Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategorySurveillance

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China flag and praying patriot man with crossed hands. Holding cross, hoping and wishing.

How China’s Technocracy Uses the Pandemic to Suppress Religion

The pandemic provided a pretext to install surveillance equipment in churches and surveil believers online

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the ways that technology can lead either to greater accessibility or greater oppression. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using the same technologies that have given many people around the world access to religious materials and church services during the pandemic to forcibly stop religious gatherings and restrict the distribution of religious materials within China. Although the CCP is officially atheist, over 60% of the population adheres to a recognized religion; 30.8% practice Chinese folk religions, 16.6% Buddhism, 7.4% Christianity, 4.2% ethnic religion, and 1.8% Islam. Authentic numbers may be higher, given the risk of punishment for practicing certain religions in China. The Chinese government has persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned Falun Gong members…

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China: COVID-19’s True History Finds an Unlikely Home — GitHub

The Chinese Communist party, rewriting the COVID-19 story with itself as the hero, must reckon with truthful techies

For a brief window of time at the beginning of 2020, China’s internet censors didn’t block stories about Wuhan and COVID-19, the coronavirus. Caixin, a widely-read news magazine, published a multi-page investigative report on everything leading up to the outbreak, including the way in which the provincial authorities in Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital, suppressed knowledge of the virus. Fang Fang, an award-winning novelist, kept a Wuhan diary online on Weibo, which was recently published as a book in the U.S. (HarperCollins 2020). For that short time, comments on the coronavirus were not being censored (Wired) at WeChat. Many people were thus able to vent their frustrations and pay their respects when 32-year-old ophthalmologist and whistleblower Li Wenliang…

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Department store shop class luxury, near the Red Bridge, historical buildings of Saint-Petersburg. In the background the city and St. Isaac's Cathedral dome of golden color, in the evening at sunset.

Russia Aims to Close the Technology Gap With the United States

Independent since 1991, the vast nation offers a government version of Silicon Valley culture

In this week’s podcast, “AI development in Russia, Part 1,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks talks with Samuel Bendett about Russia’s struggles to develop AI for entrepreneurship and free enterprise, rather than military uses. It turns out to be mainly a cultural struggle, as historic institutions must adapt to an environment where market dominance is more important than military dominance. Mr. Bendett, who is fluent in Russian and English, is an advisor to the Russia Studies Program and the Center for Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence of the CNA Adversary Analysis Group. And how is Russia faring? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-103-Samuel-Bendett.mp3 From the transcript: (Show Notes, Resources, and a link to the complete transcript follow.) Robert J. Marks (pictured): What I want…

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Group of friends using smartphones to communicate in social media. Concept of a generation of millennials who are online all the time. Warm hipster filter.

The Social Dilemma: You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product

A new Netflix documentary explores the techniques used to explore, then shape and sharpen, our attitudes, values, and beliefs

What is truth? This question has likely been pondered by man for as long as man has been able to ponder. How do you know that what you read or hear is true? How do you know that what you think is true? Why is it that people with different worldviews or belief systems can look at the exact same raw objective data and interpret it in radically different ways? The answers to these questions are important to “know”, insofar as anyone can know anything within a reasonable degree of certainty. However, in our society today, it is becoming more and more difficulty to determine what is true––with any degree of certainty. A recent 90-minute Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma,…

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sunset on a yurt , in the grassland of Mongolia

High-Tech Suppression of China’s Mongol Region Provokes Protests

But Mongolian protesters against Chinese-dominated schools are threatened with loss of social credit, which means no jobs or loans

China is removing the Mongolian language and culture from the curriculum and textbooks in Inner Mongolia (see outline map), an autonomous region in China. In August, leaked government documents showed that language and literature, civics, and history will be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian in schools where Mongolian is the primary language. Additionally, the new textbooks replace stories about historic Mongolian heroes with Chinese ballads and expunge a popular folk verse that expresses pride in the Mongolian culture and language. In response, many parents in Inner Mongolia (called Southern Mongolia locally) have been keeping their children from attending school on September 1. In retaliation, state authorities threaten their jobs and social credit status: Southern Mongolia has quickly become a…

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The  man wiht a CPU.

Will a Brain-Computer Interface Be a Boon or a Nightmare?

BCI is probably coming anyway, and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing largely depends on how we choose to use it

Talk about a scary headline from an impressive research group!: “The Brain-Computer Interface is coming — and we are just so not ready for it” from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Okay, what’s going on? Both more and less than we think, depending on what we focus on. The Bulletin, published since 1947, is best known for a Doomsday Clock which expresses how close the editors think we are to nuclear war and climate apocalypse. An article in the current edition of the Bulletin covers the remarkable advances in prosthetics in recent years, in hooking up neurons (which use electrical signals) to electronic limbs, enabling much better control of prostheses. But the startling thing to realize is where researchers…

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Video call. Online zoom conference. Business team gathered for an online meeting in zoom app. On a computer monitor a group of people online

COVID-19: Technology Trends That Are Sneaking Up on Us Faster Now

Most of these changes, for better or worse, are probably here to stay

We knew big changes were coming. And that COVID-19 has ramped them up. But when experts expound grand generalities and wave their hands a lot, it can be hard to clearly see what a change means where we live and work. One writing teacher, for example, learned how to massively adapt all of a sudden: Each spring, I teach Writing about Oneself, a class on first-person reading and writing, to 12 Yale undergraduates chosen from 100 or so… Every year I fill out the registrar’s Pedagogical Needs Request Form, leaving 14 of the 15 “Technological Needs” boxes unchecked. (No, I don’t need a SMART board. No, I don’t need a digital projector. No, I don’t need a Blu-ray player.) The…

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…

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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Binary code with China flag, data protection concept

Charges Reveal Extent of China-Sponsored Hacking in the West

Targets have included COVID-19 labs, dissidents, and religious groups
What’s new about the most recent indictment is the acknowledgment that China is working with known cybercriminals. Read More ›
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3D rendering of a futuristic mech soldier with dog.

Do Some Passages in the Book of Revelation Seem to Talk About AI?

Revelation is notoriously obscure but a passage about a future “total control” state gives pause for thought

John Lennox, author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?” with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, he addresses the title question, “Do some passages in the Book of Revelation seem to talk about AI?”: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources. “Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?” provides an account of the earlier portion of this lively discussion.) Robert J. Marks (right): Last question I want…

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iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office…

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big brother watching you

2084 vs 1984: The Difference AI Could Make to Big Brother

In a recent podcast, Oxford mathematician John Lennox answered some questions raised about his new book, 2084 by Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, including questions as to how the loss of privacy could wind up really harming us: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-089-John-Lennox.mp3 From the transcript: Robert J. Marks: It’s been said that AI is the new electricity. It’s neither good nor bad. You have addressed some of the potential negative uses of artificial intelligence or the negative impacts of artificial intelligence, but expanding on that, what are some of the big threats that you see in the use of AI technology in the near future? John Lennox: Well, the threats are best explained by comparing them with the advantages. Let’s take…

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AT&T CTO Says, Yes, You Can Live Without Your Smart Phone

At COSM 2019, Jay Richards interviewed AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch (the guy who says your smart phone will disappear). Is that true? And how will we live? From the interview: Andre Fuetsch: We are now on the brink of being able to connect many, many more things than we’ve ever seen before. And just by the fact of being able to connect more things … look at the more traditional wireless networks that we’ve had in the preceding generations. It frankly was just about connecting phones, right? “Some were sort of dumb phones, some were more feature phones. Some are now obviously more smartphones. And these were really more of kind of a one to one relationship with people. 5G,…

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Phone-Screen-for-Hel-modified

China’s Health Code App: One More Way to Track Citizens

For the Chinese Communist Party, SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus) has provided an opportunity to expand its massive surveillance system. The current extensive network of facial recognition cameras has left some gaps. People could avoid recognition, for example, by wearing a face covering to curb the spread of a respiratory illness. Now, China is looking to fill those gaps by keeping the Alipay Health Code app, launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a mainstay for its citizens: Compared to omnipresent facial recognition software and other surveillance systems in China, the health code mechanism covers more people and collects a broader range of personal information. The state can also impose stricter control as people now have to use health codes…

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Round robot's eye

Exclusive!: John Lennox Answers Our Questions About AI in 2084

In his new book, 2084, the Oxford mathematician doubts that AI, now or then, will out-think humans. Our real worry is how they will be used. Read More ›
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Abstract Chinese flag painted on digital sphere. Futuristic network cyberspace illustration background. View from space. Selective focus used.

China Aims at Global AI Dominance by 2030

China’s systematic use of AI for social surveillance and control should cause us to think carefully about what that means

A 2017 central government document laid out the country’s plan for global dominance in AI by 2030, asking all “people’s governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government, all State Council ministries, and all directly controlled institutions” to ”please carefully implement.“ (translation) To achieve that timeline, China has employed several operations against the United States including the Confucius Institutes (fronts for Chinese propaganda according to the FBI, 2020), the Thousand Talents Program (spying and intellectual-property theft, Bloomberg, 2019) and cyber theft. While many Confucius Institutes have been exposed by key members of the Senate and many are being terminated domestically as a result, Chinese-driven cyber theft is costing the U.S. economy more than $100 billion per…

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Smart technologies in your smartphone, collection and analysis of big data

The Birds Aren’t Real. But Maybe the Spying Is.

A defense of our fundamental right to privacy

Technology frees us from drudgery but also enable surveillance that enslaves us. Then, far from computers becoming more like humans, we may become more like computers.

Read More ›
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cybercrime, hacking and technology concept - male hacker with headphones and coding on laptop computer screen wiretapping or using computer virus program for cyber attack in dark room

The New Cyber Cold War with China

Cybersecurity strategist Peter Singer told Wired that there has never been a better time than the COVID-19 pandemic to be a government hacker

The United States has formally accused China of both funding and operating cells of hackers who infiltrate research labs working on responses to COVID-19.

Read More ›
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Woman and man in social distancing sitting on bench

Five Surprising Changes To Watch for from COVID-19

Expect to hear much more about robots that can stand in for humans, as a way of enabling social distance

There are the Spanish police drones flying around, enforcing lockdown orders. And Singapore’s robotic police dogs, enforcing social distance. Will they go away?

Read More ›