Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagJeffrey Funk

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San Francisco aerial view from sea side. Port of San Francisco in the front. City downtown and skyscrapers at sunrise.

When Silicon Valley Turns From Hype Over Vaporware to Fraud…

Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith discuss the famous Theranos case, which resulted huge losses and in convictions for fraud

In a column published today at MarketWatch, Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith talk about that unpleasant subject, the shady side of Silicon Valley. They’re not looking at the unicorns naively chasing rainbows but rather the cases of apparently deliberate deception. One of them is vaporware— announcing a product that won’t really exist any time soon (perhaps in the hope of dissuading potential buyers from investing in a competitor’s product). Another is “fake it until you make it,” the topic of today’s column. Investors sign on by throwing money at the company, which the company then spends trying to develop what it said it already has. Either way, the company keeps lying as long as necessary, or until its cover is…

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Competition between humans and robots in tug of war concept

Robots Will NOT Steal Our Jobs, Business Analysts Show

Doomsayers typically do not factor in all components of the job that a robot would have to replace or all of the true costs of trying, they say

At Fast Company, data analyst Jeffrey Funk and business prof Gary N. Smith dispute the claim that robots are coming for all our jobs. They point to a history of overblown claims: In 1965, Herbert Simon, who would later be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Turing Award (the “Nobel Prize of computing”), predicted that “machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do.” In 1970, Marvin Minsky, who also received the Turing Award, predicted that, “in from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.” The implications for jobs were ominous, but robotic-takeover predictions have been in the air for a…

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Majestic Unicorn posing in an enchanted forest

The Unicorn Might Be Very Profitable — If It Existed

The statistical reality is that most new businesses flop

Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith, well known to many of our readers, have just published an article at MarketWatch, warning against heedless optimism about “unicorn” stocks. As they put it, “The stock market unleashes its ‘animal spirits’ on an animal that doesn’t exist.” They begin by pointing out that most new businesses flop. The president of one venture capital company estimated the chance of success at one in 1,000. An SEC study of 500 randomly selected new issues found that 43% were confirmed bankrupt, 25% were losing money but still afloat, and 12% had disappeared without a trace. Of the remaining 20%, just 12 companies seemed solid successes — a scant 2% of the companies surveyed. Jeffrey Funk and Gary…

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Prosthetic robotic arm with palm in fist, 3d rendering on black background

Nobel Prize Economist Tells The Guardian, AI Will Win

But when we hear why he thinks so, don’t be too sure

Nobel Prize-winning economist (2002) Daniel Kahneman, 87 (pictured), gave an interview this month to The Guardian in which he observed that belief in science is not much different from belief in religion with respect to the risks of unproductive noise clouding our judgment. He’s been in the news lately as one of the authors of a new book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, which applies his ideas about human error and bias to organizations. He told The Guardian that he places faith “if there is any faith to be placed,” in organizations rather than individuals, for example. Curiously, he doesn’t seem to privilege science organizations: I was struck watching the American elections by just how often politicians of both…

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Artificial intelligence concept. Robotic hand is holding human brain. 3D rendered illustration.

Failed Prophecies of the Big “AI Takeover” Come at a Cost

Like IBM Watson in medicine, they don’t just fail; they take time, money, and energy from more promising digital innovations

Surveying the time line of prophecies that AI will take over “soon” is entertaining. At Slate, business studies profs Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith offer a whirlwind tour starting in the 1950s, with stops along the way at 1970 (“In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being”) and at 2014: In 2014, Ray Kurzweil predicted that by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence and will have all of the intellectual and emotional capabilities of humans, including “the ability to tell a joke, to be funny, to be romantic, to be loving, to be sexy.” As we move closer to 2029, Kurzweil talks more about 2045. Jeffrey Funk and…

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Is Moore’s Law Over?

Rapid increase in computing power may become a thing of the past

If Moore’s Law fails, AI may settle in as a part of our lives like the automobile but it will not really be the Ruler of All except for those who choose that lifestyle. Even so, a belief that we will, for example, merge with computers by 2045 (the Singularity) is perhaps immune to the march of mere events. Entire arts and entertainment industries depend on the expression of such beliefs.

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If Big Tech Were Spinning Its Wheels, Would We Know?

Not necessarily, says an economics prof who worries about the slowing pace of innovation but not of hype

The slowing Funk refers to is in fundamental innovations like transistors and lasers. The apparent progress often turns out to be in patent applications for a bewildering array of comparatively insignificant mobile phone apps.

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