Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for November 9, 2019

in rsslog •  3 days ago 

The stepping stone principle provides artificial intelligence in a way that mirrors biological evolution; MIT has a squad of agile and "virtually indestructible" cheetah robots; An Oxford-style debate on the motion, "Europe Has Declared War on American Tech Companies"; Steem's not the only place where reposting is a problem; and a short Steem essay on the harms of fake exchange volume


Fresh and Informative Content Daily: Welcome to my little corner of the blockchain

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


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  1. Computers Evolve a New Path Toward Human Intelligence - This article discusses Kenneth Stanley's "stepping stone principle", which makes use of iterative adjustments to design AI algorithms in a way that mirrors biological evolution. The unique aspect of this design method is that it doesn't pursue a particular goal. Instead, it explores the universe of possibilities in search of things that might be useful - in some way. Earlier in 2019, one system using this method was able to master video games that had stumped other AI methods, and last week in Nature, the DeepMind team - known for their computer that mastered the game of Go - reported success combining this method with deep learning. An example of this principle from nature is the existence of feathers. They likely evolved to provide animals with insulation, but they later turned out to also be useful for flight. One of Stanley's most recent projects is an AI system that can design challenges for itself to solve, and then design AIs to solve them. This could, conceivably be used to design complex art or to make scientific discoveries. One of his colleagues, Jeff Clune argued in a recent paper that this technique could be the fastest path towards artificial generalized intelligence.

  2. MIT made an army of tiny, 'virtually indestructible' cheetah robots that can backflip and even play with a soccer ball — see them in action in this new video - In a recently published video, MIT's squad of mini cheetah robots can be seen roaming a field, doing backflips, and "playing" with a soccer ball. MIT's Benjamin Katz is quoted, saying, "A big part of why we built this robot is that it makes it so easy to experiment and just try crazy things, because the robot is super robust and doesn't break easily".

    Here is the video:


  • Europe Has Declared War on American Tech Companies - intelligence2 debates argues the motion, "Europe Has Declared War on American Tech Companies". Arguing for the motion are Roslyn Layton and Berin Szóka. Arguing against the motion, are Marietje Schaake and Ramesh Srinivasan. Here are some of the arguments made:

    For side:

    • EU regulations go beyond ensuring fair competition. They're motivated by a desire to bring the tech sector to heel.
    • The first pass of the GDPR drove more than 1,000 tech companies out of Europe, which led EU bureaucrats to immediately ratchet up pressure on the companies that remained.
    • The EU is terrified of countries leaving, including BREXIT and other nations. Insofar as tech companies allow activists to organize, the EU views them as an existential threat.
    • EU regulations make Europe into a terrible place to build a business, they're even driving Europe's best and brightest to the United States, which places more value on openness, learning, and experimentation.
    • Under the GDPR, the EU has ramped up monitoring, down to the detail level of letters to the editor in local papers.
    • The EU is ratcheting up copyright restrictions in a framework that it explicitly defined in terms of a trade war. Big companies can adapt, but small companies will continue to be forced out. Examples are given of a genealogy company, which was a small German hobbyist site, until the GDPR forced it to shut down. Also, churches have been forced to stop emailing their weekly bulletins to church members.
    • The European Court of Justice has been empowered to shut off connectivity to the United States at a moment's notice
    • The war by European policy-makers against the tech companies is just a part of their wider war for control of society, and against openness
    • What's going on is a sort of regulatory capture, where big tech companies have weaponized EU policies in a way that threatens their smaller competitors.

    Against side:

    • Tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and Brad Smith have all called for regulation.
    • EU regulations support liberty for business interests, consumers, and free market of ideas.
    • The Internet evolved as a public good, and tech companies should be expected to act as good stewards of a public good, even while profiting from it.
    • AI systems inherit racial and gender bias from society, and the EU is forcing AI systems, and tech companies at large, to be their better selves.
    • EU regulations support people, engaging with one another.
    • Wars have blood. Europe and America live in physical peace and safety. Don't use the word, "war" frivolously.
    • Regulation is not "against" anyone or anything. It's "for" consumers and citizens.
    • Even in the United States, the call for regulation is growing.
    • EU regulations are basically a sort of common sense balance between digital rights and digital innovation. It is "pro-innovation. It's consistent with tech branding, right -- big tech branding, at least -- in a way that balances things, that is good for consumers, good for small businesses, good for big tech companies."

    As with all intelligence2 debates, the debate is structured in a series of phases. First, the audience votes to reflect their opinions going into the debate, then the panelists make their opening statements. Next, the panelists ask each other questions, the audience asks the panelists questions, and the panelists end the debate with their closing statements. Finally, the audience votes again, and the winner is chosen by the change in audience voting based on the polls at the beginning and the end of the debate. For this debate, with a big swing in voters from "Undecided", the audience selected the "Against" side as the winners.

  • ‘Reused over and over again:’ Image recycling leads to 5-year funding ban for cancer researcher - A former director of the Cell Signaling, Retinal & Tumor Angiogenesis Laboratory at Boys Town, Sudhakar Yakkanti agreed to a ban on federal funding for five-years because of his reuse of images and fabrication of data in a number of scientific papers. Yakkanti was also an editor at several journals, including the Journal of Bioanalysis & Biomedicine and the Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy. He now appears to be working as a Vice President at United Scientific Group. It's amazing how many of the problems we see at Steem are also found in the scientific publishing industry.

  • STEEM Fake Exchange Volume Undermines the Trust in Cryptocurrency Markets - In a recent article, the cofounder of a company acknowledged that his firm will create fake volume for a cryptocurrency, which helps the tokens get listed on web sites like coinmarketcap and coingecko. In this post, @mrosenquist points out that coinmarketcap and coingecko have now begun looking for so-called "wash trading", and it may lead to delisting of coins. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @mrosenquist.)


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