Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryTechnocracy

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Big brother

How Orwell’s 1984 Can Be Seen As an Argument for God’s Existence

Atheism is not only fundamental to the power of the Party in 1984 but is also its central weakness

University of Nebraska political science prof Carson Holloway (pictured) asks, “Does discrediting the existence of God promote enlightened thinking or a lack of objective reality?” Unpacking the social structure in George Orwell’s classic totalitarian dystopia, 1984 (1949), he observes that not only does the Party have the power of life and death but the atheistic Party faithful fear death as utter annihilation: Atheism is the moral basis of the Party’s unlimited hold on its own members because it makes them terrified of death as absolute nonexistence. Like any government, the Party in 1984 has the power to kill disobedient subjects. Party members, however, view death not just as the end of bodily life, but as a complete erasure of their…

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Changing the Past

China: Snitching on Those Who Recall Non-Approved History

The Communist Party of China wants its centennial to proceed this year without memory of the millions dead in the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Square

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell, 1984 The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed on July 23, 1921, so is gearing up for the hundredth anniversary of its founding with the theme “Forever Following the Party.” In preparation, the Cyberspace Administration of China has launched a hotline for citizens to report online statements that contradict the Party’s official version of its history. A translation of the announcement from the Central Network Information Office Reporting Center is available on former American diplomat David Cowhig’s blog: One part of the announcement reads: In order to avoid misleading the public with false statements, maintain a clear cyberspace and create a good atmosphere…

Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.
Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.

Why China Is Making a Bold Gamble With Digital Currency

“Controllable anonymity” means that all transactions between individuals are visible to the People’s Bank and trackable by the Chinese government

Last week, China announced the national rollout of the electronic yuan, a plan in the works since 2014. The e-CNY* or Digital Currency Electronics Payment (DCEP) was piloted last year in four major Chinese cities: The digital yuan resides in cyberspace, available on the owner’s mobile phone — or on a card for the less tech-savvy — and spending it doesn’t strictly require an online connection. It appears on a screen with a silhouette of Mao Zedong, looking just like the paper money. In tests in recent months, more than 100,000 people in China have downloaded a mobile-phone app from the central bank enabling them to spend small government handouts of digital cash with merchants, including Chinese outlets of Starbucks…

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What Your News Feed Will Look Like If Big Tech Runs It

Reading Elkus’s essay, one wants to ask, “Who is the collective ‘we’ who are supposed to be out of control?”

In an essay at The New Atlantis, Adam Elkus, a graduate student in computational social science at George Mason University, reflects on a curious change in public panics in recent years: Pundits’ obsession with AI doom has given way to “primal fear of primates posting,” with demands that top government or Big Tech crack down on social media: Once upon a time — just a few years ago, actually — it was not uncommon to see headlines about prominent scientists, tech executives, and engineers warning portentously that the revolt of the robots was nigh. The mechanism varied, but the result was always the same: Uncontrollable machine self-improvement would one day overcome humanity. A dismal fate awaited us. We would be…

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Heritage Building

Influential Think Tank Declines Big Tech Donations

The Heritage Foundation declined six-figure donations from Big Tech companies Facebook and Google in 2020, citing repeated censorship of conservative views

News website Axios obtained letters signed by Heritage Foundation‘s departing President Kay Coles James (pictured), addressed to the CEOs of both Facebook and Google in October 2020, explaining why Heritage felt compelled to decline the six-figure contributions from the companies. “We cannot in good conscience take money from a company that repeatedly, and blatantly, suppresses conservative speech on your platforms,” reads the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.  A similar statement is made in the letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.  Heritage declined $225,000 from Google, and returned $150,000 that came from Facebook. The Heritage Foundation made several accusations against the companies in its letters, including: that Facebook suppressed their reach by blocking referral traffic; that Facebook targeted Heritage with third-party fact-checkers; and that Google…

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Cell phone addiction.

Getting Used to Liquid Modernity

The only constant of liquid modernity is change, chiefly of the self, but also of the self's surroundings

(Reprinted with permission from the Engineering Ethics Blog of Karl Stephan (pictured) of the Ingram School of Engineering at Texas State University) I do not own a conventional smart phone.  Instead, I intentionally use a style of flip phone whose rugged case and physical numeric keypad buttons won’t be injured by a drop of three or four feet to a concrete surface.  It can receive some texts on its small screen, and I can even send texts after a fashion with the twelve numeric keys, tapping them rapidly one to four times to select the correct letter or punctuation mark.  It won’t do capitals, but you can read texts from me without capitals and still get the message.  It took me a while to…

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Robotic man cyborg face representing artificial intelligence 3D rendering

Are We Facing the Next, Very Rapid Stage of Evolution, via AI?

Prof. Mark Alan Walker: “Person-engineering technologies will make it possible to accomplish in a matter of years what evolution would take thousands of millennia to achieve.”

These are certainly heady times in the biotech world. With the new mRNA vaccine being created in just a few days in January 2020, someone can mass produce DNA in their garage for the price of a hamburger, and Alpha Fold 2 can predict proteins from DNA with accuracy, rivalling wet lab results, it seems we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. Most viral infections will cease if all we need to do to roll out a new vaccine is sequence the virus genome and mass produce the portion that binds to human cells. On the darker side, it will also likely mean a greater threat of biowarfare. Creating a new virus may just be a matter of downloading…

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eコマース

Could a Seattle Law Hobble Amazon’s Unaccountable Censorship?

John West discusses Amazon’s vulnerability in Seattle with Kara McKinney at Tipping Point

Recently, John West, Managing Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, offered some thoughts at Tipping Point about Seattle legislation that could stymie Big Tech’s growing tendency toward viewpoint discrimination: Everyone is wondering what we can do about Big Tech censorship and it turns out there is a law on the books in progressive Seattle just waiting to be used. John West, “Big Tech Discrimination with John West” at Tipping Point (February 25, 2021) He’s referring to this law which forbids discrimination on the basis of, among other things, political ideology, seen as: any idea or belief, or coordinated body of ideas or beliefs, relating to the purpose, conduct, organization, function or basis of government and related…

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Smart digital city with globalization abstract graphic showing connection network . Concept of future 5G smart wireless digital city and social media networking systems .

Florida Governor, Nation States, Take On Big Tech

Rattled by censorship and deplatforming, many jurisdictions are looking at ways to make Silicon Valley respect citizens’ rights. Florida’s Governor DeSantis may be the most colorful

At a press conference on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis offered a look at new legislation that forms part of his initiative to reduce the power of Big Social Media to harvest and sell data on users: The act, should it pass muster in the state House and Senate, would force tech platforms to disclose what data they have on Floridians to those users and delete that information if requested. The law would also ask companies not to sell the data and would create legal avenues to sue for noncompliance. Whether one state will be able to regulate such massive companies that operate on a global scale remains to be seen — likely in a court of law. Emily Jacobs,…

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Classic club sandwich with ham and bacon on a wooden board. Next cup is a mixture of pickled miniature onions, gherkins, tomatoes. Gray background. Close-up.

For Five Days There Was Free Expression in China

Then censors blocked the Clubhouse app

In March 2020, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Paul Davidson and former Google engineer Rohan Seth launched their newest app, Clubhouse. The app is an invite-only audio chat app that lets users talk in virtual rooms. These conversations can be one-on-one or they could have an audience of up to 5,000 users (the current room limit in the beta version of the app). The app is only available on the iPhone and, once invited, users must use their actual phone number and Apple ID to join. Each user is only allowed to invite up to five people. The app’s exclusive nature gave it the tantalizing aura of the “next-big-thing” among the tech types. On January 31, Space-X’s Elon Musk made an appearance…

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Courthouse with judge's gavel and sign NO. concept of censorship and the production of restrictions and laws on restriction. Anti-popular laws, usurpation of power, conservative views. Lack of justice

“Disinformation”: Do We Really Need a “Reality Czar”?

Canada dodged a bullet in 2014. The United States will not be so lucky if it adopts Big Tech's new proposals against “disinformation” online

Recently, a New York Times technology columnist, back from a consult with Big Tech in Silicon Valley, urged U.S. President to appoint a “reality czar” to go after people who provide “disinformation” online. He concedes, “It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant.” Well yes, rather. And the czar would probably soon find himself in conflict with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Kevin Roose (pictured), who says he has spent several years tackling “our national reality crisis”, begs us to hear the czar’s supporters out: This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe…

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Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.

Would Super AI Cure Cancer — or Destroy the Earth?

Max Planck Institute computer scientists say that we not only don’t but can’t know

An international team of computer scientists associated with the Max Planck Institute concluded that, given the nature of computers, there is no way of determining what superintelligent AI would do: An international team of computer scientists used theoretical calculations to show that it would be fundamentally impossible to control a super-intelligent AI “A super-intelligent machine that controls the world sounds like science fiction. But there are already machines that perform certain important tasks independently without programmers fully understanding how they learned it. The question therefore arises whether this could at some point become uncontrollable and dangerous for humanity”, says study co-author Manuel Cebrian, Leader of the Digital Mobilization Group at the Center for Humans and Machines, Max Planck Institute for…

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Global virus and disease spread, coronavirus

How China Has Tried To Suppress Coronavirus Science

So far as investigative journalists have been able to determine, the suppression came directly from the top

An investigation by the Associated Press reveals what everyone has suspected since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been keeping a tight rein on the publication or distribution of any scientific research on the coronavirus conducted within the country. AP recently found out just how extensive the muzzling of scientific findings has been. Its report also confirms that the orders came from the top: The AP investigation was based on dozens of interviews with Chinese and foreign scientists and officials, along with public notices, leaked emails, internal data and the documents from China’s cabinet and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It reveals a pattern of government secrecy and top-down control…

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Street Signs

Why “Critical Theory” Might Shape Your Life Going Forward

Critical Theory has begun to rule the public square and we need to understand it

2020 was the year that Critical Theory came to dominate culture in America. It ruled academia for a half century but only in the past year has it begun to rule the American public square as well. Perhaps you’re not interested in Critical Theory but Critical Theory is interested in you. It behooves us to understand it better, because it will be a central theme in American culture for the foreseeable future. For readers who are not familiar with it, I provide here a synopsis. There is a connection to Darwinism at the heart of Critical Theory, as we will see. Critical theory is, at its root, cultural Marxism. It emerged from the failure of Leninism to capture the hearts…

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COVID-19 coronavirus in China, renminbi yuan money bill with face mask. COVID global stock market. World economy hit by corona virus outbreak. Financial crisis and coronavirus pandemic concept.

Lawyer Turned Citizen Journalist in China Turns Up Again—in Jail

She has been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a crime in China

Lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, went missing on May 15 after documenting on Youtube, Twitter, and WeChat what she saw in Wuhan during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic. She has now been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Zhang had already been detained for supporting the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which likely played into her harsh sentence. So far, 47 journalists have been jailed for reporting on COVID-19 in China. YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible within China because of the Great Firewall which allows the Communist Party of China (CCP) to control the information that comes into and goes out of the country. Within the Great Firewall journalists must adhere…

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Chinese Entrepreneur Jack Ma Missing After Criticizing The Party

If even Jack Ma can just disappear in China’s high tech world, is anyone safe?

Several media outlets are asking “Where is Jack Ma?” China’s most well-known tech entrepreneur and self-made billionaire has not been seen publicly after a speech he gave at the Bund Summit in Shanghai in October criticizing China’s financial system. CNBC’s David Faber reports that Ma (pictured) is not missing but “laying low” and is purposely remaining less visible after his speech angered the CCP. Radio Free Asia, however, says Ma is definitely under a travel ban and may be “under restrictive measures.” More ominously, Asia Times Financial reports that a CCP mouthpiece has said Jack Ma is now “embracing supervision” at an undisclosed location. So who is Jack Ma? He is the founder of e-commerce company Alibaba Group. The company’s…

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Retro old beige fridge in loft style wooden kitchen

#11: A Lot of AI Is As Transparent As Your Fridge

A great deal of high tech today is owned by corporations

As the year draws to a close, our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews fellow computer nerds, members of our Brain Trust, Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway on their picks for over hyped AI of the year. Hey, great stuff happened in AI this year. But well, lots of “stuff” happened too. And it’s time to have some fun! So here’s #11! Corporate types insist that they believe in transparency. But a lot of AI is as transparent as your fridge. Our team has the story: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #11 starts at about 9:08 A partial transcript and Show Notes follow. A recent article in top science journal Nature pointed out that AI developments that matter today are often not…

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Chinese English Bible.

China’s Door-to-Door Census Now Identifies Religious Believers

Census takers are urged to keep their eyes open for evidence of religious activity

China will complete its seventh census, begun on November 1, on December 10. New features that have prompted concern include: Residents must indicate whether they have family members in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan or if they have any family members outside of the country and those who are over sixty must indicate their state of health (Reuters, November 2, 2020). Some have resisted answering census takers’ questions for fear of losing rights and privileges under the new Social Credit System. But more than that, some seven million census takers go door-to-door, interviewing residents and entering information that goes directly to the government via mobile apps. Bitter Winter talked to several census takers who said they were instructed to pay…

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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…