Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 16, 2020

in #rsslog2 years ago (edited)

IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; An argument for the existence of free will; A study reporting on a relationship between university student population sex ratios on one hand and nearby feral cat populations on the other was taken down and classified as "Temporarily Removed" after an outraged "Tweet Storm"; A TED talk suggests that online marketplaces can thrive by investing in local entrepreneurs who are disrupted by their incursions; and a Steem post with descriptions and photos of green-blooded skink lizards

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Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.

First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


pixabay license: source.

  1. Video Friday: CMU Team Prepares for DARPA Subterranean Challenge - IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos includes: A video from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) showing off its team's devices that are under development for the next DARPA subterranean challenge; Foam devices that self-fabricate by expanding and changing shape when exposed to heat; A new robotic vacuum from Panasonic that can raise its front end in order to climb up small steps or thick carpet and also seems to have a "follow me" feature; A demo video for Surena IV: a new humanoid robot from the University of Tehran; a soft composite that conducts electricity when flexed and has other properties that are desirable for soft robotics; a drone program that's delivering drugs and anti-biotics in the Dominican Republic; and more...

    Here is a video of Roboy, a humanoid robot that, apparently, specializes in hugging:

  2. Yes, Free Will Exists - This essay starts by pointing out that traditional thinking about freewill is confused. In general people think of freewill as the opposite to predetermined choices, but the essay makes the claims that by definition, all human choices are predetermined, and that the opposite of predetermined choice is randomness. However, it says that when you get away from predetermination, and focus instead on the mechanism of determination, it becomes clear that people have free will. In short, human choices are determined by our perceptions, neurological impulses, and experiences. Since there is no external force of will that acts on us to compel our decisions, they are necessarily decisions that are made freely and therefore demonstrations of free will.

  3. A paper on cats and female students uses up one of its nine lives - A paper titled, "Where there are girls, there are cats", was published and then temporarily removed by the journal, Biological Conservation. The paper apparently reported that the sizes of feral cat populations around Chinese university campuses are directly proportionate to the proportion of female students. A number of Twitter users, apparently didn't like the finding and launched a Tweet storm that generated 275 responses. Subsequently, the journal replaced the paper with a notice saying that the paper was Temporarily Removed. The paper's corresponding author published a statement saying that they did not realize it was such a sensitive topic, and suggested that may have been due to differences in language and culture. Without weighing in on differences by sex, this article by Retraction Watch points out that research into cat populations is actually an important topic because cats are threatening the biodiversity of bird species around the world.

  4. How online marketplaces can help local economies, not hurt them - This TED talk by Amane Dannouni was published in September, 2019, and it came across the RSS feed on February 11. This talk discusses Dannouni's research into online marketplaces. The core of his argument rests on the fact that the basic function of online marketplaces is to match buyers and sellers, and that they do it more efficiently than traditional methods. In the example of online ride-sharing markets like Uber and Lyft, they make the same car more productive by as much as 40%. That productivity, he said, is normally divided among the driver, the platform, and the rider. This benefit can flow through the entire community. However, he also notes that ride-sharing companies can lead to a loss of employment among taxi drivers by as much as 30%, and goes on to argue that this sort of loss can be offset by platforms that invest in entrepreneurship in the community. As examples, he points to successful online marketplaces in Africa including Grab, Gumia, and Gojek.

  5. Steem @herpetologyguy: Meet the Lizard With Toxic Blood! - In this post, the author describes a class of skink lizard known as the green-blooded skink. As with all lizards, these lizards are able to self-amputate their tails in order to create a diversion and get away from predators, and subsequently, they can regrow the appendage. Green-blooded skinks are different, however, because the color of their blood is green, instead of red. The blood is green because it contains high concentrations of biliverdin, a chemical that is also produced in lower quantities, but is toxic in high concentrations, in other animals' blood streams. It is unclear why these green-blooded skinks have such high concentrations of biliverdin, but it has emerged at least four independent times in nature, and it doesn't seem to cause any harmful effects. One theory was that it might be toxic to predators, but experimental evidence suggests that it is safe to eat. Click through for more details and photos of these lizards. (A beneficiary setting of 10% has been applied to this post for @herpetologyguy.)

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I haven't read the link yet, but I note that I have long understood that predestination does not affect freewill in the slightest. While some program effecting this simulation or Creator God may have omniscient foreknowledge of my actions, I sure as hell don't, and make my decisions freely based on my experiences and understanding. I may not be ineffable to greater minds than mine, but I am to me, and thus my experience of my consciousness is that I am entirely free to undertake what I will at my sole option.

LOL at 'Where there are girls there are cats'. God bless 'em.


I have long understood that predestination does not affect freewill in the slightest... my experience of my consciousness is that I am entirely free to undertake what I will at my sole option.

You're ahead of me. I don't think I had come across that argument before. But now I'm wondering how that line of reasoning applies to the question of whether AI systems have free will.

LOL at 'Where there are girls there are cats'. God bless 'em.

lol. Yeah, I had to be careful with my phrasing on that one. Didn't want to launch a SteemStorm. ; -)

I reckon as far as AI is concerned it has freewill. Not even close to convinced AI presently is able to wrassle with such questions or potential of self-awareness requisite to the question.

It will though.

As to the invasive species issue, there are far too many ways that phrasing can go wrong.

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