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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence


Cars on road highway in traffic jam

Autonomous Vehicles Are Not a “Rich Person’s” Technology

A transportation expert tells Jay Richards, alternative transport may disrupt the transportation industry but only in the short term

Jay Richards talked recently with Tom Alberg, Founder of the Madrona Venture Group and Co-chair of the ACES Northwest Network, about ACES’ efforts to bring Automated, Connected, Electric, and Shared vehicle technologies to the Puget Sound region: The Benefits of ACES Vehicle Technology A partial transcript follows: Jay Richards: Well, you were chairing the panel on autonomous vehicles and you’re part of an initiative here in Seattle. What do you think is the most important takeaway from that? Tom Alberg: I think that it’s really a combination of technologies. It’s both new technologies and it’s changed business models. So we formed a group here in Seattle called ACES, Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared. “Shared” is really kind of the Uber…

Nerd with glasses hacking websites

Beware of Geeks Bearing Formulas—It’s Often Pseudoscience

Pseudoscience based on data without theory and theory without data undermine the credibility of real science, which is the key to human progress

Elsewhere I have warned of the perils of making decisions based on data without theory. For example, the patterns discovered by data-mining computer algorithms are often nothing more than meaningless coincidences. It is also perilous to go to the opposite extreme—to make decisions based on theory without data. Once upon a time, for example, economists were fond of sketching labor demand and supply curves and assuming that the economy was at their intersection. That is, labor demand is equal to supply, so that everyone who wants to work is working. The unemployed have chosen to be unemployed because they value leisure more than income. True believers were fond of this theory and little troubled by reality. Between 1929 and 1933,…

chinese female worker at manufacturing
chinese worker assembling production at line conveyor in china factory

Does Automation Target Women’s Jobs?

The assumption that women need special protection from robots underestimates their creativity and versatility

A number of studies have come to the conclusion that automation will hit women harder than men. Some proposed fixes assume that women who lose repetitive jobs to robots would be happier as administrators or dependents. That’s not clear.

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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 ›
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 ›
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 ›

Is the Future of Work Relentlessly Urban?

Amazon’s new combined New York and Washington headquarters may provide an unintended test
The idea of two different locations would likely be unworkable apart from the internet. But some wonder if Amazon has grasped all the implications of the internet. Read More ›

Meet the everyday people behind AI

Not famous, not lone geniuses, usually not even well-paid. Without them, ambitious systems would gather dust.
Although you probably haven’t heard much about the 26-year-old single mother in the hi-tech news, Brenda is one of the intelligences behind artificial intelligence. For $9 a day, Brenda, who lives in the slum district Kibera in Nairobi, along with a thousand co-workers helps code information for self-driving cars for San Francisco-based Samasource (founded 2008). Read More ›

The Hills Go High Tech

An American community finding its way in the new digital economy
At present, says Hochschild, Ankur Gopal and Interapt are sourcing as many new hillbillies as they can find: “For now, there is so much demand for I.T. workers — 10,000 estimated openings by 2020 in the Louisville metro area alone — that Mr. Gopal is reaching out to new groups. Read More ›