The Space of Possible Minds – Philip Ball

In 1984 computer scientist Aaron Sloman published a paper called “The structure of the space of possible minds.” It called for systematic thinking about the vague yet intuitive notion of mind, which was capable of admitting into the conversation what we had then learnt about animal cognition and artificial intelligence. Almost four decades later, we are in a fair better position to examine Sloman’s proposal: to consider what kinds of minds can exist within the laws of physics, to compare those we already recognize (including the diversity of human minds), and to speculate about the possibilities for artificial “mind design”. In this talk I will explore this question, looking at our current understanding of the functions and capabilities of biological minds, what this might imply for efforts to create artificial “minds”, and what the implications are for ideas about consciousness, agency and free will.

Speaker Bio: Philip Ball is a freelance writer and author, and worked for many years as an editor of Nature. His many books include Critical Mass (which won the 2005 Aventis Science Books prize), Beyond Weird and How to Grow a Human. His next book, The Book of Minds, will be published in early 2022.

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Neutral bots probe political bias on social media

Wen Chen, Diogo Pacheco, Kai-Cheng Yang & Filippo Menczer
Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 5580 (2021)

Social media platforms attempting to curb abuse and misinformation have been accused of political bias. We deploy neutral social bots who start following different news sources on Twitter, and track them to probe distinct biases emerging from platform mechanisms versus user interactions. We find no strong or consistent evidence of political bias in the news feed. Despite this, the news and information to which U.S. Twitter users are exposed depend strongly on the political leaning of their early connections. The interactions of conservative accounts are skewed toward the right, whereas liberal accounts are exposed to moderate content shifting their experience toward the political center. Partisan accounts, especially conservative ones, tend to receive more followers and follow more automated accounts. Conservative accounts also find themselves in denser communities and are exposed to more low-credibility content. 

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The Zero Covid strategy continues to protect people, economies and freedoms more effectively

The G10 countries are far more affected by the pandemic in all aspects than the OECD countries that have opted for the Zero Covid strategy or similar, a representative benchmark of 82 million inhabitants of economically advanced democracies.

The number of deaths per million inhabitants was 44 times higher in the G10 countries, which means 1.1 million too many deaths by June 30, 2021. Economic performance, civil liberties and mobility were also worse.

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