Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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T-shirt made in Bangladesh. Customer looking at the origin and import country of a cheap fashion product in clothes store or shop. Ethical consumer behavior. Woman holding label and price tag with tex

What Do Robots Find Hard? Sewing a T-shirt, For One Thing

Humans automatically and constantly adjust hand movements to the ever-changing alignment of cloth. Robots just freeze

Menswear entrepreneur Harris Quinn wrote a thoughtful piece at Wired recently on the mixed success of efforts to automate sewing via Sewbots, for example, developed by SoftWear Automation CEO Palaniswamy Rajan: One reason that sewing lends itself so well to the grinding labor of sweatshops is that it is very difficult to automate. That’s because cloth is pliable and constantly moving. The Sewbots face unexpected hurdles: But no two batches of cotton are exactly alike, often varying from harvest to harvest; variations in the fabric and dyes further complicate matters. Each variation can necessitate recalibrating the system, interrupting operations, and SoftWear has to train its machinery to respond accordingly. “The biggest challenge we have faced getting to a production system…

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senior woman is receiving post from an futuristic robotic delivery service

Don’t Plan Your Career Around Driving a Delivery Van

Or doing a variety of tasks where repetitive movement is the key to success, if Boston Dynamics' robotics are anything to go by

Boston Dynamics is a cutting-edge robotics company that’s spent decades behind closed doors making robots that move in ways we’ve only seen in science fiction films. They occasionally release videos on YouTube of their life-like machines spinning, somersaulting or sprinting, which are greeted with fascination and fear. We’ve been trying, without any luck, to get into Boston Dynamics’ workshop for years, and a few weeks ago they finally agreed to let us in. After working out strict COVID protocols, we went to Massachusetts to see how they make robots do the unimaginable. From the outside, Boston Dynamics headquarters looks pretty normal. Inside, however. it’s anything but. If Willy Wonka made robots, his workshop might look something like this. There are…

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Reflection of a man looking at a help wanted sign in a business window, economy concept

AI vs. the Pandemic: A Hopeful View of the Future of Work

A look at what was predicted and what really happened

In 2019, philosopher Jay Richards offered some thoughts on whether robots would take all our jobs, as widely predicted. In the meantime, the unforeseeable COVID-19 pandemic idled many more people than robots did or could have. But let’s take a look at how well Richards’ reflections in “Creative Freedom, Not Robots, Is The Future Of Work” have fared. Note: Dr. Richards was speaking at the launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence in Dallas, Texas on August 18. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-142-Jay-Richards.mp3 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Richards started by pointing out that vast numbers of pundits were committed to the view that AI and robots will take our jobs: Jay Richards: Let me give…

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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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Frozen British traditional post office mailbox

Who Will Your Boss Believe? You or That Glitzy New Computer?

In the largest miscarriage of justice in decades, the British Post Office chose to believe the computer, resulting in bankruptcies, jail, and suicide. At last the truth emerged…

Texas State professor of electrical engineering Karl Stephan (pictured) has the story, reprinted with permission from his blog Engineering Ethics. Dr. Stephan is the author of Ethical and Otherwise: Engineering in the Headlines, a collection of his writings on ethics and technology: Suppose you enjoy a secure government job at which you work diligently, and you have advanced to the managerial position of a sub-postmaster in Post Office Ltd, the quasi-public organisation that provides postal services in most of the UK.  Then your organisation installs a new computerised system called Horizon that promises to eliminate a lot of paperwork accounting and make things easier for everybody.  But soon after it is installed, you find that your accounts are not matching up with…

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Collage of portraits of young emotional people on multicolored background in neon. Concept of human emotions, facial expression, sales. Listening to music, delighted, winner, shocked. Flyer for ad

AI Prof Sounds Alarm: AI “Emotion Detectors” Are Faulty Science

An industry worth over $30 billion uses emotion recognition technology (ERT) on school children and potential hires

Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft, and author of Atlas of AI (2021), is warning at Nature that the COVID-19 pandemic “is being used as a pretext to push unproven artificial-intelligence tools into workplaces and schools.” The software is touted as able to read the “six basic emotions” via analysis of facial expressions: During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for monitoring workers and even children remotely. Take, for example, a system named 4 Little Trees. Developed in Hong Kong, the program claims to assess children’s emotions while they do classwork. It maps facial features to assign each pupil’s emotional state into a category such as happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise and fear. It also…

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Two HR specialists man and woman analyzing the market of alumni to boost the intern program at international consulting company. Hiring new talented officers. Social media hologram icons.

AI’s Future: Combining RPA With AI to Augment Knowledge Workers

The work machines can’t do is usually the rewarding part, both personally and financially

Counterterrorism requires analysts to work through millions of Twitter and Facebook messages, YouTube videos, and websites in multiple languages, far too much work for humans. But a combination of AI (artificial intelligence) and RPA (robotic process automation) can help humans do this work, leaving humans in charge of the most complex and important decisions. AI systems can crawl through documents in any language, automatically translating them, extracting names of people and organizations, and doing sentiment analysis of conversations to identify key text to be considered later by humans. This text can be automatically organized into proper bins using RPA, enabling a data processing and analytics pipeline that can handle large amounts of content at speeds never possible in the past.…

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Businessman working with skeleton in office

Sci-fi Saturday: When “The Workplace” Is Anything But

The short film (less than 10 min) starts with a woman reassuring herself, unsettlingly, “I AM the boss”

“The Workplace” at DUST by Carlyn Hudson (April 1, 2021, 9:32 min) We’ve been warned: “You are very qualified.” For what though? “In a future economy subsumed by technological employment, humans continue to find meaning through their ‘work’ — where the lucky ones get to show up to an “office” from 9-5 and live out their mundane workplace fantasies.” This sci-fi short will appeal to many who have had a job at the corner of Rat and Race and sense that’s a blessing compared to the alternative. It starts with a woman reassuring herself, “I AM the boss,” and cuts to her interviewing a job candidate who seems off-putting at first but appears qualified — and then things get weird.…

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Bangkok, Thailand 25 AUG 2020. Men hand using digital tablet for search information on Google.  Wireless Smartphone technology with intelligence search engine.

Google’s Leading AI Ethics Researcher Fired, Amid Controversy

Her research team targeted Google’s “cash cow”: advertising

Timnit Gebru, a leading AI ethics researcher, was fired from Google early this month under circumstances that have raised suspicions across the industry: On December 2, the AI research community was shocked to learn that Timnit Gebru had been fired from her post at Google. Gebru, one of the leading voices in responsible AI research, is known among other things for coauthoring groundbreaking work that revealed the discriminatory nature of facial recognition, cofounding the Black in AI affinity group, and relentlessly advocating for diversity in the tech industry. But on Wednesday evening, she announced on Twitter that she had been terminated from her position as Google’s ethical AI co-lead. “Apparently my manager’s manager sent an email [to] my direct reports…

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Bored student girl during math lesson

Helping Students See How Math Benefits Them in the Long Run

To keep them motivated, we need to answer the “Why bother?” question honestly and directly

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed. In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) Here in Part 3, we will concentrate on making the curriculum more “conscious” of what students are supposed to be learning in mathematics. One of the primary complaints students have about higher mathematics is that they don’t see where they are going to use the information later in their jobs. There are a number of ways of answering this question but first I want to…

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smart retail concept, robot service use for check the data of or Stores that stock goods on shelves with easily-viewed barcode and prices or photo compared against an idealized representation of store

WalMart Shelves Its Robot Inventory Clerks

These costly experiences are helping businesses better understand when automation works and when it just doesn’t

The WalMart automation project started in 2017, as part of an effort to compete with Amazon: Walmart, which posted record online sales in its recent quarter, now has more workers walking the aisles to package online orders, extracting new data on inventory problems, people familiar with the situation told the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report this news. Reuters Staff, “Walmart drops plans to use robots for tracking inventory” at Reuters Here’s some background: Walmart ended the partnership because it found different, sometimes simpler solutions that proved just as useful – something that came to light during the coronavirus pandemic as more shoppers flock to online delivery and pickup, forcing Walmart to have workers physically walk store…

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Virtual meeting with many people together. African-American young guy talking online with employees via video connection. Multiracial team. Back view

Three New Concepts That Can Help You Plan Your Career

The post-Covid internet economy isn’t so much difficult as it’s different

Concepts aren’t magic but they do focus the mind. Consider, for example, the new economy: “new, high-growth industries that are on the cutting edge of technology” (Investopedia). In the 1990s, putting all the changes we were going through together in one phrase helped many people redirect job or career searches and stay in the game. Here are three new concepts that might help us understand the job market today: First, the attention economy: In an internet-dependent culture, attention is a form of currency (money). Your attention is valuable and many people are competing for it. That’s a big change from yesteryear: For most of human history, access to information was limited. Centuries ago many people could not read and education…

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Video call. Online zoom conference. Business team gathered for an online meeting in zoom app. On a computer monitor a group of people online

COVID-19: Technology Trends That Are Sneaking Up on Us Faster Now

Most of these changes, for better or worse, are probably here to stay

We knew big changes were coming. And that COVID-19 has ramped them up. But when experts expound grand generalities and wave their hands a lot, it can be hard to clearly see what a change means where we live and work. One writing teacher, for example, learned how to massively adapt all of a sudden: Each spring, I teach Writing about Oneself, a class on first-person reading and writing, to 12 Yale undergraduates chosen from 100 or so… Every year I fill out the registrar’s Pedagogical Needs Request Form, leaving 14 of the 15 “Technological Needs” boxes unchecked. (No, I don’t need a SMART board. No, I don’t need a digital projector. No, I don’t need a Blu-ray player.) The…

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People on railway station and man in face mask using on phone while epidemic and covid19. Coronavirus and travel and public transport.

Top Consumer Trends COVID-19 Will Change Long Term

Data from 40 countries suggests that, post-COVID, people will continue to stick close to home

According to analysts, robotic devices are becoming more popular for a reason few would have guessed earlier; they reduce the need for physical human contact. Recycling, however, has taken a hit and weaning consumers from disposables post-COVID may prove a challenge. Huge firms are riding the storm, however, and Gen Z is spending the lockdown improving its career chances. Meanwhile, consumers surveyed around the globe say they plan to travel less.

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Post-COVID: Five Ways Your Job Could Change

This is a good time to be a creative thinker and innovator.

Many COVID-driven innovations will likely endure, whether it’s vets doing telehealth, trolls harassing Zoom users, or cybercriminals targeting remote workers, the new opportunities and risks will stay with us.

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Man teleworking from home after coronavirus pandemic

Five Possibly Unexpected Ways the Post-COVID Office Will Change

We’ll all know more about remote working than we ever thought we would

Some managers worry that remote employees will not be productive. They don’t always consider that the remote worker is the person in charge if something affects her work. For example, in an office building, if the water is shut off due to a street repair, a manager would likely co-ordinate. But at home, the worker must decide for herself how best to deal with it, while remaining productive. A level playing field would recognize overall long-term output vs. costs in either case.

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Asian business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home..

Online Conferences, Part 3: Conference Documents and Technology Tests

Before we go live, what documents should we provide? What tests should we do?

Coordinating online events requires several important documents. Four packets of information are absolutely critical to running an online conference well.

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Woman Sitting On Sofa At Home Using Laptop Computer

Online Conferences, Part 2: Conference Personnel

How the people who make it happen work their magic

Understanding various roles like Room Host and Master of Ceremonies, and finding the right people for them, will go a long way to making the conference a success.

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Photo by Gabriel Benois

Online Conferences, Part 1: Conference Technology

The COVID-19 crisis has sparked a demand for online conferences. Here’s how to make it work

The COVID-19 response has plunged many people who have never used online meeting software into the world of virtual meetings. One challenge that comes up is running an entire conference online. I’ve been doing that on and off since 2016 so I can outline some things you need to think about if you try. This three-part series covers 1) Conference Technology (below), 2) Conference Personnel, and 3) Conference Documents and Technology Tests. Part 1. Conference Technology Most of the meetings I have organized were on a tight budget so the solutions I will be suggesting are all free or extremely low cost. However, the main thing to recognize is that, as of right now, no one system has everything that…

Group Friends Video Chat Connection Concept

We Will Never Go Back to the Pre-COVID-19 Workplace

The virus forced us to realize: Staying together apart has never been so easy

While many people (myself included) have railed against the excesses of technology and its tendency to weaken community spirit and understanding, it turns out that, in the present crisis, it is having the opposite effect. We aren’t really alone in the same way any more.

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