Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryGlobal Technology

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Blockchain , cryptocurrencies , bitcoin and distributed ledger technology concept..Block chain , network connect icons and earth furnished by NASA.

Is Bitcoin Just a Flash in the Pan? Peter Thiel Responds

He reveals that PayPal started out as a libertarian project to free money from central control but that proved harder than anticipated

In this fourth and final episode based on his talk at COSM 2019, Peter Thiel — who founded PayPal in part to help break up currency monopolies — offers some thoughts on cryptocurrencies’ future. In the earlier episodes of his discussion at COSM 1919 with philosopher of technology George Gilder, top venture capitalist Peter Thiel offered Three Contrarian Ideas: 1.Big Tech, as it operates today, is communist. 2. Big Tech is also slowing down. And 3. Learning today has almost nothing to do with the so-called educational system. Now, about the future of cryptos: This portion begins at 27:21 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. George Gilder: Peter, you started PayPal, in part to…

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Old-fashioned Telephones Mounted On Wall

COSM: The Trek From Phone to Smart Phone: What Have We Learned?

Daniel Berninger, a pioneer and activist in VOIP communications, shares his insights about keeping the internet free and accessible

Daniel Berninger, an activist in the transition from plain old telephone service (POTS) to the online world of the cell phone (“disruptive communications”), will be speaking at COSM 2021. He has been involved in VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) since 1995, starting with the original assessment of VoIP at Bell Laboratories and was a founder of the VON Coalition, “keeping IP communications free from government regulation.” He is a frequently cited resource on regulatory, antitrust, and VoIP issues (for example, in Business Week, WSJ, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg, Forbes, Associated Press, Dow Jones, Info World and the trade press). He is also a founder of VCXC (Voice Communication Exchange Committee). His interests and approach: ➤ the decline of the…

Planet Earth from Space People's Republic of China highlighted, elements of this image courtesy of NASA
Planet Earth from Space, People's Republic of China warm glow highlighted state borders and counties animation, city lights, 3d illustration

LinkedIn Says Goodbye to China

If the blasé business world of LinkedIn cannot pass the Cyberspace Administration of China’s rules, then what platform can?

LinkedIn announced that it will no longer host social media and content sharing in China. Instead, it’s China-only app will be a job-board site. This comes after LinkedIn received criticism for blocking certain researcher profiles in China as well as human rights advocates and journalists who write on China. LinkedIn, which was bought by Microsoft in 2016, was one of the only U.S.-based social media outlets still operating within China. Twitter, Facebook (including Instagram, WhatsApp), and YouTube (owned by Alphabet, Inc.) are banned. Google (also owned by Alphabet, Inc.) left in 2010. Signal and Clubhouse were banned in 2021. Other apps, such as TikTok (owned by ByteDance, Inc.) have their own Chinese version that complies with censors and data regulators.…

flags of Soviet Union and China

Xi Jinping’s Ruthless March Toward “Common Prosperity”

Part II: The roots of Xi Jinping's "common prosperity" vision and why he's making changes to China's technology sector now

In my previous article we looked at the sweeping crackdown of China’s technology sector, beginning with Jack Ma and Ant Financial, and how this is part of Xi Jinping’s goal of “common prosperity.” While corruption and debt excesses needed to be reined in and people wanted better data privacy protections, Xi’s common prosperity initiative is also about concentrating power, redistributing wealth, and controlling the unpredictable market. In this article we’ll look at the roots of common prosperity and why analysts believe Xi is making these changes now. Appealing to the Working Class In his speech celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party in China, Xi said that the Party will make “notable and substantive progress toward achieving well-rounded human…

LIJIANG,CHINA-FEB 18:Mao statue,with the slogan on wall: " Long live the great Communist Party of China" in Lijiang on Feb 18 2012. Mao, a statesman who laying the foundation of new china

Will China’s Huge Tech Sector Crackdown Stifle Innovation?

Part I: How will the Common Prosperity program really play out in the private sector?

Didi Chuxing (Didi Global, Inc.), the largest ride-hailing company in the world, was reprimanded when it opened on the New York Stock Exchange after regulators warned it needed to shore up its data security issues. Meituan, China’s massive shopping and coupon app, was recently fined $533 million for “anticompetitive behavior.” Alibaba, owned by tech billionaire Jack Ma, had to pay a $2.8 billion fine for the same reasons. Antitrust regulators dinged Tencent, Baidu (China’s Google alternative), ByteDance (parent company for TikTok), and ecommerce company JD.com Inc.  The billion-dollar online private tutoring industry sank after the Chinese government declared that after-school tutoring is now non-profit only. Then the online gaming industry was hit when the Chinese government declared children are only allowed to play for a few…

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Terracotta warriors, China

China’s Data Laws Restrict Businesses and Favor the State

The Data Security Law and the Personal Information Protection Law are part of the Chinese government’s plan to steer the private sector toward State goals

In previous articles, I looked at how the Chinese government is reigning in China’s tech sector first of Jack Ma and Ant Group’s initial public offering on the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges and then Didi Global, Inc. The Chinese government has since passed two data laws and released an update that clarifies the 2017 Cybersecurity Law. The result is better protections of citizens’ data from being used, exploited, or sold by private companies, and encroaching government presumption of the private sector in which the State has virtually unrestricted access to and jurisdiction over private companies’ data.  Clarification of the 2017 Cybersecurity Law The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) gained oversight powers over other state agencies in 2014 under Xi Jinping. Jane…

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burning wires on the computer power on a black background, close-up, burnt computer equipment

EMPs From the Sun Can Wipe Computers — and Streetlights

Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) can do that as accidents of nature. But they can also be weaponized. Russia and China both have the technology to detonate at EMP from space.

In “Are your electronics protected against sudden surges?, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks spoke with electrical engineer Sarah Seguin about electromagnetic pulses. (August 5, 2021) Whether natural or designed, these surges can wreck unexpected havoc with electronics. In this second podcast, “EMPs. Be afraid. Be very afraid,” Marks, himself a computer and electrical engineer, and Seguin delve further into the risks (August 12, 2021). For example, in 1989, an electromagnetic coronal mass ejection from the sun infiltrated power plants across North America and northern Europe and destroyed a nuclear power plant’s transformer: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-147-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 00:13 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Welcome to Mind Matters News. I’m your…

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For electronic devices, photonic computer

Photonics: Because Light Travels Faster Than Electricity

Fibre optics (light) is used to transmit data via the internet but on the stationary computer, it’s the slower electrons that rule. Some researchers hope to change that

As Ryan Hamerly explains at IEEE Spectrum, optical fibers can carry more than electrical wires. But they face a limitation: But there is a big difference between communicating data and computing with it. And this is where analog optical approaches hit a roadblock. Conventional computers are based on transistors, which are highly nonlinear circuit elements—meaning that their outputs aren’t just proportional to their inputs, at least when used for computing. Nonlinearity is what lets transistors switch on and off, allowing them to be fashioned into logic gates. This switching is easy to accomplish with electronics, for which nonlinearities are a dime a dozen. But photons follow Maxwell’s equations, which are annoyingly linear, meaning that the output of an optical device…

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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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China from space on realistic model of planet Earth with network. Concept of digital technology, connectivity and travel.

What’s Behind China’s Crackdown on Big Tech?

Both China and the U.S. are treating big tech with a heavy hand, but under different motivations

In a previous article I looked at Chinese regulators’ crackdown on Didi Global, China’s ride-hailing service. Didi is one of several Chinese tech giants that have been tamed in the past nine months. Prior to Didi, Ant Group, Tencent, Meituan, and Pinduoduo were all quelled by regulators. After Didi, regulators targeted Full Truck Alliance and Kanzhun. They recently shut down online for-profit tutoring and have banned mining cryptocurrencies in China.  Thus far, the Chinese government’s actions have resulted in almost $1 trillion net losses for the Chinese tech sector.  The two big questions are, Why now? and, relatedly, Who’s next? SupChina has a well-organized explainer on China’s Big Tech Crackdown here. Another helpful resource is this video from DW, “How China is tightening control of its tech companies”: According to SupChina, China’s…

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DNA sequence with colored letters on black background containing mutation

U.S.-Made DNA ID Equipment Is Being Sold to Xinjiang’s Police

Engineering professor Yves Moreau’s research shows that a more serious approach to existing sanctions against such uses is needed

The U.S. leads the world in DNA sequencing technologies. Unfortunately, two U.S. companies’ products are being used in China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region despite the fact that the U. S. has placed sanctions on such uses. The sanctions were put in place because Chinese authorities surveil and detain Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities without legal precedent and engage in acts that are in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The New York Times, for example, obtained ten contracts, along with government procurement documents, showing that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s and Promega’s equipment is being sold to Xinjiang police: The government procurement documents and contracts show that several Chinese companies sold Thermo Fisher equipment worth at least $521,165 to…

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Bottom view close-up of four white surveillance cameras

What We Lose When We Stop Losing Things

What do we lose when we stop losing things? Amidst all this finding, do we risk losing part of ourselves?

To live is to lose. We’ve all felt the anguish of losing something important — keys, wallet, phone, bags, money, opportunities, loved ones. Loss is part of the human condition. Some things we find again, some we don’t. It has been this way throughout history. But the development of Bluetooth technology in the 1990s forever changed the way we interacted with our possessions. The wireless standard — developed by a consortium of early tech companies — uses low-power short-range radio waves to connect our gear to personal-area networks known as piconets. It got its name rather serendipitously from the medieval Scandinavian king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson. And just as his rule united Scandinavia, so Bluetooth networking has united our favorite tech…

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communicator technology on wood table top view

Apple’s Supply Chain Includes Forced Labor in China

Big companies like Apple claim they try to avoid forced labor but maybe not hard enough

The Information, an online periodical covering the tech industry, found that Apple’s supply chain includes companies that use the forced labor of members of minority groups in China, particularly Uyghurs — Chinese citizens who are ethnically Turkish and mostly Muslim: The Information and human rights groups have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China. At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found. The revelation stands in contrast to Apple’s assertions over the past year that it hasn’t found evidence of…

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conceptual image Chinese stock exchange with digital currency, devaluation of bitcoin or growth of Chinese e-rmb

Will China’s Digital Yuan Displace the US Dollar in Global Trade?

The U.S. dollar became the world’s reserve currency because it was stable and easily transferable. It also enabled the U.S. to penalize sponsors of terrorism and genocide

China has just launched its Digital Currency Electronic Payment System, called variously the electronic yuan or electronic renminbi (abbreviated e-CNY or e-RMB). It will likely thwart Alipay and WeChat Pay’s dominance in China’s financial tech market and allow the government to track almost all financial transactions in real time. There are, of course, international implications to China being the first country to roll out a digital currency backed by the central bank. Can the Digital Yuan Compete with the Dollar for Global Dominance? Some analysts now see China’s move to a digital currency based on blockchain technology as intended to displace the dollar. Right now, eighty-eight percent of global trade interactions are in U.S. dollars, followed by the euro, and…

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New Yuan digital currency of china on red economy graph chart

China Sharply Reins in Big Tech Amid All-Digital Currency Rollout

Ant Group must turn over its vast customer database to the government in exchange for the easing of strict regulations

Earlier, we looked at what China’s new digital yuan, also called Digital Currency Electronics Payment or e-CNY, will mean for Chinese citizens. The rollout may relate to billionaire e-commerce founder Jack Ma’s critiques of China’s regulators and subsequent (temporary) disappearance. Also to the subsequent denial of his Ant Group’s billion-dollar initial public offering on the Shanghai index. Since then, the Chinese government has cracked down on several Big Tech companies while promoting the digital yuan. How China is rapidly reining in its Big Tech industries Chinese media have been promoting the second annual Double Five (i.e., May 5) Shopping Festival in Shanghai. This month-long state-organized shopping festival is part of “National Consumption Promotion Month.” The first Consumption Month festival, held…

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Changing the Past

China: Snitching on Those Who Recall Non-Approved History

The Communist Party of China wants its centennial to proceed this year without memory of the millions dead in the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Square

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell, 1984 The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed on July 23, 1921, so is gearing up for the hundredth anniversary of its founding with the theme “Forever Following the Party.” In preparation, the Cyberspace Administration of China has launched a hotline for citizens to report online statements that contradict the Party’s official version of its history. A translation of the announcement from the Central Network Information Office Reporting Center is available on former American diplomat David Cowhig’s blog: One part of the announcement reads: In order to avoid misleading the public with false statements, maintain a clear cyberspace and create a good atmosphere…

Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.
Businessman hand holding tablet and Yuan currency sign on digital map backgroung.Chinese Yuan digital currency and circuit background.Technology digital Financial and china cryptocurrency concept.

Why China Is Making a Bold Gamble With Digital Currency

“Controllable anonymity” means that all transactions between individuals are visible to the People’s Bank and trackable by the Chinese government

Last week, China announced the national rollout of the electronic yuan, a plan in the works since 2014. The e-CNY* or Digital Currency Electronics Payment (DCEP) was piloted last year in four major Chinese cities: The digital yuan resides in cyberspace, available on the owner’s mobile phone — or on a card for the less tech-savvy — and spending it doesn’t strictly require an online connection. It appears on a screen with a silhouette of Mao Zedong, looking just like the paper money. In tests in recent months, more than 100,000 people in China have downloaded a mobile-phone app from the central bank enabling them to spend small government handouts of digital cash with merchants, including Chinese outlets of Starbucks…

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Silicon microchip on fingertip

Why the Global Shortage in Computer Chips Matters to You

What? A global shortage in chips? Delays? Higher costs? Whatever happened to Moore’s Law?

Read on. Moore’s Law only holds when chip supply isn’t an issue. Just now, the microchips that make every electronic device work are in short supply. The COVID-19 pandemic and unexpectedly cold weather in Texas temporarily closed chip factories. As news of the shortage spread, “panic buying” cleaned out inventory. Several other factors drive a continuing shortage as well: ● The switch to 5G phones is increasing chip demand, leading to delays: Even the mighty Apple, a $2tn company and the world’s biggest buyer of semiconductors spending $58bn annually, was forced to delay the launch of the much-hyped iPhone 12 by two months last year due to the shortage. Mark Sweney, “Global shortage in computer chips ‘reaches crisis point’” at…

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Huge smoke clouds on sky background

Cloud Computing? There’s a Lot of Smoke in Those Clouds

Big Tech creates many environment issues that we do not often hear about, the way we hear about coal mines and landfills

When we think about environment problems, we naturally imagine huge smokestacks turning the sky dark and coating the trees with soot. But glitzy high tech stuff like cloud computing and cryptocurrency use a lot of energy too. Cloud computing, where we use computing resources via the internet without installing and maintaining them, is a huge energy hog we never see: The music video for “Despacito” set an Internet record in April 2018 when it became the first video to hit five billion views on YouTube. In the process, “Despacito” reached a less celebrated milestone: it burned as much energy as 40,000 U.S. homes use in a year. Naomi Xu Elegant, “The Internet Cloud Has a Dirty Secret” at Fortune (September…

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Young male employee in industrial espionage concept

Why Do Huawei’s “Inventions” Look Oddly Familiar?

One former Motorola employee was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago with more than 1,000 documents, on her way to Beijing on a one-way ticket
Earlier we looked at how Huawei stole intellectual property from Canada’s once world-class Nortel, which most likely led to the company’s demise. But Nortel wasn’t the only company that Huawei targeted. Read More ›