Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive January 2019

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Bronzed person wearing virtual reality glasses

AI as an Emergent Religion

Science philosopher Mike Keas’s new book discusses how AI and ET are merging, to create a religion of futurist magic

Many Singulatarians hold that their soon-to-be-realized technology will be indistinguishable by the rest of us from magic.   Are they serious? Well, in 2005, Kurzweil said that the magical Harry Potter stories “are not unreasonable visions of our world as it will exist only a few decades from now.” when, due to AI, “the entire universe will become saturated with our intelligence.”  Keas warns that this type of thing encourages people “to expect the experiential equivalent of occult phenomena.”

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Boy and blackboard filled with math formulas
boy in glasses, blackboard filled with math formulas background

STEM EDUCATION 2. Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to be a Nerd

How do you identify extroverted nerds? When you are talking to them, they look at YOUR shoes
If I am made to confess that college courses in Shakespearean sonnets will make me a better person, then English literature majors had better confess that calculus makes them better people. Read More ›
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The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves

The patterns uncovered by machine learning may reflect a larger reality or just a bias in gathering data

Because Machine Learning is opaque—even experts cannot clearly explain how a system arrived at a conclusion—we treat it as magic. Therefore, we should mistrust the systems until proven innocent (and correct).

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Human Fetus Week Nine

The Junk Science of the Abortion Lobby

Fetuses not only experience pain but experience it more intensely than do adults
Much of pro-abortion advocacy is science denial—the deliberate misrepresentation of science to advance an ideological agenda. Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, wrote a misleading essay on that theme in the New York Times, “Science won’t end this debate” (January 22, 2019). Read More ›
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Mortar Board on top of keyboard

Artificial Intelligence Is Actually Superficial Intelligence

The confusing ways the word “intelligence” is used belie the differences between human intelligence and machine sophistication

Words often have more meaning than we hear at first. Consider colors. We associate green with verdant, healthy life and red with prohibition and danger. But these inferences are not embedded in the basic meaning of “red” or “green.” They are cultural accretions we attach to words that enable the richness of language. That, by the way, is one reason why legal documents and technical papers are so difficult to read. The terms used are stripped clean of such baggage, requiring additional words to fill the gaps. The word “intelligent” is like that. Saying that a computer, or a program, is intelligent can lead us down a rabbit hole of extra meaning. An honest researcher merely means the computer has Read More ›

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It Takes a Smart Robot to Mimic a Reptile

When researchers built a robot to sprawl like a prehistoric reptile, they were in for a surprise
Orobates’ skeleton was “exquisitely preserved,” which created an excellent opportunity for researchers in paleontology to try to figure out how the lizard-like animal moved. And reverse engineering its movements can tell us a lot about how it lived. Read More ›
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Machinist working a loom

Remember the Luddites!

The Luddites became famous for breaking machinery during the Industrial Revolution. Were they entirely wrong?
People often think that the Luddites were merely anti-technology because they opposed automation during the Industrial Revolution (1760–1840). The story is more complex. As we face increasing automation today, we might want to see what we can learn from their history. Read More ›
Composite image of image of data
Composite image of image of data

Part 1: Navigating the Machine Learning Landscape

To choose the right type of machine learning model for your project, you need to answer a few specific questions
Most machine learning systems fall into three main categories—supervised learning, unsupervised learning, and reinforcement learning. The choice of system depends first on which category of machine learning best addresses your situation. Read More ›
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Mission Control Center (MCC), Houston, Texas, during the Gemini 5 flight.

STEM EDUCATION 1. Pursuing Nerd Quality Over Nerd Quantity

Reducing math and science to practice is what engineers do. Scientists didn’t put a man on the moon. Engineers did.
Overall, computer applications will impact our society and culture as much as electricity did. And we’re living smack in the middle of the transformation. Read More ›
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Attendees listening to talk at conference

Boost Your AI Knowledge and Skills at 2019’s Most Promising Conferences

Are you a software developer or business leader? Here’s where you want to be this year
Do you ever feel frustrated when you hear about significant AI developments and you can’t be sure how — or whether — they relate to your organization? Are you missing out? Will a competitor “get it” ahead of your firm? The best strategy is to take a bit of time to get to know the technology, the companies, the people, and the ideas personally. Read More ›
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Sparkler between two hands

The Creative Spark

An information theory justification for the intrinsic value of human beings
Because creativity is unique to humans and irreducible, all human beings have the ability in principle. The fact that a particular human being’s creativity is not in use or is perhaps unusable at present does not mean that that person does not have the ability. Consequently, all humans have at least latent intrinsic instrumental value. Read More ›
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Has Science Shown That Consciousness Is Only an Illusion?

Using clever analogies, Philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that consciousness is all smoke and mirrors
British philosopher Papineau recommends taking Dennett’s theories “with a pinch of salt.” American essayist David Bentley Hart is less charitable: “Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness” Read More ›
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Market with hundreds of stalls from above

Will the Free Market Help or Hurt Us in an AI-Empowered World?

We may need new institutions, such as insurance against job obsolescence
If humans are free to experiment with new institutions, I believe we will find an excellent solution. However, there is a great danger that those who benefit from the status quo will use their influence to prevent the adoption of new institutions. Read More ›
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Does AI Art Spell the End of the Artist’s Way of Life?

An AI-produced painting sold at auction for $432,500. But is it a trend or just a novelty?

Rather than announce that human artists are now doomed, software engineer Ben Dixon interviewed a number of them and came away with a rather different picture, that “AI-generated art will improve, but artistic creativity will remain a human discipline.”

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A pile of photographic memories with a pancake photo

How Can Consciousness Be a Material Thing?

Maybe it can’t. But materialist philosophers face starkly limited choices in how to view consciousness
In analytical philosopher Galen Strawson’s opinion, our childhood memories of pancakes on Saturday, for example, are—and must be—"wholly physical." Read More ›
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Worker in blue uniform cleaning graffiti

Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Expose a Key Problem

Most moderators are not skilled and have only a few seconds to decide on a post
Censorship is part of the larger question of whether social media are the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or unregulated private klatsches. Or something else altogether? Read More ›
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Neon sign saying

Your Phone Knows Everything Now

And in a world where no data is anonymous, yours may be sold to the highest bidder
Your location can be a useful guide to your buying habits, whether or not you want to buy anything or think anyone has any business snooping on you to find out. Read More ›
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Research Showing That Fake News Easily Fools Us Collapses

A recent paper claiming that low-quality news (“fake news”) spreads as quickly on social media as accurate news has been retracted by its authors.
A team from the Shanghai Institute of Technology sought to study whether accuracy made any difference to whether a post goes viral on social media. They cited a concern about “the digital misinformation that threatens our democracy.” Read More ›
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.

Is an Amoeba Smarter Than Your Computer?

Hype aside, the microbe’s math skills ace the Traveling Salesman problem and may help with cybersecurity
When we hear hype about machines that will soon out-think people, we might put it in perspective by recalling that we still struggle to build a machine that can out-think amoebas looking for crumbs. Read More ›
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It’s 2019: Begin the AI Hype Cycle Again!

Media seemingly can’t help portraying today’s high-tech world as a remake of I, Robot (2004), starring you and me.
I have a problem with the possible outcomes when people who don’t know the difference between technology fact and fiction make important decisions based on information from journalists who write as if every computer is a potential personality like HAL from Space Odyssey 2001. Read More ›