Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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A pen on top of several math equations

Walter Bradley Center Fellow Discovers Longstanding Flaw in an Aspect of Elementary Calculus

The flaw doesn't lead directly to wrong answers but it does create confusion.

The lead author, Jonathan Bartlett, noted that the likely source of the bad notation was a philosophical issue. Because no one wanted to give differentials that same ontological status as other numbers, everyone presumed that the notational problems were simply the result of this fact, and no one pursued it further.

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SXSW 2019: Grappling with AI’s immense culture shifts

Panelists Robert J. Marks and Jay Richards spot the human advantage in an AI-driven culture

From homeschooled teens to high-tech entrepreneurs to retired doctors to University of Texas students, Christ Church was full of Austinites trying to understand what the rapid growth of AI technologies means for their future.

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Random Thoughts on Recent AI Headlines

There is usually a story under those layers of hype but not always the one you thought

When Thomas Sowell was writing his syndicated column on economics, I always looked forward to his sporadically appearing “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene.” Reminding readers that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I offer my own “Random Thoughts on Recent AI Headlines.”

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Universal Basic Income? Fear of AI Fuels Bad Economics

If new technology led to mass permanent unemployment, history would be an endless saga of expanding joblessness

Although the coming shift will be abrupt, new technologies enable us to focus, as economists would put it, on our comparative advantage over machines. 

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STEM Education 5: What Difference Do Family and Privilege Make to Success?

A strong family helps a STEM nerd succeed. However, a “strong family” is not necessarily a family that had an easy ride, as my own story shows.

The money my parents could make in the new urban environment was good, but it was a bad place to raise kids. In high school, I began to run with gangs and do many things I’m not proud of. Dad and Mom scraped together money for me to go to college instead.

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Cardboard boxes from Brouhaha brewery waiting to be shipped

Amazon pulls out of the New York City deal

Is this a message about the new economy in America?

Jay Richards thinks that crony capitalism is a long-term problem but that, in this case, New York legislators showed “staggering economic illiteracy and a disregard for their constituents”

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Japanese Businessmen Having a Business Agreement

STEM Education 4: Do STEM Nerds Need to Learn Latin?

Okay, not Latin. But some arts subjects do enhance a STEM career

Well-roundedness is appropriate in applied STEM curricula to the extent that it rounds out the skills necessary for success as a STEM professional.

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STEM EDUCATION 2. Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to be a Nerd

How do you identify extroverted nerds? When you are talking to them, they look at YOUR shoes
If I am made to confess that college courses in Shakespearean sonnets will make me a better person, then English literature majors had better confess that calculus makes them better people. Read More ›
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Machinist working a loom

Remember the Luddites!

The Luddites became famous for breaking machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Were they entirely wrong?
People often think that the Luddites were merely anti-technology because they opposed automation during the Industrial Revolution (1760–1840). The story is more complex. As we face increasing automation today, we might want to see what we can learn from their history. Read More ›
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Mission Control Center (MCC), Houston, Texas, during the Gemini 5 flight.

STEM EDUCATION 1. Pursuing Nerd Quality Over Nerd Quantity

Reducing math and science to practice is what engineers do. Scientists didn’t put a man on the moon. Engineers did.
Overall, computer applications will impact our society and culture as much as electricity did. And we’re living smack in the middle of the transformation. Read More ›
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Will the Free Market Help or Hurt Us in an AI-Empowered World?

We may need new institutions, such as insurance against job obsolescence
If humans are free to experiment with new institutions, I believe we will find an excellent solution. However, there is a great danger that those who benefit from the status quo will use their influence to prevent the adoption of new institutions. Read More ›
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Does AI Art Spell the End of the Artist’s Way of Life?

An AI-produced painting sold at auction for $432,500. But is it a trend or just a novelty?
Rather than announce that human artists are now doomed, software engineer Ben Dixon interviewed a number of them and came away with a rather different picture, that “AI-generated art will improve, but artistic creativity will remain a human discipline.” Read More ›
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How Can Information Theory Help the Economy Grow?

New information is the true source of new wealth; everyone wins when we learn how to produce it more efficiently
What gives humans the ability to increase in prosperity, according to Eric Holloway, is our ability to “read” from Plato’s Library of new ideas, thus providing an ever-growing supply of side information that powers the economy. Read More ›
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Be Choosy About What You Automate!

Having automated many processes, I can assure you that that is the First Rule of Automation
The worst trap that people who are pursuing automation fall into is the desire to automate everything. That’s usually a road to disaster. Automation is supposed to save time and money, but it can wind up costing you both if you don't carefully consider what you automate. Read More ›
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Series of drawn human faces

No, Twitter Is Not the New Awful

It’s the Old Awful back for more. It’s the Town Without Pity we all tried to get away from
We need to decide: Is Twitter the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or interconnected private gossip klatsches where anyone can say whatever they want, whatever ensues? Read More ›
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McDonald's Drive through saying

McDonald’s, Meet McPathogens

What happens when the drive to automate everything meets the Law of Unintended Consequences?
I have a wager with a good friend that the self-order touch screen kiosks at McDonald’s will not last. The kiosks not only take longer to use, but are annoying. The idea of the kiosk may sound good on paper, but is a hassle in practice. And besides… Read More ›
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Who Does the Concept of “Intellectual Property” Really Benefit?

Was traditional copyright law meant to protect algorithms that decide people’s financial fate?
The title question is more complicated than we might at first suppose. The short answer is, not necessarily the starving artist, says Samir Chopra, a Brooklyn College philosophy professor and co-author with Laurence F. White of A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents. Read More ›
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Workers at Hino Motors Manufacturing Indonesia, Indonesia

Is AI Creating the Conditions for Marxist Revolution?

An analyst looks at the conditions then and now
Last summer, we noted Karl Marx’s eerie AI prediction; he felt that capitalism would fall when machines replaced human labor. While today’s market economy doesn’t seem in a hurry to fulfill either prediction, some see artificial intelligence as enabling a comeback of his theories. Read More ›