Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryTechnocracy

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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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the ultimate destruction of the planet in a great cosmic catastrophe 3d illustration

Does Science Fiction Hint That We Are Actually Doomed?

That’s the implication of an influential theory as to why we never see extraterrestrials

Recently science and science fiction writer Matt Williams has been writing a series at Universe Today on why the extraterrestrial intelligences that many believe must exist in our universe never show up. Last week, we looked at the hypothesis that planets that can host life are rare so there are not many aliens out there to find. This week we look at a more ominous hypothesis. In “Beyond “Fermi’s Paradox” III: What is the Great Filter?” (July 23, 2020), Williams asks us to consider: “there is something in the Universe that prevents life from reaching the point where we would be able to hear from it.” What could that “something” be? The term “the Great Filter” was coined to describe…

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Pink Neon sign 'Don't quit'

Are Deepfakes Too Deep for Us? Or Can We Fight Back?

Keeping up with the fakers is becoming more of a challenge

Since 2014, there has been a new twist to misrepresentation in politics: deepfakes—computer-generated images that seem quite real. Adam Garfinkle of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University explains how the technology, generative adversarial networks (GANs), works: A GAN operator pits a generator (G) against a discriminator (D) in a gamelike environment in which G tries to fool D into incorrectly discriminating between fake and real data. The technology works by means of a series of incremental but rapid adjustments that allows D to discriminate data while G tries to fool it. Adam Garfinkle, ““Disinformed”” at Inference Review Once the problem is reduced to a giant calculation, a giant computer learns much more quickly than the rest of us. And it can then…

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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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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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kung fu bamboo stick.jpg

Mulan: Disney Talks Freedom at Home, Toes the Line in China

Films we see get altered in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to conform to the requirements of CCP propaganda

China’s government allows only about thirty-four Hollywood movies to be shown in Chinese theaters. As a result, entertainment companies like Disney go out of their way to make sure a film appeals to both North American crowds and Chinese Communist Party’s censors. Of course, what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) allows and doesn’t allow in films is vague and subject to change, which keeps foreign film-makers guessing. Mulan, Disney’s latest attempt to please both the North American and the Chinese market, has failed to do either, for a number of reasons. Financially, Disney is already hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Theaters in the U.S. either remain closed or permit only limited-capacity seating. In response, Disney released Mulan on its streaming…

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Skin flaking off face, reveals skull, robotic head. 3d render

Is Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Nearer or Still Impossible?

AI might help us unlock our potential, a panel concludes, but it won’t take over
A panel of experts wrestle with Ray Kurzweil's prediction at the COSM 2019 Technology Summit that we will merge with our computers by 2045 — The Singularity. Read More ›
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China stock market graph ticker

Tech Investment Analysts Strategize How to Deal With China Today

China’s assertions of power in recent years have left many uncertain about the future of business relationships

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Bob Kelly, Managing Partner of Ignition Partners, focusing on the panel he moderated at COSM 2019,“The Crisis of Big Tech: The US and China.” They explored the technological competition between the U.S. and China and what it means for the future. The panelists were futurist George Gilder, Wendy Liu, China market strategy analyst at multinational investment bank UBS, and Gary Rieschel, a venture capitalist in China and the United States. From the interview: Jay Richards: So what was the core controversy if you had to summarize it neutrally? Bob Kelly: I guess I’d say the core controversy really is what stance do we as Americans, or in the technology arena, take towards China? And there’s…

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Business Finance Marketing and Budget Report

What Happened When 1950s China Dreamed of “Total Information”?

When China rejected random sampling in favor of exhaustive enumeration of individuals, masses of “data” flooded in, but what did it mean?

A historian of modern China recounts the outcome of a momentous decision that China’s new Communist rulers made in the 1950s. They decided to abandon conventional methods of gathering statistics that use probability and adopted the method of exhaustive counting of everybody and everything. Why did their dream of total information became a nightmare? Harvard historian Arunabh Ghosh (right), author of Making It Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (2020), explains that in the 1950s, newly communist China faced a choice about how to survey the population accurately while making “a clean break with the past.” For philosophical reasons, debates about how to gather statistics came to the fore: In a speech in 1951, Li…

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Smart car, Autonomous self-driving concept.

The Political Case Against Self-Driving Cars

An auto mechanic turned philosopher warns against ceding control of one’s destination to others, in the relentless pursuit of safety

Some worry about the role driverless cars might play in the next pandemic lockdown (there will be other pandemics and emergencies). David Lanza offers a thought-provoking scenario for these autonomous/self-driving vehicles: The production of driverless cars remains in its infancy, but if those cars ever become common, the government will have no problem locking us down on the slightest pretext. Driverless cars have no steering wheels and depend upon pre-programmed GPS coordinates to guide them (and us) to our destinations. Aside from entering a destination at the start of a trip, a driver has no way to direct the car. David Lanza, “Driverless Cars Will Make the Next Pandemic Crackdown Complete” at American Thinker The response to the COVID-19 crisis,…

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Cyborg hand using digital artificial intelligence holographic projection 3D rendering

Are We on the Cusp of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)?

One AI specialist is convinced that money and infrastructure are the only real obstacles

Kathleen Walch, Principal Analyst at Cognilytica, asks “Is AGI really around the corner, or are we chasing an elusive goal that we may never realize?” It was an oddly blunt question from someone in her industry. But then she was right to expect Ben Goertzel (right), CEO & Founder of the SingularityNET Foundation, to reassure her that all is well when she interviewed him at OpenCogCon. Ben Goertzel, a leading expert in the pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)—computers that can think like humans—thinks that we are now at a “turning point” where AGI will see rapid advances: Over the next few years he believes the balance of activity in the AI research area is about to shift from highly…

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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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Computer error.

AI Will Fail, Like Everything Else, Eventually

The more powerful the AI, the more serious the consequences of failure

A day does not go by without a news article reporting some amazing breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In fact, progress in AI has been so steady that some futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, project current trends into the future and anticipate the headlines of tomorrow. Consider some developments from the world of technology: 2004 DARPA sponsors a driverless car grand challenge. Technology developed by the participants eventually allows Google to develop a driverless automobile and modify existing transportation laws. 2005 Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot is able to walk as fast as a human, delivering trays to customers in a restaurant setting. The same technology is now used in military robots. 2007 Computers learned to play a perfect game of checkers,…

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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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Artificial Intelligence and Transhumanism - illustration

John Lennox: Transhumanism Is Not a New Idea

In his just-published book, 2084, Oxford mathematician John Lennox points out that, in the 20th century, both the Communists and the Nazis had attempted transhumanist projects. For example, In the former Soviet Union, attempts were made to use science to create a “New Man.” In 1924, Leon Trotsky wrote: “Man will make it his purpose to master his own feelings, to raise his instincts to the heights of consciousness, to make them transparent, to extend the wires of his will into hidden recesses, and thereby to raise himself to a new plane, to create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman.” What that program of eugenics involved is explained by historian Andrey Zubov as cited by…

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Breaking Through Concept

Michael Egnor: Denying Free Will Is Totalitarian

Specifically, “The denial of free will is the cornerstone of totalitarian systems.” That’s what he told podcaster Lucas Skrobot in the second of two podcast discussions: Dr. Michael Egnor | Free Will and Totalitarian Ideologies (Part 2 of 2) [E152] Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has written a fair bit on free will for Mind Matters News. Here are some selections to consider: No free will means no justice: “Free will is the cornerstone of all human rights and the cornerstone of our Constitutional rights. The denial of free will is, literally, the denial of human freedom. Without free will, we are livestock, without the presumption of innocence, without actual innocence, and without rights. A justice system that has no respect for…

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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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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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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…