Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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The concept of the human brain. The right creative hemisphere versus the left logical hemisphere. Education, science and medical abstract background.

When a Neurosurgeon and a Biologist Keep On Arguing…

… we suspect some pretty basic science issues are involved

In a recent ID: The Future podcast (June 24, 2022) Casey Luskin interviews pediatric neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on his blogosphere debates with evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne. Egnor, who has authored many research papers, espouses a non-materialist view of the mind — and of life in general — with which Dr. Coyne, a committed atheist, emphatically disagrees. Here’s a partial transcript from “A Brain Surgeon Debates Evolutionist Jerry Coyne and Other Atheists”: Casey Luskin: We’re going to talk about these debates you’ve had with Dr. Coyne and others. Some of the arguments you’ve made, I think, have been very compelling. But before we get into that, I’d like to ask, why do you focus your writing so much on Dr. Jerry Read More ›

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close up man hand type on keyboard laptop to use search engine optimization (SEO) tools for finding customer or promote and advertise about content online for marketing technology and business concept

The Brave Search Engine Survives. So Does Privacy Still Matter?

Despite Google’s overwhelming dominance, Brave clocked 2.5 billion searches since this time last year

Last year, we wrote about the Brave search engine, headed up by Mozilla pioneer Brendan Eich. Brave Search offered the first true alternative to Google since Bing by introducing a third English language index and protecting user privacy. A nice idea, many have thought, but who really cares? So what if Big Tech makes largely unaccountable billions from marketing our information, as long as the social media services it provides remain free? So perhaps surprisingly, Brave is hanging on. Tech maven Jacob Carpenter noted recently at Fortune that, while Google owns 92.5% of the search market business according to StatCounter, that number hasn’t changed much over a decade. And Brave is reporting 2.5 billion searches from its current search engine’s Read More ›

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Social media concept.

Should Kids Under 16 Be Banned From Social Media?

An internal study by Instagram found that using the platform made fully one-third of teenage girls feel worse — but they couldn’t stop

(This article by Texas State University engineering prof Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (June 20, 2022) under the title “Social Media: For adults only?” and is reprinted with permission.) Writing in National Review, cultural critic Christine Rosen recently proposed a total ban on social media for everyone under the age of 16.  One can imagine all sorts of problems with this idea, ranging from enforcement issues to what it would be like living in a country where nearly all the teenagers start screaming at the same time.  But let’s step back from the immediate issues and effects, and ask what the ethics of such a ban would be.  Rosen cites a number of other things that we don’t let Read More ›

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Print is Alive

Have Newspapers Simply Lost Touch With the Mainstream Public?

The depressing stats tell a tale that’s a bit more complex: Readers tolerate out-of-touch media less now because they we need them so much less

Earlier this week we looked at the way a flailing newspaper chain decided to cut back on editorial and opinion pages. The decision should not be a surprise in an age when so much opinion is available for free — and by no means is all of it foolish. One familiar response has been to say, well, media are too “liberal” (or “leftist” or “progressive”) for the readers — and that’s why newspaper are losing them. It’s a factor but there is more to the story. First, we are dealing with a fact: Pious disclaimers notwithstanding, as a group, media personnel are generally more likely to support progressive causes than average Americans. A variety of explanations is offered, including this Read More ›

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newspaper production and printing process

Flailing News Chain Gannett Cuts Back on Opinion Pages

Younger readers say they can’t tell the difference between news and opinion

Virginia-based Gannett, the largest newspaper chainin the United States, owns of owns USA Today and also 260 dailies and more than 170 paid weeklies in 46 states. And it is floundering in red ink. According to the Washington Post, “Gannett lost $670 million in 2020, and $135 million last year.” As the losses head for a cumulative billion, it has made a seemingly radical decision: Cut back on opinion pages. Here’s some of the reasoning, according to the Post (which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos): Gannett says its internal research — primarily reader surveys — suggests editorials, guest commentary columns, op-eds and letters to the editor have lost relevance in an age when opinions overflow on social media. Read More ›

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Toilet paper shortage coronavirus panic buying man hoarding carrying many rolls at home in fear of corona virus outbreak closing shopping stores.

Economist Faces Painful Truths About COVID-19 Information Dump

Jeffrey A. Tucker admits he was wrong to think that just giving people more information would reduce panic — or that Big Tech was a force for human freedom

Economist Jeffrey A. Tucker, president of the Brownstone Institute, shares some thoughts about what he learned about the spread and management of information from the response to COVID-19. Two things he learned are especially worth noting. At one time, Tucker, who describes himself as a “Victorian Whig” (an old-fashioned liberal), believed that merely giving people access to more accurate information would improve our response to crises. He had good reason to believe that: Historically, dictators like Stalin, Hitler, or Xi have restricted access to information in order to keep the public easy to control. So what happened when, in the Western world, the internet opened the dam? The speed and abundance of information actually amplified error. At the height of Read More ›

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Whistleblower Employee

Dox Show Disinformation Board Was For Use Against Americans Too

A whistleblower leaked a cache of documents to two U.S. senators who have put them online

On Tuesday, Senators Chuck Grassley (R – Iowa) and Senator Josh Hawley (R – Missouri) publicized whistleblower documents that make clear that the Disinformation Governance Board, currently on hold, had much greater ambitions than we have been led to believe. Here are some highlights from the documents publicized June 7, 2022: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explicitly told CNN that the new Governance Board was not intended to spy on U.S.citizens: Mayorkas: Ministry of Truth won’t “monitor American citizens … the board does not have any operational capability. What it’ill do is gather together best practices … & disseminate those best practices to the operators that have been executing & addressing this threat for years” pic.twitter.com/VbHF6Wek2Y — Tom Read More ›

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World twitter Connection on Blackboard

Whew! Twitter Now Offers Musk a “Firehose” of Data From Botworld

Looming in the background is Musk’s proposal to make Twitter more of a free speech zone, a prospect that worries many Big Tech power players

That was fast. On Monday billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s lawyers publicized a serious threat to walk away from his bid to buy Twitter if he didn’t start getting hard data on the phantom users (bots). Readers will recall that Twitter told the U.S. government that the bots comprise only 5% of the nearly 397 million active users. But few can literally believe that. Now, Twitter is telling Musk, fine, we’ll tell you what we know. But prepare to be swamped, inundated even, with data. From Ars Technica: “Mr. Musk believes Twitter is transparently refusing to comply with its obligations under the merger agreement, which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data due to concern Read More ›

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Twitter, man, business.

Will Musk’s Twitter Bid — Win or Lose — Damage Twitter’s Power?

Stirring the pot, Musk recently slammed current media’s marked disinterest in who teen sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s prominent clients were …

Just in: “Musk threatens to walk away from Twitter deal:” DETROIT (AP) — Elon Musk is threatening to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot and fake accounts. Lawyers for the Tesla and SpaceX CEO made the threat in a letter to Twitter dated Monday, and Twitter disclosed it in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The letter says Musk has repeatedly asked for the information since May 9, about a month after his offer to buy the company, so he could evaluate how many of the company’s 229 million accounts are fake. Tom Krisher and Matt O’Brien , “Musk threatens Read More ›

stick em up bot
bad Bot with a ray gun

Could Elon Musk Really Banish the Twitterbots?

Assuming he buys Twitter, industry opinion is divided as to whether his ambitious plan can succeed

Norton, the antivirus giant, offers some timely thoughts on Twitterbots. First, not all bots are malicious: Twitter bots, also known as zombies, are automated Twitter accounts controlled by bot software. While they are programmed to perform tasks that resemble those of everyday Twitter users — such as liking tweets and following other users — their purpose is to tweet and retweet content for specific goals on a large scale. Twitter bots can be used for helpful purposes, such as broadcasting important content like weather emergencies in real time, sharing informative content en masse, and generating automatic replies via direct messaging. Emerging Threats, “What’s a Twitter bot and how to spot one” at Norton (June 16, 2020) But some are malicious: Read More ›

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Social media censorship, political war between US president banning social networks. Tiny person on the laptop keyboard looking at the forbidden sign on the screen. Internet communication risk concept

New U.S. Disinformation Board on Hold Amid Flak From Both Sides

Most current controversies are not clear divisions between True and Untrue or Right and Wrong. Government would merely reinforce the Establishment

If you’d blinked, you’d have missed it: The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new and controversial board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and at times frenzied conspiracy theories about the board itself… The Disinformation Governance Board’s director, Nina Jankowicz, wrote Wednesday that the board’s future was “uncertain,” according to a resignation letter obtained by The Associated Press. Nomaan Merchant and Amanda Seitz, “New ‘disinformation’ board paused amid free speech questions” at Associated Press (May 18, 2022) A recommendation as to whether the Board should continue will be offered, we are told, within 75 days. The Washington Post knows who to blame: “How Read More ›

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Business crisis manager stopping falling dominos from collapsing

Who Opposes Musk’s Proposed Twitter Takeover Deal?

Four groups to watch are Twitter employees, left-wing action coalitions, legacy media, and the European Union

First, the state of play: Elon Musk’s foray into buying Twitter remains on hold amid disputes about how much of Twitter is dominated by bot accounts. Musk believes that 20% of the accounts are spam. Spam bots on Twitter are automated accounts that can take actions like real humans, such as sending out tweets, following other users, as well as liking and retweeting other users’ posts. Such accounts can be programmed to try and drive traffic to a product or service as part of a commercial endeavor or spread content as part of a social or political influence operation. Tom Ozimek, “Musk Says Twitter Deal on Hold Over Spam Bots” at Epoch Times (May 13, 2022) That’s something Musk says Read More ›

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Roboter auf Tastatur, Methapher für Chatbot / Socialbot, Algorithmen und künstliche Intelligenz

Musk’s Twitter Deal Is at Risk Amid Fierce Attacks on Him

Tarred as a privileged white South African, Musk moved to Canada at 17 to avoid serving in South Africa’s apartheid army

Traditional media and many tech mavens are elated that Elon Musk’s Twitter deal is now shaky. It’s no secret that they were unhappy with it and with him. The New York Times launched an extraordinary attack on Musk on May 5, tweeting “Elon Musk grew up in elite white communities in South Africa, detached from apartheid’s atrocities and surrounded by anti-Black propaganda. He sees his takeover of Twitter as a free speech win but in his youth did not suffer the effects of misinformation.” In reality, Musk left for Canada at the age of 17, to avoid serving in the South African military, whose principal purpose was to oppress black South Africans. He had Canadian citizenship by way of his Read More ›

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Colored powder explosion. Abstract closeup dust on backdrop. Colorful explode. Paint holi

Muskageddon! Elon Musk, World’s Richest Man, Now Owns Twitter

And wants it to be more of a free speech platform. How will that go? Musk claims to be committed to free speech. That’s the biggest single social media change in a decade. As the smoke clears, many top U. S. media pros have expressed what can only be described as “grave concern” about this: I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022 Responses range from staid “Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management, and an investor in Tesla and Twitter, believes that Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter will ultimately benefit the company and its users, amid concerns about how the Read More ›

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Biological and science background

Michael Crichton would call Twitterheads “Scoundrels”

Why “Scientific Consensus” is an Oxymoron

Twitter has a new policy concerning tweets: “Misleading advertisements on #Twitter that contradict the scientific consensus on #climatechange are prohibited, in line with its inappropriate content policy.” The word pairing “scientific consensus” used in this policy is a destructive science-stifling oxymoron. Michael Crichton (1942–2008) would surely have said so. Crichton was the author of wonderful science fiction, including Jurassic Park. and The Andromeda Strain. In a lecture at Caltech, the late master story teller gave Twitter’s policy a gut punch: Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach Read More ›

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Doug Smith on How To Get Off Big Tech’s Screen Drug

The most powerful technologies the world has ever seen manipulate us into spending more time than a typical full-time job looking at our screens

When Andrew McDiarmid interviewed Christian author Doug Smith about his book [Un]Intentional How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires, and How You Can Break Free (2018, updated 2021), Smith offered some insights into are ruining our lives. Now in this episode (183), he talks about how to sever Big Tech’s strings: Show Notes and Additional Resources follow. Andrew McDiarmid: Let’s just briefly summarize the problem and then move into some of the solutions you present. So what are some of the ways that our screens are secretly shaping our desires? Doug Smith: Well, the long and the short of it is, it’s ultimately they use the most powerful technologies the world has ever seen to manipulate us into spending more time Read More ›

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data transformation, factory processing binary code

Sometimes, Money Really Is the Explanation

Today's internet is a concentration of power, in terms of information, never before seen in history

Veteran software developer David A. Kruger offered some thoughts on computer security recently at Expensivity. We appreciate the opportunity to republish them here as a series. Last week we looked at the fact that the cybercriminal isn’t necessarily the weirdo in the hoodie. He could just a boring corporate bureaucrat collecting data on you that his boss plans to use later. Now we look at where the money in the business is: It’s All About the Benjamins Why are HDCs [human data collectors] so willing to abuse their own users? For the money and the power that comes from having lots of it. In 2002, Google discovered that the raw human data it was collecting from its users to increase Read More ›

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Man chained to computer

How Social Media Are Ruining Our Lives

If we can’t stand five minutes in a lineup without checking our phones, we have a problem

Recently, Andrew McDiarmid interviewed Christian author Doug Smith about his book [Un]Intentional: How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires, and How You Can Break Free (2018, updated 2021). Smith tries to help us navigate the unusual time in which we live, when many are absolutely glued to screens”: Doug Smith: I mean, it’s the families at the restaurant, all looking at their screens instead of looking at each other. It’s the near misses on the interstate because somebody was on their phone. I saw a photo recently of people in Ukraine that were waiting for their train to escape the trials there, and they’re all on their phone, right? I have a friend that’s a missionary in Papua, New Guinea, and Read More ›

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Musk Offers Twitter $41 Billion, Exciting Free Speech Advocates

Will Musk succeed in his effort to "unlock" Twitter's free speech potential?

News has moved fast since it was revealed last week that Elon Musk purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter. Since then, Musk was offered a seat on Twitter’s board, an offer he at first accepted, and then declined. Now, Musk has upped the ante by offering to buy Twitter for $41 billion. In his letter to the board, Musk referenced his desire to make Twitter “the platform for free speech around the globe,” and stated that he has the ability to “unlock” Twitter’s “extraordinary potential.” Here’s his full letter: Bret TaylorChairman of the Board, I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is Read More ›

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Pinterest Bans Climate Change “Misinformation”

Pinterest might be the first company to implement such a strict ban, but what if it's not the last?

Last week, Pinterest banned climate change misinformation from its platform, becoming the first major social media company to do so outright. The policy raises free speech concerns. Since not all scientists agree on the nature of climate change, what causes it, and what the solutions are, how is the issue to be discussed if alternate points of view are banned from public platforms? Pinterest is an image-sharing social media site, where users share ideas that they can “pin” to their own boards on everything from recipes to interior design to fashion. On April 6, Pinterest announced their new climate misinformation policy, aimed at “remov[ing] content that may harm the public’s well-being, safety or trust.” As of the policy announcement, any Read More ›