Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive September 2019

Doctor using finger to hold a brain model with both hands in concept of taking care the brain

Why the Brain Is Not at All like a Computer

Seeing the brain as a computer is an easy misconception rather than an informative image, says biomedical engineer Yuri Danilov

As soon as you assume that each neuron is a microprocessor, says Danilov, you assume that there is a programmer. There is no programmer in the brain; there are no algorithms in the brain. However, it is "extremely painful" for many people to let go of the idea.

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Shovel Annie Spratt Unsplash annie-spratt-j4fV6dKT9tw-unsplash

Do We Need To Learn from AI How To Think Better?

No, and a moment’s thought shows why not
AI can become our "collaborators" only in the sense that a shovel can collaborate with me to dig a hole: It amplifies my powers to do things which are otherwise difficult. Read More ›
Silent reading Jilbert Ebrahimi Unsplash -HAwA1N2gjo8

AlterEgo Does Not Read Your Mind

What it really does may surprise you but many claims made for it are deceptive
AlterEgo may prove invaluable for applications like helping the severely handicapped by using muscle movements that are usually unnoticed. But despite headlines and publicity claiming otherwise, it provides no technical stride forward in the field of AI-brain interface. Read More ›
Machine vision Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash SrC5iuVJk_c

What You See That the Machine Doesn’t

You see the “skeleton” of an idea
Humans can intuit the underlying forms that govern shapes, in part by guessing the intentions of other humans. Machine vision does not intuit things, which may be one reason for its odd misidentifications. Read More ›
Near death experience Andrew Charney Unsplash 4gP2EKPlU1Q-unsplash

Near-Death Experiences Are More Real Than Some of the Research

At Scientific American, we learn of an analysis that tries to link them to recreational drug highs, based only on language use

The scientific “method” of inferring a common biological cause of the experiences by analyzing the language used to describe them is junk science. One may as well infer that lung cancer and tuberculosis have a common cause because sufferers from both diseases report cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and weight loss.

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Buddhist monks are walking on temple in mist sunset,Thailand

Tibetan Monks Can Change Their Metabolism

Far from disproving it, science has documented it

For decades, a default assumption was that claims that meditating monks in the Buddhist tradition could greatly raise their temperature or slow their metabolism were assumed to be exaggerations that would yield to a scientific explanation. The scientific explanation turned out to be that they can do exactly that.

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Game's white and black stone on cross board.

Alpha Go as Alpha Maybe?

DeepMind's AlphaGo defeated a world-champion Go player but further gains were hard won at best
The question scientists must ask, especially about an unexpected finding, is, if no one can reproduce your results, did you discover something new or did you just get lucky? With AI that’s not easy, due to dependence on randomness. Read More ›
Composite image of interface

Google Glass Inventor to Speak at COSM, October 25

Babak Parviz, now an Amazon vice-president, is keenly interested in services for the swelling aged population worldwide
Joining Parviz on the panel will be Matt Scholz, CEO of Oisin Technologies (researching treatments for age-related diseases), George Gilder, philosopher of technology, and Lindy Fishburne, executive director of Breakout Labs, which funds innovative science ventures. Read More ›
Feeling good and smiling young women with smart phone in park,wa

Canadian Province to Ban Cell Phones from Classrooms

Education experts are cautiously hopeful about reducing distraction and cyberbullying
France and a number of jurisdictions in Britain, as well as some American ones, have already instituted such bans and several studies have identified subsequent improvements in schoolwork. Read More ›
rodrigo-de-mendoza-Dg0-_ioXtng-unsplash

Ask Alexa (and an anonymous crowd answers?)

Amazon is testing a crowd sourcing approach to difficult questions. How did that work out at Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a classic example of how crowdsourcing can go wrong. The obvious problem is anonymity and the lack of accountability that goes with it.

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Sport and travel memory photos on a table

Do We Actually Remember Everything?

Neuroscience evidence suggests that our real problem isn’t with remembering things but finding our memories when we need them
One of a pioneer neurosurgeon’s cases featured a patient who could, unaccountably, speak ancient Greek. The explanation was not occult but it was surely remarkable for what it shows about memory. Read More ›
PC displaying brain waves of male patient at lab
Selective focus on a computer recording brain waves of a mature gentleman getting his brain analyzed by an electroencephalography machine.

Was famous old evidence against free will just debunked?

The pattern that was thought to prove free will an illusion may have been noise

The participants in the experiment did not sense that their decision about flexing their fingers mattered, so they went with the flow. But, according to more recent research, the subjective experience of making a decision is not an illusion at all.

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Friends talking to each

Facebook Gets Rich Off What We Tell Our Friends

Social media pioneer David Gelernter also has a proposal for sharing the wealth more fairly

Yale University computer science prof David Gelernter, “a leading figure in the third generation of artificial intelligence” (Edge.org). social networks pioneer, and Unabomber survivor, discusses his idea in a podcast at The Federalist Radio Hour.

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Popping water balloon / highspeed image
Popping water balloon / highspeed image

Fast Facts re the Google, Facebook Anti-Trust Probes

The 48-state pile-on comes just before an election year

The accusations by American states of a Big Social Media stranglehold on advertising come on the heels of the European Union fining Google $billions in recent years for anti-competitive activities.

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Stack of books with laptop

Has Aristo broken bounds for thinking computers?

The Grade 8 graduate improves on Watson but we must still think for ourselves at school. Here’s why
Aristo combines questions and answers on a multiple-choice test to decide on the best answer without understanding any of the information. Read More ›
silhouette of business people networking on cyberspace

Your Software Could Have More Rights Than You

Depending on politics and court judgments, legal loopholes could lead to AI personhood

We have already witnessed an example of such an indignity. and consequent outrage, from many feminist scholars when Sophia the robot was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia, a country notorious for unequal treatment of women.

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スマートスピーカー

Alexa Really Does Not Understand Us

In a recent test, only 35 percent of the responses to simple questions were judged adequate
Actually, I am impressed that voice assistants work as well as they do, given the number of AI problems that were solved. But consider how much more complex the problems facing a self-driving car are. Read More ›
Sock monkey using a computer

Why can’t monkeys typing forever produce Shakespeare?

Before communication can begin, there must be an intention to communicate

Practitioners in the field of artificial intelligence often assume that intent does not matter in defining intelligence or that intent does not exist, that it is a useful illusion. Neither of these two approaches will work. Real communication requires intent.

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golden angelic character rising from black liquid. 3d illustration

Do Churches Need a Catechism for Robots?

Are the claims about spiritual robots just an intellectual cottage industry for edgy clergy?

Some people have taken Pope Francis’s musings in recent years to mean pretty much whatever they want them to mean. For example, But Francis’s wide arms have arguably never stretched further than a mass in 2014 when he suggested the church would baptize Martians. “If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came … and one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?” Pope Francis asked. “When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way.’” Jonathan Merritt, “Is AI a Threat to Christianity?” at The Atlantic (February 3, 2017) Merritt promptly converts the hypothetical question—which depends, of course, on the assumption that Martians are Read More ›