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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…

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White swan mask on black wooden surface. Empty space.

New Book Takes Aim at Phantom Patterns “Detected” by Algorithms

Human common sense is needed now more than ever, says economics professor Gary Smith

Pomona College economics professor Gary Smith, author with Jay Cordes of The Phantom Pattern Problem (Oxford, October 1, 2020), tackles an age-old glitch in human thinking: We tend to assume that if we find a pattern, it is meaningful. Add that to the weaknesses of current artificial intelligence and “Houston, we have a problem,” he warns: The scientific method tests theories with data. Data-mining computer algorithms dispense with theory and search through data for patterns, often aided and abetted by slicing, dicing, and otherwise mangling data to create patterns. Gary Smith, “Phantom patterns: The big data delusion” at IAI News (August 24, 2020) Many of the patterns so detected are obviously spurious, for example: A computer algorithm for evaluating job…

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Aerial view of New York downtown building roofs. Bird's eye view from helicopter of cityscape metropolis infrastructure, traffic cars, yellow cabs moving on city streets and crossing district avenues

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Promise and Problems of Big Open Data

For some software, bad data doesn’t matter; for other software, working off of month-old data could be life-threatening

Last week, Microsoft released its critically acclaimed Microsoft Flight Simulator, to much cheering and applause. The game creates a photorealistic journey across the planet. Artificial intelligence combines multiple data sets to create a magnificent virtual experience of flying through the world. The data comes from satellite maps for terrain and texture information and OpenStreetMap to add three dimensional information to city data, such as building heights and other information. Combining all these data sources generates a 3D world using a variety of AI photogrammetry techniques. The program then streams this world to you as you fly through it. Additionally, the system streams in real-world weather data, so that the weather experienced in any part of the world is transmitted to…

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Graphene molecular nano technology structure on a green background - 3d rendering

Why the Brain Can’t Be Understood Simply in Terms of Particles

For the same reasons as a basketball cannot be understood wholly as a “sphere,” the brain is more than particle physics in action
In a review of theoretical physicist Brian Greene’s latest book, philosopher Edward Feser explains why mathematics can’t capture all of reality. Read More ›
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UCAV(Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) military drone

After Thursday’s Dogfight, It’s Clear: DARPA Gets AI Right

In the dogfight Thursday between AI and a pilot, AI won. But what does that mean?

AI prevailed against a human in DARPA’s recent AlphaDogfight trials. Given that DeepMind’s AI achieved the level of grandmaster in the StarCraft II video game, AI beating a human in a simulated closed world contest is not impressive. What is impressive is AlphaDogfight’s role in DARPA’s overall plan for the development of AI in the military. DARPA, the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has been called the US military’s “Department of Mad Scientists.” Its mission is to prevent strategic military surprise by supplying fertile ground where new and revolutionary ideas can sprout and grow. DARPA founded the internet and gave us the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite system) that guides our Google map directions. Less well known is DARPA’s…

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Genetic engineering and gene manipulation concept. Hand is replacing part of a DNA molecule.

Gene Therapy: IT Meets Medicine, But Who Is In Charge?

A biotechnology CEO would like to see patients have more power in determining advanced treatments

Jay Richards talked recently with Matt Scholz, Founder & CEO of Oisín Biotechnologies, about the challenges and promises of the information theory of biotech, especially as related to medicine: The panel in which Scholz participated at COSM 2019 focused on how artificial intelligence can make a difference in medicine: From the interview: Jay Richards: So how would you distill this panel? It was you and Babak Parviz, formerly of Google Glass and now from Amazon (and formerly Google Glass) and Lindy Fishburne, who’s on the funding side of information technology and biology. Matt Scholz: The panel was put together ranging from the computational side of it to the actual therapeutic side and finance. So I think that made it a…

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Glorious Sky - Elements of this Image Furnished by NASA

Bernardo Kastrup Argues for a Universal Mind as a Reasonable Idea

The challenge, he says, is not why there is consciousness but why there are so many separate instances of consciousnesses

In a recent podcast, Michael Egnor continued his discussion with philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup; This week, the topic was panpsychism and cosmopsychism. (Last week, the topic was why consciousness couldn’t just evolve from the mud.) https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-096-Bernardo-Kastrup.mp3 A partial transcript follows: (The complete transcript is here. The Show Notes and Resources are below.) Dr. Kastrup made clear that he is not a panpsychism but rather a cosmopsychist. He explains the difference, defining panpsychism as follows: Bernardo Kastrup (pictured): Panpsychism, well, to be more accurately called constitutive panpsychism, it’s the notion that at least some of the elementary particles that constitutes the universe, at least some of them, are fundamentally conscious. In other words, they have experiential states, fundamental experiential…

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Female student holding pencil and examination paper

Don’t Blame AI for the British A-Level Test Scandal

When 39 percent of the final grades assigned during COVID-19 were lower than teacher predictions, it was headline news. But what happened?

Many years ago, when I was a young assistant professor of economics, I had to endure a minor hazing ritual—serving for one year on the admissions committee for the PhD program. As a newbie, I was particularly impressed by a glowing letter of recommendation that began, “This is the best student I have had in 30 years.” The applicant’s test scores were not off-the-charts but the letter was number 1. A dean who chaired the admissions committee year after year advised me to calm down because this professor wrote a recommendation that celebrated “the best student I have had in 30 years” every year. The committee had a chuckle at my expense. I’ve now been teaching for nearly 50 years…

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The Settlers of Catan

In Science, We Can’t Just “Settle” for Data Clusters

The board game, Settlers of Catan, offers a clear illustration of what can go wrong when we are duped by data clusters

Settlers of Catan is an incredible board game created by Klaus Teuber, a German game designer. It has been translated into dozens of languages and tens of millions of sets have been sold. The basic four-player board consists of 19 hexagons (hexes) representing resources: 3 brick, 4 lumber, 4 wool, 4 grain, 3 ore, and 1 desert. Players acquire and use resources based on dice rolls, card draws, trading, and the location of their settlements and cities. Part of the game’s seductive appeal is that there are many, many ways to arrange the 19 hexagons and successful strategies depend on how the hexagons are arranged. The rules are simple but winning strategies are complex and elusive. The official rules of…

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A fish with wide open mouth and big eyes, Surprised, shocked or amazed face front view

Is Dembski’s Explanatory Filter the Most Widely Used Theory Ever?

It turns out that legions of critics of the Filter use it all the time, without noticing

William Dembski created quite a stir in the world of information theory with his book The Design Inference. For the first time, he outlined a rigorous method for identifying design, which he called the explanatory filter. Since then many critics have claimed that Dembski’s proposed filter is without merit due to the lack of application in the couple of decades since its invention. But, are the critics right, or are they wrong—wrong in the way that a fish doesn’t recognize water because water is the very atmosphere of the fish’s existence? Let us first remind ourselves of Dembski’s explanatory filter. His filter proceeds in three main steps. Eliminate events of large probability (necessity) Eliminate events of medium probability (chance) Specify…

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F-16 Fighter Jet

DARPA Has Scheduled AI vs. AI Aerial Dogfights for Next Week

A round robin tournament will select the AI that faces off against a human pilot Thursday

Forbes reports a simulated aerial dogfight will be held next week and we can watch it live: “The action will kick off Tuesday with AI vs. AI dogfights, featuring eight teams that developed algorithms to control a simulated F-16, leading to a round robin tournament that will select one to face off against a human pilot Thursday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. EDT. You can register to watch the action online. DARPA adds that a “multi-view format will afford viewers comprehensive perspectives of the dogfights in real-time and feature experts and guests from the Control Zone, akin to a TV sports commentary desk. “With remarks from officials including USAF Colonel Daniel “Animal” Javorsek, head of the ACE program, recaps of…

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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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group of people swims in a mud

Why Consciousness Couldn’t Just Evolve from the Mud

Kastrup, a panpsychist, is sympathetic to the basic intuitions behind the idea that there is design in nature (intelligent design theory)
In a recent podcast, “Does the Moon Exist if No One is Looking at It?”, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup. Dr. Kastrup has been, in Dr. Egnor’s words, “leading a modern renaissance of metaphysical idealism”—that is, reality is essentially mental rather than physical. Read More ›
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Creative background, the human brain on a blue background, the hemisphere is responsible for logic, and responsible for creativity. different hemispheres of the brain, 3D illustration, 3D render

Why the Mind Can’t Just Be the Brain

Thinking it through carefully, the idea doesn't even make sense

Philosopher Roger Scruton (1944–2020) defined neuroscience thus (I paraphrase): Neuroscience is a huge collection of answers with no memory of the questions. Over the past century, neuroscientists have amassed vast libraries of data. But their interpretation of their data on the mind-brain question shows no meaningful understanding of the genuine questions their research is tasked to answer. These questions are ancient: What is the relationship between the soul (or mind) and the body (or brain)? How is it that matter can think? How is it that third-person stuff gives rise to first-person experience? Answers to such questions from the neuroscience community show little evidence of the profound and subtle nature of the questions. Thus, neuroscientists provide answers to questions they…

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tropical hurricane approaching the USA.Elements of this image are furnished by NASA.

Female Hurricanes: How A Mass of Hot Air Became a Zombie Study

When a reporter first asked me about a study claiming that “Female Hurricanes are Deadlier than Male Hurricanes,” I was skeptical

It is once again hurricane season on the East Coast and social media are reliably abuzz with reports of a debunked study that claimed that hurricanes given feminine-sounding names are deadlier than those given masculine-sounding names. (Full disclosure: I was one of the debunkers.) When a reporter initially asked me about this study, titled “Female Hurricanes are Deadlier than Male Hurricanes,” I was skeptical. Hurricane names alternate between female and male on a schedule set before the hurricane season begins so any relationship between name and death toll was surely coincidental. I looked at the study and discovered that the authors were not arguing that female hurricanes are inherently deadlier but that sexist humans die because they don’t take female…

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Rear view of Asian woman working and online meeting via video conference with colleague

How to Teach and Hold Meetings in “Mixed Mode” in the COVID Era

Teachers and facilitators face a challenge when some students are online in quarantine and some are in front of them in person
In the current COVID-19 environment, the economy may be opening up but some people are still sick or in quarantine. This means that more and more meetings are run in a mixed mode — a combination of in-person and online participants. Read More ›
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Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

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Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the store.

The Amazing Things We Can Do with Virtual and Augmented Reality

The “father of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness, talks to Robert J. Marks about his vision for the future

In a recent podcast, “Robert J. Marks and Thomas Furness on VR and AR,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness. They focused on the cutting edge of virtual reality today. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-094-Thomas-Furness.mp3 Transcript. Partial transcript: Robert J. Marks: So, Dr. Furness, we have been talking about a number of fascinating things, but there’s still some things that I’d like to talk to you about. Another one is ARToolworks. Now, AR stands for augmented reality. Thomas Furness: Now, the difference really is between the VRs generally, where you are completely immersed in a computer-generated environment. That’s all you see is the computer generation of images. AR, on the other hand,…

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red lifeboat

Business Prof: Stop It! The World is NOT Running Out of Stuff!

A famous bet between two top thinkers settled that a long time ago

Recently, Jay Richards interviewed Dr. Gale Pooley, Professor of Economics at BYU-Hawaii, on the myth that we are running out of resources and doomed to future scarcity. Even though media pundits often claim it is true, the numbers say it is a myth. The story begins with a famous bet between two professors… From the interview: The bet was whether basic commodity prices would rise between September 29, 1980 and September 29, 1990. The professors who made the bet were Stanford insect biologist Paul Ehrlich (1932–), author of bestseller The Population Bomb (1968), and economist Julian Simon (1932–1998) Ehrlich bet yes and Simon bet no. Gale Pooley: First of all, what was interesting about Julian Simon, he reads Ehrlich’s book…

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

Stark Lessons from the 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bomb

Nuclear weapons have not been used to destroy a city since Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Seventy-five years ago today an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Einstein’s equation E=mc2 showed that 700 milligrams of mass (m), less than a third of the weight of a US dime, could be converted to enough energy (E) to destroy a Japanese city. The atomic bomb ended WWII. Advanced technology such as the atomic bomb not only wins wars but gives pause to otherwise aggressive adversaries. For this reason, I argue in my book, The Case for Killer Robots,that the United States must continue to develop cutting edge lethal AI for military use. As described in John Hersey’s essay “Hiroshima” in the New Yorker (1946), the effects of the atomic bomb were horrifying for the civilian population. Human beings…