Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryProgramming

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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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The code is on a laptop on a wooden table in front of the window  in the dark with a view of the lights of the night city, color lighting in the room, home decor

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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Young man using modern mobile phone

Does the Company Selling You Tech Have the Same Worldview As You?

A worldview is how we view the world and our place in it.

Much of the technology we interact with today is part of a larger group of ecosystems maintained by major tech companies. If you have an iPhone, for example, you’re often more likely to use a Macbook, watch AppleTV, or subscribe to Apple Music. If you shop on Amazon, you might also have their Echo digital assistant or a Ring video doorbell. And if you Chromebook, you’re likely to use Gmail and maybe have a Pixel. Fueled by brand loyalty, tech ecosystems are part of the workings of a healthy free market. But if you’re going to commit to a tech company by being part of their ecosystem, it’s important to compare the worldview of that company to your own and…

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Couleur

How Google’s Chromebook Erodes Your Digital Freedom

A Chromebook is designed to serve up Google services, allowing Google outsized control of your computing experience and your digital identity.

This month, Chromebook turns ten years old. It’s a good time to take a look at Google’s latest Chromebook offering and show you why you can do better. Much better. Although the Pixelbook Go has a hefty price tag and is lighter, thinner, and faster than ever, it’s still just a Chromebook. Here’s why using a Chromebook weakens your computing power, erodes your digital freedom, and reduces your ability to learn and think. “I’ve got the power,” goes the famous 90’s song by Snap!, but you wouldn’t be able to sing that with confidence holding a Chromebook. Somewhere between netbook and notebook, the Chromebook is a physical manifestation of the Google ecosystem, giving customers who already use Google services a…

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Fresco at Palace of Knossos in Crete

How a Searchable Database Is Helping Decipher a Lost Language

A cryptographer “solved” Minoan B from ancient Cretan culture in the 1950s but Minoan A remained a mystery until recently

There was once a flourishing civilization on the island of Crete called the Minoan culture (3000–11100 B.C.). Two languages are associated with it, Minoan A and, later, Minoan B. Minoan B was deciphered but Minoan A has remained a mystery that has “tormented linguists for many decades,” as Patricia Klaus puts it. Deciphering it would give us a window back as far as 1800 BC.: Linear A, which was used by the Minoans during the Bronze Age, exists on at least 1,400 known inscriptions made on clay tablets. The language has baffled the world’s top archaeologists and linguistic experts for many years. Patricia Claus, “Minoan Language Linear A Linked to Linear B in Groundbreaking New Research” at Greek Reporter (May…

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Texture background abstract black and white or silver Glitter and elegant for Christmas

Researchers Make a Trillion Aluminum Atoms Behave as Single Wave

Such demonstrations show that quantum computers, which could solve much bigger problems much faster, are viable

Just recently, researchers managed to “entangle” two very tiny aluminum drums as if they were merely quantum particles — a first that helps pave the way for quantum computing. But it’s an unsettling first because the world above the level of the electron (macroscopic world) is supposed to behave according to Newton’s classical physics rules, not weird quantum rules under which two entangled particles sync no matter how far apart they are (non-locality). Like conductors of a spooky symphony, researchers have ‘entangled’ two small mechanical drums and precisely measured their linked quantum properties. Entangled pairs like this might someday perform computations and transmit data in large-scale quantum networks. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Quantum drum duet measured” at…

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Spread your influence and opinions to other people. Good cultural and powerful bad effect. Undue unwholesome sway. Business leader concept.

How Erik Larson Hit on a Method for Deciding Who Is Influential

The author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence decided to apply an algorithm to Wikipedia — but it had to be very specific

Here’s another interview (with transcript) at Academic Influence with Erik J. Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do (2021). The book was #2 at Amazon as of 11:00 am EST today in the Natural Language Processing category. In this interview, Larson talks about how he developed an algorithm to rank people by the amount of influence they have, using Wikipedia. That was one of the projects that got him thinking about myths of artificial intelligence. It began with his reading of Hannah Arendt, a philosopher of totalitarianism: Excerpt (0:04:25.0) Erik Larson: And she has a whole philosophy of technology that I was reading as background to write The Myth of Artificial…

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Car and bus accident, bumper to bumper

Automated Driving and Other Failures of AI

How would autonomous cars manage in an environment where eye contact with other drivers is important?

Yesterday I posted a review here of philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. There’s a lot more I would like to say. Here are some additional notes, to which I will add in a couple of future posts. Three of the failures of Big Tech that I listed earlier (Eugene Goostman, Tay, and the image analyzer that Google lobotomized so that it could no longer detect gorillas, even mistakenly) were obvious frauds and/or blunders. Goostman was a fraud out of the box. Tay a blunder that might be fixed in the sense that its racist language could be mitigated through some appropriate machine learning. And the Google image analyzer — well that was just pathetic: either retire the image…

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Closeup of woman's hands holding windup toy, selective focus

Before Digital: The World’s Most Amazing Windup Toys

Before electronics, there was mechanics — and it’s amazing what human ingenuity can do with a simple windup mechanism

Windup toys were what we had before we had electricity and robotics. Some very elaborate ones were designed by clockmakers, starting in the late sixteenth century. Most of these clever clockworks, if they survived at all, survive only as faithful replicas. In order of approximate dates, here are some that did — remarkable testimonies to human skill, artistry, and cleverness: 1560s: One of the earliest is a mechanical monk: “The lore surrounding the monk is that King Philip II, son of Charles V, commissioned [clockmaker Juanelo] Turriano to create the penitent automaton after Philip’s son had recovered from a deathly illness. The king of Spain had prayed for his son’s recovery, promising a miracle for a miracle, and this machine…

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Omega, the letter of a Greek alphabet. Greek numerals, mathematical eight hundred number concept. Abstract, digital, wireframe, low poly mesh, Raster blue neon 3d illustration. Triangle, line dot

Is Chaitin’s Unknowable Number a Constant?

One mathematics team has succeeded in the first 64 bits of a Chaitin Omega number

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview V: Chaitin’s Number,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his conversation with mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s unknowable number. In this segment, Dr. Marks and Dr. Chaitin discuss whether the unknowable number is really a number… or is it a constant? In earlier podcasts linked below, they have discussed a variety of topics ranging from gifted mathematicians of the past through how to understand creativity in a mathematical way—and more. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-128-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 01:32 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): I want to clear up something first of all. Stanford’s Thomas Cover and Joy Thomas wrote a book that…

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Arrested man handcuffed hands at the back

How China’s “Hostage Diplomacy” Traps Unsuspecting Visitors

Canada’s “Two Michaels” await their fate in prison in China, hostages to the growing tensions in a high-tech war

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor (pictured) and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in 2018 on charges of espionage and sharing state secrets, and held in prison since then. Spavor’s trial was on March 19, 2021, in Dandong near China’s border with North Korea. Kovrig’s trial was on March 22 in Beijing. As of this writing, no verdict has been announced. Their trials coincided with the U.S-China Summit in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18 and 19, 2020, which involved a tense back-and-forth between the two countries. Court proceedings were closed-door and Spavor’s and Kovrig’s lawyers were not allowed to be present. That, according to Canada’s deputy chief of mission in China, violates the Canada-China consular agreement. Prime Minister…

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hand of scientist holding flask with lab glassware in chemical laboratory background, science laboratory research and development concept

A Question Every Scientist Dreads: Has Science Passed the Peak?

Gregory Chaitin worries about the growth of bureaucracy in science: You have to learn from your failures. If you don’t fail, it means you’re not innovating enough

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things, including whether the great discoveries in science are behind us — not due to lack of creativity or ability on the part of scientists — but to the growing power of corporate and government bureaucracies to stifle research. But then a question arises: Could science, succumbing to the swamp of bureaucracy, be losing that inventive edge? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 24:56 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: What did an airplane engineers say once in a speech I heard? He said, “In the…

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technician standing in front of giant circuitboard, slight zoom effect

For Computers, Smart Is Not the Same Thing as Fast

In response to a reader’s good question …

In a recent article, I argued that computers are not, and never can become smarter. An insightful reader wrote to ask, “What if smartness is defined by speed?” This is a good point. The debate revolves around the definition of “smart.” and if we define “smart” as “fast”, then since computers are certainly getting faster they will necessarily become smarter. Such a definition has intuitive appeal. Think of the world’s best chess player versus a beginner. One of the big distinctions is the chess expert will choose a good move more quickly than a beginner, and in general will play faster than a beginner. As such, play speed demonstrates a certain level of intelligence on the part of the player.…

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Online education concept

How Stephen Wolfram Revolutionized Math Computing

Wolfram has not made computers creative but he certainly took a lot of the drudgery out of the profession

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including why math or engineering geniuses (Elon Musk came to mind, of course) can’t just follow the rules. This week, we look at Stephen Wolfram’s new program that checks your hard math. What can — and can’t — it do for mathematicians? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 13:22 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: Now, there is what I regard as a piece of AI, so it might be interesting to talk about it. My friend Stephen Wolfram (pictured), the system he’s created,…

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SpaceX Concept Spacecraft in orbit of the Earth. SpaceX Elon Musk Mars programm 3d render

Why Elon Musk and Other Geniuses Can’t Afford To Follow Rules

Mathematician Gregory Chaitin explains why Elon Musk is, perhaps unexpectedly, his hero

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including why great books on math, advancing new theorems, aren’t written much any more. This week, we look at why geniuses like Musk (whose proposed Mars Orbiter is our featured image above) simply can’t just follow the rules, for better or worse: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 7:57 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: Look at Elon Musk (pictured). He’s my great hero. He’s a wonderful engineer and he’s a wonderful entrepreneur and he doesn’t follow the rules. Robert J. Marks: He doesn’t,…

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DNA Computing - Abstract Illustration

Is Computing With DNA the Wave of the Future?

We are running out of conventional space to store information and life forms’ DNA stores it much more efficiently

Why would we want to compute with DNA? Well, first, we are fast approaching the limit of how small we can make computers. So some scientists are turning to the designs in nature for help: The issue with transistors is that they now exist at the scale of a few nanometers in size—only a few silicon atoms thick. They can’t practically be made any smaller than they are now. If they get any smaller, the electrical current flowing through the transistor easily leaks out into other components nearby or deforms the transistor due to heat, rendering it useless. You need a minimum number of atoms to make the transistor work and we’ve functionally reached that limit. John Loeffler, “What is…

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The first model of the computational mechanism is an arithmometer.

Computers Are Getting Faster But Are They Getting Smarter? No.

Computers are Turing machines, limited to operations that can be completely understood in relation to their programming

Won’t quantum computers be smarter than regular ones? No. Still No. What about optical computing, computing with DNA, or some other exotic form of computation? Always No. A skeptical reader might ask, Why such a definitive answer? How do you deal with the spectacular performance of deep learning? What about AlphaGo Zero? What about Watson? What about the infamous Deep Blue? What about quantum supremacy? Don’t these examples all disprove your point? No. All forms of computation past, present, and future will be physical. And all physical phenomena can be modeled by a Turing machine (pictured). No matter how fast the computer runs, the computer will never be more powerful than a Turing machine. A Turing machine consists of five…

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Real Php code developing screen. Programing workflow abstract algorithm concept. Lines of Php code visible under magnifying lens.

How did Ray Solomonoff Kickstart Algorithmic Information Theory?

He started off the long pursuit of the shortest effective string of information that describes an object

In last week’s podcast,, “The Chaitin Interview II: Defining Randomness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on how best to describe true randomness but also on what he recalls of Ray Solomonoff (1926–2009), described in his obit as the “Founding Father of algorithmic information theory.” https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-125-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 10:30 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin (pictured): Ray Solomonoff was interested in prediction but I was more interested in looking at a given string of bits and asking, does it have structure or not, and the incompleteness results regarding this question. For example, most strings of bits have no structure, according to this definition. They…

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Infinite random numbers, original 3d rendering background, technology and science concepts

Chaitin’s Discovery of a Way of Describing True Randomness

He found that concepts from computer programming worked well because, if the data is not random, the program should be smaller than the data

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview II: Defining Randomness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on randomness. It’s a subject on which Chaitin has thought deeply since his teenage years (!), when he published a journal paper on the subject. How do we measure randomness? Chaitin begins by reflecting on his 1969 paper: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-125-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 1:12 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Gregory Chaitin: In particular, my paper looks at the size of computer programs in bits. More technically you ask, what is the size in bits of the smallest computer program you need to calculate a given digital object? That’s called the program…

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Program development concept. Young man working with computer

Why Software Cannot Just Evolve — a Demonstration

The claims for Avida — a software program that is supposed to “evolve” solutions via neo-Darwinian evolution — fail the most basic test

A Michigan State University publication headlined a media release declaring: “Evolution of learning is key to better artificial intelligence” (September 19, 2019). Reportedly, researchers used the computer simulation software, Avida, to show the “evolution of learning.” On that view, artificial intelligence arises via neo-Darwinian evolution. Really? The “Sound Bites” Were Exciting… The university’s team “composed of biologists and computer scientists used a digital evolution program that allowed them to observe tens of thousands of generations of evolution in just a few hours, a feat unachievable with living systems.” According to the release: • “The results are the first demonstration that shows the evolution of associative learning in an artificial organism without a brain.” • “While the environment was simulated, the…