Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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man walking in the night toward the light

Here Come the AI Companions

The Internet ushered in a wave of virtual living and connectivity. Is this the next inevitable step?

The popular social media influencer Caryn Marjorie recently launched “CarynAI,” an artificially intelligent companion that her millions of followers can interact with every day. Marjorie told the Washington Post that she doesn’t have the bandwidth to respond to all the requests she gets from her predominantly male fanbase, however much she wishes to. She furthermore wants to cure them all of their loneliness. She’s on track to make 5 million dollars a month from CarynAI. The bot makes it possible for fans to have a “relationship” with a simulated version of Caryn. Conversations are designed to “wind down” after an hour, but there’s no time limit. One of Caryn’s reps said users are spending hours interacting with CarynAI. The project Read More ›

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emotional glitchy tetris pattern pixelated Photoluminescence SciFi Otherworldly Realistic

Before the iPhone, There Was Tetris

What was the precursor for the widespread tech addiction we see today, particularly in young people?

What was the precursor for the widespread tech addiction we see today, particularly in young people? Many say it was the iPhone. Peter Tonguette, however, thinks that the game Tetris started the screentime avalanche. Tonguette reviewed the new Apple TV+ film Tetris, which covers the story of the classic game’s development, acquisition, and subsequent popularity in the early nineties. He writes, One might assume this changeover coincided with the rise of smartphones and social media, but a new movie shows that it happened as early as the summer vacation of 1989. During that fateful interregnum between school years, kids were introduced to something that prefigured the electronic devices of the 21st century: a battery-powered, 8-bit handheld videogame device whose two Read More ›

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Finger touching phone with social media concept and dark background

Social Media is Hurting Kids. Does Big Tech Care?

Body image issues, low self-esteem, and social comparison are all typical outcomes of excessive social media use among teens and children

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning in a briefing this week on the negative impact of social media on kids, particularly teenage girls. Murthy called tech companies to provide “safeguards” to protect children who are at a critical stage in brain development. Early exposure to social media, numerous studies show, are correlated with anxiety and depression in young people. Murthy said, “We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.” Social media could harm youth mental health, U.S. Surgeon General warns | Reuters Problems like body image issues, low self-esteem, and social comparison are all Read More ›

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Young woman using smart phone

TikToxic: The Popular App is Feeding Teens a “Diet of Darkness”

Apart from the debate over espionage and data privacy, TikTok is a highly addictive app

TikTok has gained a fair bit of fierce criticism over the last few months; the China-owned social media app is the most popular on the market, with tens of millions of users and downloads. That includes, of course, teenagers. Apart from the debate over espionage and data privacy, TikTok is a highly addictive app. We covered more on that here, but recent studies show that it’s not just the amount of time spent on the app that is troubling, but the specific kinds of content young people are ingesting every day. Julie Jargon writes in the Wall Street Journal, Data privacy, though, might be less worrisome than the power of TikTok’s algorithm. Especially if you’re a parent. A recent study found that Read More ›

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Water horizon

Meta Fined Over 1.3 Billion

The EU is penalizing the tech giant for shipping data across the Atlantic

European Union regulators have fined Meta over a billion dollars for sending users’ data to the United States. Many companies operate using a free flow of data across the Atlantic, so the ruling will complicate other companies’ modes of business. Sam Schechner reports, The steep fine represents a step change from EU privacy regulators, who are increasing their enforcement of the GDPR, the bloc’s privacy law, some five years after it came into effect. A board of EU regulators has taken more control over cross-border decisions—and has insisted on bigger fines, people familiar with the deliberations say.  -Sam Schechner, Facebook Owner Meta Fined $1.3 Billion Over Data Transfers to U.S. – WSJ Meta is not pleased with the decision, unsurprisingly, Read More ›

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A glacial rivers from above. Aerial photograph of the river streams from Icelandic glaciers. Beautiful art of the Mother nature created in Iceland. Wallpaper background high quality photo

The Solution for Tech Addiction

Trail Life USA is a way to get guys off their phones and into the wilderness

In a recent Mind Matters podcast episode, host Robert J. Marks spoke with Kent Marks, former Boy Scout guide who now works with Trail Life USA. In the wake of Boy Scouts’ precipitous decline over the last decade, Trail Life offers boys the chance to get outside and go on wilderness adventures. This is a huge opportunity to help young men get off the screens and into the beauty of creation. Speaking about the gravity of the problem, Robert said, The impact of social media has just been terrible. Teenage suicides are up, depression rates are up. I think a third of all girls involved in social media have body image problems. And that’s terrible. These are the symptoms of Read More ›

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creepy TV static

When Disaster Strikes Through the TV

News cycles that profit off constant, sensationalized negativity aren't helping

A hundred years ago it would have been unimaginable to watch a tragedy unfold on the other side of the world. Such news might get peddled via newspaper, or later through radio, but the access we now enjoy to the rest of the world is unprecedented. How is that affecting us? According to this study, covered in an article from The Conversation, televised disaster and tragedy can severely affect the mental health of children to varying degrees. The authors write, Our latest research uses brain scans to show how simply watching news coverage of disasters can raise children’s anxiety and trigger responses in their brains that put them at risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms. It also explores why some children are more Read More ›

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Virtual screen immersive interface background

It’s Not What It Looks Like

Our natural tendency to connect meaning with images is both a strength and a vulnerability

The human brain tends to think concretely. We barter thoughts, words, and ideas through images. It’s why metaphorical language can be so powerful in conveying otherwise abstract ideas. I immediately think of the verse in the Bible: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). It’s hard for me to picture justice on its own, but a raging waterfall? That’s a powerful image. I can now imagine what justice, in some aspect, might look like. Our natural tendency to think this way is both a strength and a vulnerability. A recent article from The Stream relates the human imagination to the current conversation over AI. While the debates rage over AI’s most pertinent Read More ›

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Phone call from unknown number late at night. Scam, fraud or phishing with smartphone concept. Prank caller, scammer or stranger. Man answering to incoming call. Hoax person with fake identity.

Criminals Fake a Kidnapping Using AI

It hasn't taken long for criminals to capitalize on the AI boom

It hasn’t taken long for criminals to capitalize on the AI boom. Unfortunately, the more potential a certain technology has as a tool, the more it can be leveraged for harm. In the case of generative AI, a mother recently said that criminals used AI to mimic her daughter’s voice, fake a kidnapping, and seek ransom money for it. After answering the phone, she heard her daughter’s sobbing voice, followed by a man demanding funds for a ransom. The hoax didn’t get too far, luckily. The mother was able to soon verify her daughter’s safety, but nonetheless, the scam was convincing and was understandably terrifying while it lasted. Victor Tangermann reported on the incident at Futurism, writing, The fake kidnapping Read More ›

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Top view serene weary female lying on desk in modern office. Mugs of beverage and different documents locating on it. Job and fatigue concept

Work: The New Path to Self-Actualization

With layoffs plaguing Big Tech companies, how should employees start viewing their work?

The pandemic changed the way we work, with more people opting for online or “hybrid” schedules, office buildings emptying, and boundaries between work and other aspects of life starting to get blurred. But what is the general attitude towards work in the United States? According to Simone Stolzoff, author of the forthcoming The Good Enough Job, Americans are turning to their careers like people used to turn to religion: for meaning and a sense of self-worth. This new secular religion is called “workism.” In an interview with Wired, Stolzoff said, [Workism] is treating work akin to a religious identity. It’s looking to work not just for a paycheck but also for a community, a sense of identity and purpose and Read More ›

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Lonely man in red jacket standing by the lake in winter, with transparent woman figure standing next to him

Escape from Spiderhead and the Question of Love

Is love more than a chemical reaction and are humans more than machines made of meat?

Brave New World, a speculative work by British writer Aldous Huxley, explores a society where people are conditioned via drugs and genetic engineering to live stable, highly pleasurable, but totally meaningless lives. One pop of a pill, and negative feelings like sadness, anger, or envy vanish. In the brave new world, “everyone belongs to everyone else,” and pleasure supplants purpose. A Story for Our Age That book was written in 1932. Fast forward to the twenty-first century and another fictional work, albeit shorter, goes arguably even deeper than Huxley’s magnum opus. The short story Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders is about a group of inmates being tested by mood-altering drugs in a facility nicknamed “Spiderhead” for its nebulous layout. Read More ›

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Mikrofon im Tonstudio, farbenfroh

An Entertaining Day at the Blue Bird

NPR bids "adieu" to Twitter and BBC bungles interview with Musk

A few days ago, the tag “Government-funded Media” appeared underneath NPR’s masthead on Twitter. Today, the company announced its departure from the social media platform and laid out its intentions to proliferate content through email, an app, and “other social media platforms.” The official post reads, “NPR produces consequential, independent journalism every day in service to the public.” NPR claims editorial independence despite the tag denoting them as federally funded, and their decision to part ways with Twitter reflects their ire against Musk’s trepidatious move. A small percentage, according to NPR, is federally funded, but it is no secret that they lean heavy to the left in their commentary, especially in recent years. Musk resurrected a line from NPR (now Read More ›

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Social media icons fly over city downtown showing people reciprocity connection through social network application platform . Concept for online community and social media marketing strategy .

Social Media’s Distortion of the Real World

Constant exposure to idealized online images impacts our expectations and worldview

How does excessive social media use affect our perceptions of the real world? Writers Mark Miller and Ben White wrote a piece at Aeon on social media through the perspective of “predictive processing,” a term used in neuroscience and cognition. Predictive processing involves the brain’s capacity to predict error, danger, or some future event, and urge us to act accordingly. (That’s my basic, layman’s understanding of it, full disclosure!) White and Miller use temperature as an example, noting how the body may respond to a change of the environment by closing a window or grabbing a blanket to keep warm. Being able to respond appropriately to our surroundings depends on the accuracy of our mental model of the real world. Read More ›

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Is This the End of Twitter?

The social media giant has been struggling on multiple fronts since Musk's takeover

Twitter isn’t in such great shape at the moment. In fact, rumors of bankruptcy loom over the company as financial woes continue to mount, and solutions seem few and far between. Dave Karpf is a professor of “internet politics” at George Washington University and wrote an article describing Twitter’s current predicament. He writes, A few weeks ago, Elon Musk said that ad revenues had fallen 50%. The site has experienced major outages at a higher rate than usual. During one such outage, Elon was laser-focused on the important stuff: reply-guying Jordan Peterson. The Twitter Blue rollout was such a disaster that he fired almost the entire team. Yesterday, he appeared to backtrack on his big plan to revoke legacy checkmarks. Twitter hasn’t been paying rent on its office space. It recently tried Read More ›

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In the System Control Room Technical Operator Stands and Monitors Various Activities Showing on Multiple Displays with Graphics. Administrator Monitors Work of  Artificial Intelligence.

Gary Smith’s New Book Reviewed in Washington Post

Smith argues that science itself is being undermined by the tools scientists use

Walter Bradley Center Senior Fellow Gary Smith’s book Distrust: Big Data, Data-Torturing, and the Assault on Science was reviewed in The Washington Post today. Smith is a frequent contributor to Mind Matters and teaches economics at Pomona College. In his new book, Smith argues that science itself is being “undermined” by the tools scientists use. Reviewer Abby Ohlheister writes, Smith, an economist whose work often examines the misuse of data and statistics in a variety of disciplines, argues that the current crisis of trust in science falls at the intersection of three forces: disinformation, data torturing and data mining. Disinformation, as Smith writes, is “as old as the human race,” but accelerated in speed and reach alongside social media. Data Read More ›

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Composite collage image of delighted black white colors person hold telephone raise fist celebrate like notification facebook instagram tiktok

The Clock’s Ticking for TikTok

Biden admin might ban TikTok in the U.S. if company doesn't sell

The Biden administration is considering banning TikTok in the United States if the platform’s parent company, ByteDance, doesn’t sell it. The news arrives amidst growing concerns over national security and Chinese espionage tactics, particularly in light of the “spy balloon” that was shot down off the American east coast in February. ByteDance is a Chinese company, and as such, is subject to disclose its information to the Chinese Communist Party. Today, more than half of American states have placed bans on state-issued devices out of privacy and security concerns. Texas representative Paul Michael McCaul said, TikTok is a modern-day Trojan horse of the [Chinese Communist Party], used to surveil and exploit Americans’ personal information. It’s a spy baloon for your Read More ›

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Cute 3D Snapchat Ghost Cartoon Character

You Too, Snapchat? Another AI Bot Hits the Scene

"My AI" is eerily human, like the Bing bot, and just as inappropriate

Snapchat introduced a new feature in its app: an AI chatbot “friend” called “My AI.” (Just what lonesome teens need.) We’ve already seen the rogue behavior of Bing’s chatbot, which, in conversation with a New York Times tech journalist, dubbed itself “Sydney” and started beseeching its human counterpart to leave his wife and fall in love with it. Romantic, right? Not so much. The journalist left the experience with the creepy sense that AI had just crossed a sensitive boundary, and that tech companies need to get better at controlling the unpredictable beast they’ve unleashed. “My AI” Gives Shady Advice to Kids Just a couple of weeks later and here we are with AI making inroads into an app used Read More ›

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Lonely young woman feeling depressed and stressed sitting head in hands in the dark bedroom, Negative emotion and mental health concept

Social Media Researcher Calls CDC Report “The Last Straw”

When will we finally start listening to struggling teens?

Social psychologist and researcher Jean Twenge calls the latest CDC report on youth behavior “the last straw.” After years of raising the alarm about the negative effects of social media like Instagram and Snapchat on teens, particularly females, Twenge finds the situation direr than ever. It’s time to wake up and actually listen to the suffering of teens. Twenge writes in a recent post from the Institute for Family Studies, Contrary to popular belief, teen girls do not deny that social media plays a role in their misery. In Meta’s internal research on Instagram, leaked in 2021, teens frequently blamed the pressures of social media for their generation’s high rates of depression (“this reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups,” one Read More ›

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Arms raised in worship

The Asbury Revival and the Cure for TikTok

In the age of social media addiction, young people need to know they can be imperfect and yet loved

Social media portrays a world where everybody is happy and having a good time. Everybody, of course, except for you. There must therefore be something wrong with you. You are a loser. Teenage boys without girlfriends feel like social freaks. One in three teenage girls who use social media suffers from  body image issues.   Social Media and Depression Young adults who use social media are three times as likely to suffer from depression. Depression can lead to suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female suicides aged 15-24 increased by 87 percent over the past 20 years and male suicides increased by 30 percent. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says suicide is now Read More ›