Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Jonathan Bartlett

Developing programmer Team Development Website design and coding technologies working in software company office

The Two Most Common Problems with Outsourced Code

And how to mitigate against them

I have had many opportunities to work with developers outside the United States in a variety of capacities. To begin with, let me assure readers that there are great developers all over the world. The sun never sets on the current team I work with. The great thing about software development is that you can find great talent wherever the Internet is. There are great individual developers in every country, but I have found that, in many countries, the culture of software development has not evolved to where it is in America. When hiring individual developers, this rarely matters. The proper developers tend to gravitate to whatever level you are hiring at (or, alternatively, you can have a headhunter screen…

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Know When to Hold ’em, Know When to Fold ’em

Taking control of the rewrite reflex

Computer programmers are a pretty predictable bunch. Every time they approach legacy code, the gut reaction is “let’s rewrite this from scratch.” The reaction is understandable for many reasons.  First of all, code written by someone else (or even yourself a long time ago) is hard to understand. Even good documentation can’t cover every detail you need to know, and there is nothing that helps you understand the problem better than writing the code yourself. Second, as time goes on, and you think about a problem, you always come up with better (or at least different) approaches. You might realize that some aspect of your code could be factored out. You might think that rearranging the code would make it…

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Nobody is Taking Tesla AI Seriously Anymore

Tesla's "AI Day" presented reasonable discussion until the "robot" showed up

Recently, Tesla held its “AI Day.” Tesla often creates an event which highlights some aspect of their business that they want to promote to investors, customers, or to potential employees. Tesla has had “battery day” and “autonomy day” to promote Tesla efforts on those fronts. It is an attempt to keep excitement and exposure to a maximum during seasons when there are no big product reveals. While Elon Musk is typically guilty of leading people on with extravagant (and unwarranted) claims about Tesla technology, these events have recently shown a more reserved side to Tesla’s front man. In “battery day,” he was expected to launch a million-mile battery, but instead talked mostly about getting access to the minerals needed for…

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Blockchains Have NFTs Unnecessarily Tied Down

New ideas propose severing the accidental relationship between NFTs and blockchains

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), for those who haven’t been paying attention, are digital collectibles that have been gaining popularity. Essentially, they allow someone to “mark” their “ownership” of a piece of cyberspace.  Since their original inception in 2012, NFTs have invariably been tied to blockchain technology. However, a recent review of the technology by Bernard Fickser has shown that there is nothing inherently tying NFTs to blockchain. In fact, blockchains may be holding NFTs back considerably. (For those needing a refresher, a short guide to how the blockchain works can be found here.) In his article, Fickser notes several interesting discrepancies between NFTs and cryptocurrencies. First of all, there is a lot of technology built into cryptocurrencies to keep them anonymous, while the entire point of…

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No, the Surveillance State isn’t Better in the Hands of the Public

Matt Walsh's suggestion that cameras be installed in every classroom is understandable, but it won't teach children to live in a free society

In the modern era, cameras are everywhere. Nearly every person — man, woman, or child — carries a high-end video camera with them everywhere they go on their cell phone. This proliferation of cheap surveillance equipment has caused society to largely re-think the ethics of surveillance. In previous generations, sound and video recording devices were expensive. While recording equipment in general was not out of the reach of ordinary people, miniaturized equipment was, and having enough of it to actually “surveil” someone or something was quite expensive. Today, I can have nondescript cameras set up in each room in my house for just a few hundred dollars. This ability for ordinary people to engage in constant surveillance of their own…

customer holding credit card near nfc technology on counter

A Look at How New NFC Chips Prevent Counterfeiting

The same technology used in your "tap to pay" credit card is making life for counterfeiters much tougher

In the modern world of mass production, many products get their value from being one-of-a-kind. Special, limited edition shoes sell for unbelievable prices. Custom paintings and limited edition Blu-ray Discs all sell for a premium, precisely because there are so few of them in existence. However, these high-markup items quickly bring counterfeiters. As profit margins increasingly depend on limited editions, the importance of anti-counterfeiting technology becomes more important. In the last few years, NXP released a new chip that makes life much tougher for counterfeiters. NXP’s new NTAG 424 DNA chip provides an easy way for specialty manufacturers to prove the authenticity of products. This chip is made possible by many modern advancements in NFC technology. Let’s dive a little…

Behind a clock

Is Technology Running Backward?

Technology isn't adding value anymore. It's adding expense.

I’ve been a computer nerd since I was a young child. My dad bought the family a TI 99/4A before I even went to Kindergarten, and I basically started programming when I learned to read. As I grew up, the thing that fascinated me most about technology was the ability to automate.  Automation, in theory, is supposed to make people’s lives better. It’s supposed to take the drudgery out of work, to leave people to focus on the more creative aspects of their work. With a word processor, I can type, correct, spellcheck, rewrite, and reorganize in an instant. I can even maintain old drafts easily. With a spreadsheet, I can keep track of all my income, expenses, grades, goals,…

Sad african american guy holding golden bitcoin

June Crypto Mayhem: A Tough Month for Cryptocurrencies

What has caused the dramatic drops in Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Etherium, and NFT values?

The month of June has been tough on the world of cryptocurrencies, with the past week being especially harsh. It is difficult to pin down a single, specific cause behind the pullback, as a variety of new and nagging concerns about the viability of cryptocurrencies continue to mount. As for the price action, Bitcoin dropped like a rock down below $30k this past week, less than half of what its high in the last year has been. The meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin lost over 60% of its value, down to $0.24 from a high of $0.72 earlier this year. Etherium has been cut in half, as have many other cryptocurrencies. The NFT market, whose enthusiasm has ridden on the back of…

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Intelligent Design Is Not What Most People Think It Is

Widespread confusion about Intelligent Design leads us to address the question: What exactly is it?

When I tell people that I do work in Intelligent Design (ID) research, either the person I’m talking to has no idea what Intelligent Design is, or they have quite a faulty idea of what Intelligent Design is. This isn’t their fault — media reports don’t seem to be able to make sense of what we are doing either. Some people have attributed this to malice, and, while I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around, I think that it is in large part actually the result of Intelligent Design doing something genuinely new, making it difficult for people to shove us into existing boxes. Intelligent Design, at its core, says that agency is a distinct causal category in the world. That…

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An Unlikely Collaboration to Elucidate Life’s Blueprints

Joining together the forces of biology and engineering to improve both fields

What happens when you get sixty biologists and engineers together in a conference for three days? That’s the question asked by Steve Laufman, head of the Engineering Research Group at Discovery. In the recent “Conference on Engineering in Living Systems,” biologists and engineers of every stripe got together to see how the two disciplines could benefit each other. For biologists, learning how engineers examine, design, and plan projects was eye-opening. Traditionally, biologists focus on individual interactions, not whole-systems approaches. For engineers, discovering the details of cellular architecture and control mechanisms was especially enlightening.  The conference had a diverse set of presentations, covering numerous areas of overlap between the two fields. One presentation discussed biologically-inspired robots, as well as how they can…

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Ford Calls Out Exaggerated Musk Claims in Epic Twitter Troll

Automakers are beginning to respond to Musk with mockery and satire

Elon Musk has long been making strange claims about Tesla’s future plans for vehicles. At Mind Matters News, we have documented extensively his continually-changing claims about Teslas being able to be used as robotaxis. This is especially important to consumers of these products, as Tesla is charging customers $10,000 for future functionality that may never exist. We have largely ignored other claims from Musk as it is sometimes difficult to tell when Musk is being serious or when he is just joking around. This can be problematic, however, since Musk has listed his Twitter account as being a source of official company communications. Not being able to tell if a given message is an official corporate communication or just a funny…

Phrenology Head

Phrenology: The Pseudoscience That Just Won’t Give Up

Are we arguing about this AGAIN?

Phrenology is the detailed study of cranial sizes and shapes as a proxy for brain size and shape. Practitioners believed themselves to be able to use this information as an indicator of both the character and the mental abilities of the person whose brain was being investigated. Phrenology has been widely discredited, and is thought by many today to be pseudoscience. However, the vestiges of phrenology remain with us today, and are still used to justify various common beliefs and inferences, even by otherwise very educated people. The most common way that this happens is the use of brain size in the evaluation of the character of human evolution. It is often supposed by researchers that brain size can be…

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“Sentiment Analysis”? Why Not Just ASK People What They Think?

My computer science professor always told me,”Never solve a problem you can eliminate.”

AI researchers are trying to develop algorithms that pick up on cues within a written text that reveal the writer’s emotional state (sentiment analysis). Recently, Mind Matters News reported on a new algorithm for processing sarcasm in social media posts — a good example of trying to infer sentiment from text. My computer science professor always told me,”Never solve a problem you can eliminate.” It seems to me that a lot of machine sentiment analysis can be bypassed by simply asking the users to report their feelings when writing the posts. That may seem obvious but, these days, obvious answers are in short supply. Many people insist on finding the most complicated way to solve problems. Asking a user for…

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Consensus Gives Us Information Only If We Are Free to Doubt

There are so many credentialed people on the internet with sufficiently differing views that it sometimes seems as if we could find an expert somewhere to support almost any harebrained idea. So how does a non-expert figure out the truth? Most of us lack the time, training, and inclination to investigate most subjects sufficiently so we are often urged to adopt the consensus opinion. While an individual expert may have wild and crazy ideas, the consensus will most likely be an average informed view. But it’s not that simple. Most of the time it is impossible for the public to determine the consensus opinion. What is usually labeled as consensus opinion is what media believe it to be. And the…

Woman passenger sitting in the backseat and  selects a route when her self-driving car rides on the highway.

Tesla Continues to Walk Back Full Self-Driving Claims

In 2016, Tesla (TSLA) couldn’t tell enough people that its cars would soon drive themselves

In 2019, Tesla raised billions of dollars on the prospect of a fleet of a million robotaxis by the next year. However, starting on the Q3 2019 earnings call, CEO Elon Musk started walking back some of those claims. To begin with, in that earnings call, Musk started saying that “feature complete” really just meant that the “City Streets” version would be operable, not that it could actually drive without assistance. A year later, in regulatory filings with the California DMV, Tesla said, “As such, a final release of City Streets will continue to be an SAE Level 2, advanced driver-assistance feature.” In the accepted terminology around levels of self-driving, truly self-driving vehicles are classed as SAE Level 5. Level…

Crypto Currency Digital Market Monitor

Will Popularity Spell Doom for Bitcoin?

How is that possible? Well, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have a hidden weakness…

Cryptocurrencies, from Ethereum to Bitcoin to Dogecoin, seem to be all the rage these days. Altcoins (i.e., lesser-known cryptocurrencies) have become increasingly mainstream. The increasing fracturing and pluralism in the cryptocurrency space has meant that few people are directly trading with any particular currency. Most users go through trading and wallet platforms where the platform —not their own computers—hosts the cryptocurrency. Additionally, transactions are increasingly processed via third parties as well, not directly on the cryptocurrency platform. This separation between the user and the direct cryptocurrency platform has enabled a new option: a payment gateway for a website that collects payments in a number of different cryptocurrencies using a single set of tools. PayPal, one of the top gateways, recently…

Male hands holding steering wheel of a car

Do Not Be Fooled: The “Self-Driving” Car Doesn’t Drive Itself

Over-reliance on technology that is not intended to be used without human attention can be deadly

Two people died in a car crash in a Tesla on Sunday morning. While many details are yet to be confirmed, the investigators have confirmed that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of impact. Additionally, the resulting fire required more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish because the batteries continued to reignite. Here at Mind Matters, we want to reiterate to our readers that even though Tesla’s driver assistance system is officially named “Full Self-Driving”, no one should take that to mean that the car can drive itself. We have been fully documenting the problematic nature of Tesla’s self-driving claims for many years. Recently, the hype coming from Tesla has been so problematic that many other outlets have begun…

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The Fundamental Problem With Common Core Math

Intuition relies on skill, not the other way around

In 2010, a bold effort to reform math curriculum was adopted by the majority of the United States. Known as “Common Core Math,” the goal of this endeavor was to establish a common foundation of mathematics education across the country, and to help bolster not only students’ mathematical abilities, but also their mathematical intuition. The goal was to help students think about math more deeply, believing that this will help them work with mathematics better in later years. Before discussing problems with this approach, I want to say that I appreciate the idea of helping students think more deeply about mathematics. After years and years and years of mathematics education, many students wind up thinking about mathematics as merely a set…

group of school kids raising hands in classroom

Practicing the Basics: Teaching Math Facts in the Classroom

How to help students make deeper connections within mathematics with creative games.

Many people learn to hate math early on. One of the places where people learn to hate math first is in high-stakes speed testing for math facts. This has caused quite a bit of angst in mathematics education for people on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, some have advocated for getting rid of math facts memorization altogether. On the other hand, others have doubled-down, saying that we need speed tests in order to make sure that the cognitive load of arithmetic is limited for later mathematics work. While I fall more into the latter camp than the former, I do think that a more balanced approach to mathematics education may help students in the long run. …

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The Startling Energy Costs of Bitcoin

As Bitcoin gains credibility, power consumption worries grow

Most people are aware of the rising price of Bitcoin. Despite the fact that most people are unaware of how to transact in it, and few merchants take it as a form of currency, Bitcoin is becoming an increasingly popular investment. As interest in Bitcoin grows, a few people are starting to take notice of the startling energy costs associated with Bitcoin transactions. As Mind Matters has been pointing out for years, the energy costs associated with having a “trustless” system such as Bitcoin is immense, with Bitcoin transactions generally costing 400,000 times as much energy as a single transaction on the Visa network. According to the BBC, the Bitcoin network – which, again, very few people are regularly transacting in – now consumes more energy than the…