading False News Really Threaten Democracy?

Researchers found that humans spread more false news than bots

The fact that humans outdo bots in spreading false news creates a huge practical problem for would-be reformers. If they want to rub out false news, banning bots from social media would be less effective than banning people.

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An internet email symbol and a group of people are separated by a red prohibitory symbol No. restrictions on access to the global Internet. Censorship. Information control, society isolation policy

Can a Totalitarian State Be an Information Society?

Beijing’s clumsy social media campaigns against democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan have failed but attempts to control local media are ramping up

Xi believes that the Western values of a free press, free speech, and separation of powers contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union and that China must avoid them so as not to succumb to the same fate. But the Soviet Union fell just before the internet became today’s information superhighway.

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