Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive May 2019

Digital binary brain illustrating big data and artificial intelligence

How Artificial Intelligence Shapes Our Language

Culture critic Mark Steyn reflects on the Matrix and the red pill, which seems to be everywhere
If communication relies so much on a few pop-culture references, it’s “an undoubted achievement” that The Matrix created one of them. Read More ›
Aerial view of Harare

China’s AI Package for Africa Includes Mass Surveillance Technology

Africa sees development aid; China sees an expanding African database
Freedom House ranks China at 14/100 and Zimbabwe 30/100 in terms of freedoms. So it is not likely that Zimbabwe will become more free by cooperating with China to increase surveillance, even if the effort reduces crime, as hoped. Read More ›
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1973 Computer Program: The World Will End in 2040

Jonathan Bartlett offers some thoughts on a frantic, bizarre - but instructive - computer-driven prediction

Viewers may find the attitudes to experts and to computers shown in the video both quaint and disturbing. For that reason, the video is a helpful reminder of the limits of both.

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A Scientist’s Nightmare: Doxxed on Twitter

The surprisingly good news is that online riots may be hurting the Twitter brand
The market for senseless outrage is not as large as expected and the online riots may actually be hurting the Twitter brand. Many sources say that Twitter has been losing accounts for years. Read More ›
British shorthair cats and Golden Retriever

Michael Medved Talks With Robert J. Marks About Animal vs. Human vs. AI Minds

With a glance at unique human creativity
Michael Medved talks with Robert J. Marks about animal vs human minds With a glance at unique human creativity Robert J. Marks: Sometimes the results of computation are surprising. But they are not creative because it has all been placed there in the computer program. Humans can do something external to that. Read More ›
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Can Animals “Reason”? My Challenge to Jeffrey Shallit

He believes that animals can engage in abstract thinking. What abstractions do they reason about?

Dr. Jeffrey Shallit is an atheist mathematician who holds to the odd belief that animals, like humans, are capable of reason. It would seem that a highly intelligent man who makes his living by doing mathematics would understand that animals don’t, and can’t, do mathematics. But Dr. Shallit remains confused on this point, as he makes clear in his response to my recent post on that inability of animals to think abstractly or to reason (“An atheist argues against reason”). I observed that reason is defined traditionally in a very straightforward manner as the capacity for abstract thought. Shallit comments, Whenever Egnor talks about something being “accepted” or “simple and straightforward”, you can be pretty sure that the opposite is Read More ›

Headache Pain

Non-Invasive Healing for the Wounded Brain

One method does not involve invasive surgery but rather stimulating the tongue

Jonathan Sackier emphasizes that, when dealing with sufferers from severe or chronic brain injury, medicine must not raise false hopes: “So we have a profound obligation to be honest, open, transparent, and to do darn good science!” But he is optimistic.

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Did an AI Really Learn Human-like Number Sense?

That's the claim, but critics say that humans imposed the number sense

Does artificial intelligence “share our natural ability to make numeric snap judgments”? Researchers observed this knack for numbers in a computer model composed of virtual brain cells, or neurons, called an artificial neural network. After being trained merely to identify objects in images — a common task for AI — the network developed virtual neurons that respond to specific quantities. These artificial neurons are reminiscent of the “number neurons” thought to give humans, birds, bees and other creatures the innate ability to estimate the number of items in a set (SN: 7/7/18, p. 7). This intuition is known as number sense. Maria Temming, “A new AI acquired humanlike ‘number sense’ on its own” at ScienceNews A team led by neurobiologist Read More ›

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Ape on pole

University Fires Philosophy Prof, Hires Chimpanzee to Teach, Research

A light-hearted look at what would happen if we really thought that unreason is better than reason

Dissociated Press – According to sources from the Funny Papers News Collective, officials at the Université Paris Diderot announced today that philosophy professor Justin Smith has been dismissed from his teaching and research duties at the university, following publication of his new book, Irrationality. In the widely acclaimed book, Smith argues forcefully that reason is highly overrated, and generally of less survival value than brute animal instinct. Citing 16th-century diplomat Girolamo Rorario in his treatise “That Brute Animals Make Better use of Reason than Men”, Smith argues: [H]uman deliberation – the period of hesitancy when we survey our various options and eventually select what appears to be the best of them – far from being an advantage over other beings, Read More ›

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Painted face, split in two

AI as the Artful Dodger

Watch what happens when I train a neural network on portraits of 56 famous scientists, starting the process with a right eye
New AI is much more sophisticated but the old and new AI share the property that the final result is nothing more than an interpolation of the training images used to train the AI. Read More ›
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Blurred lights coming from above

Silicon Valley’s Strange, Apocalyptic Cult

Key Valley figures hope to beat death the transhumanist way. Oh, by the way, YOU are doomed

Everything has a history, including Silicon Valley. According to a new media theorist, an influential Valley philosophy might underlie the current attitudes, values, and beliefs: There is a Silicon Valley religion, and it’s one that doesn’t particularly care for people — at least not in our present form. Technologists may pretend to be led by a utilitarian, computational logic devoid of superstition, but make no mistake: There is a prophetic belief system embedded in the technologies and business plans coming out of Google, Uber, Facebook, and Amazon, among others. Douglas Rushkoff, “The Anti-Human Religion of Silicon Valley” at Medium In an excerpt from his new book, Team Human (2019), Rushkoff traces the history to a post-Cold War collaboration centered on Read More ›

Paper wasp Bastetemon Adobe

Wasps can reason? Science media say yes, researchers no

Media stories explicitly claim that wasps use logical reasoning, which researchers disavow

The media’s monolithic obsession with denying human uniqueness comes at a cost. The remarkable fact that two life forms have the same number of neurons but one displays significantly more complex behavior than the other is drowned out by the volume of misrepresentation. 

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How the Injured Brain Heals Itself: Our Amazing Neuroplasticity

Jonathan Sackier is a pioneer in non-invasive techniques for speeding the healing of traumatic brain injuries

People who have come back from catastrophic injuries like Bill Zoller's intrigue neuroscientists because they offer a glimpse into the neuroplasticity that enables the brain to restore lost functions, which we can learn to augment.

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How Did Twitter Become a “Virus of the Mind”?

A libertarian law professor reflects on the poisonous atmosphere and proposed remedies

Using engineering terminology, he makes the point that, whereas the blogosphere has been a loosely coupled system where craziness in one venue had little impact on another, new social media are tightly coupled systems, prone to maximal disruption

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Philosopher Argues, Human Reason Is Inferior to Animal Reactions

Smith offers to resolve the problem of human exceptionality by dethroning reason

He hopes that artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life (a “statistical near-certainty”) will help us “give up the idea of rationality as nature’s last remaining exception.”

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Concrete bridge photographed from below

Swarm Printing: Are AI Robots Tomorrow’s Construction Workers?

Robotic swarms specially adapted to operate in austere environments could be useful responses to natural and manmade disasters

While many traditional construction jobs will be lost, others will be created. Someone will need to design, build, service, and repair the robots.

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Light streaks from moving cars at night

Autopilot Is NOT Just Another Word for “Asleep at the Wheel”

As a recent fatal accident in Florida shows, even sober, attentive drivers often put too much trust into Tesla’s Autopilot system, with disastrous results

Like all tools, AI systems, when used correctly, can augment our abilities, but they are nowhere near replacing us. And we endanger ourselves, and others, when we believe they can.

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Google’s “Civil War” Is a First For the Big Tech Industry

Not the sort of first to rejoice market analysts’ hearts

If a recent longform article at Fortune is any guide, tech philosopher George Gilder was onto something when he told Steve Forbes recently that the whole Google culture is “kind of self-defeating and wrong.”

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Film studio with cameras and movie equipment exposing edge of facade

Could AI Authentically Create Anything?

Brendan Dixon: The first question posed to me as an artist was,“What are you trying to say?”

Du Sautoy believes that AI will “in the distant future” achieve consciousness. For that, we have no evidence. It is a statement of religious faith akin to that of Anthony Levandowski's AI Church.

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