Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive November 2018

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Who Does the Concept of “Intellectual Property” Really Benefit?

Was traditional copyright law meant to protect algorithms that decide people’s financial fate?
The title question is more complicated than we might at first suppose. The short answer is, not necessarily the starving artist, says Samir Chopra, a Brooklyn College philosophy professor and co-author with Laurence F. White of A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents. Read More ›
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Quantity vs Quality: Can AI Help Scientists Produce Better Papers?

What happens when scientists simply can't read all their peers' papers and still find time for original research?
Quantity is definitely a solved problem. STM, the “voice of scholarly publishing” estimated in 2015 that roughly 2.5 million science papers are published each year. Some are, admittedly, in predatory or fake journals. But over 2800 journals are assumed to be genuine. Read More ›
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Man in a maze

Has Neuroscience Disproved Thinking?

A philosopher argues that Nobel Prize-winning research shows that the theory of mind is just another illusion, useful for survival and success
We've all seen this sort of argument before in many other guises. It is commonly called “reductionism.” The reductionist claims that, because an object can be construed as made up of parts, the object is just the parts. It is like saying that because an article like this one is constructed from letters of the alphabet, the article is only rows of letters. Read More ›
Robert J. Marks with Michael Medved
Robert J. Marks on Great Minds with Michael Medved

Robert J. Marks Talks Computers with Michael Medved

Computers can magnify what we do, he says, and that's the real threat
Recently, Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, sat down with radio host and author Michael Medved to help sort through the confusion about what artificial intelligence can and can’t do, now and in the future. Read More ›
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Leaves of a maple tree

Can Plants Be as Smart as Animals?

Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain
None of the plants' extensive "social life" requires reason, emotion, value systems, mind, consciousness, or a sense of self. It requires only that the plant, like an animal, seek to continue its highly organized existence. But plants' ability to process information for that purpose gives pause for thought.   Read More ›
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View of Lake Michigan from the Memorial Museum in Milwaukee, Wi

AI Winter Is Coming

Roughly every decade since the late 1960s has experienced a promising wave of AI that later crashed on real-world problems, leading to collapses in research funding.
Nearly all of AI’s recent gains have been realized due to massive increases in data and computing power that enable old algorithms to suddenly become useful. For example, researchers first conceived neural networks—the core idea powering much machine learning and AI’s notable advances—in the late 1950s. The worries of an impending winter arise because we’re approaching the limits of what massive data combined with hordes of computers can do. Read More ›
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Retro robots

Does Democracy Demand a War on Twitterbots?

A key concern is that citizens could be induced to vote for a demagogue by Twitterbots spreading fake news.
Underlying much of the angst about the political impact of bots is a basic premise: Most of us need help thinking for ourselves and protection from the many bad influences that we are not able to recognize, the way our betters can. Read More ›
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Aerial shot of artists and craters at work

Human Consciousness May Not Be Computable

One model of consciousness would mean that conscious computers are a physical impossibility
As long as computers simply get faster and use more memory, there is no reason to worry about a self-aware Skynet. Read More ›
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Can the Air Force Create Thinking Planes?

Smart drones? They are working on general artificial intelligence (GAI)
Eric Holloway: The likely way this will turn out is they'll realize human-in-the-loop is unavoidable for any useful system, so it'll spin off into something like the existing field of human computation. Read More ›
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Do Quasars Provide Evidence for Free Will?

Possibly. They certainly rule out experimenter interference.
The universe would seem much neater if everything were determined. One result is that objections to randomness and to free will have become more sophisticated. But have they succeeded? Read More ›
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Workers at Hino Motors Manufacturing Indonesia, Indonesia

Is AI Creating the Conditions for Marxist Revolution?

An analyst looks at the conditions then and now
Last summer, we noted Karl Marx’s eerie AI prediction; he felt that capitalism would fall when machines replaced human labor. While today’s market economy doesn’t seem in a hurry to fulfill either prediction, some see artificial intelligence as enabling a comeback of his theories. Read More ›
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Tom Stoppard’s New Play Tackles Consciousness Itself

Consciousness is a hard problem for science, principally because no one quite understands what makes us the subjects of our experiences.
According to one critic, the problem that has preoccupied Stoppard throughout his career is “Are the materialists right, or is there more to man than mere flesh?” Read More ›
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Too Big to Fail Safe?

If artificial intelligence makes disastrous decisions from very complex calculations, will we still understand what went wrong?
A neuroscientist offers an example of the kind of thing that can go wrong, while the AI system is still small and focused enough to be easily understood: Read More ›
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AI Social Media Could Totally Manipulate You

Deep learning specialist: And the scary thing is, the AI needed is not especially advanced
Readers familiar with The Two Towers will recall that that’s precisely what Worm-Tongue did to Theoden King: The king heard nothing but what was conveyed to him from his would-be overlord by Worm-tongue, until someone separated him, rather forcibly, from his "social medium." Read More ›
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How the KGB Found CIA Agents

An illustration of complex, specified information (CSI) in the world of foreign intelligence agencies
The concept, which has been controversial with respect to the universe as a whole, can be conveniently illustrated on a smaller scale in the events of our time. Consider the case of the phantom Soviet moles. Read More ›
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Advertising billboards at Times Square

The Death of the Ad Agency Was Widely Publicized

But, like so many industries, advertising turned out to be weathering the digital storm after all
A recent surge in jobs could be temporary. But it’s beginning to look as though the iconic ad culture is adjusting to the digital age. There's a film in that too. Probably a lot of them.   Read More ›
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A green lizard eyeing the camera

Yes, Even Lizards Can Be Smart

If you catch them at the right time. But can we give machines what the lizard has by nature?
What is it that we want machines to be and do under our guidance that these—often seemingly strange—life forms are and do spontaneously? The life forms do those things to stay alive. Does it matter then that machines are not alive? Read More ›
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Crows Can Be as Smart as Apes

But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn't seem to reside in the details of the mechanism
Studying animals' intelligence has taught us many things. But in some ways, it has deepened the mystery of intelligence. Read More ›
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Is the Future of Work Relentlessly Urban?

Amazon’s new combined New York and Washington headquarters may provide an unintended test
The idea of two different locations would likely be unworkable apart from the internet. But some wonder if Amazon has grasped all the implications of the internet. Read More ›
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Facial Recognition Aids Persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims

Western companies still seek business ties with an increasingly authoritarian regime
The crackdown on religion is said to stem from Xi Jinping, who became President in 2012. After he got term limits removed in March 2018, some have begun to privately call him “Emperor Xi.” Read More ›