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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive December 2019

3d rendered illustration of karate dojo background. Karate school is out of focus to be used as a photographic backdrop.

What Did the Computer Learn in the Chinese Room? Nothing.

Computers don’t “understand” things and they can’t handle ambiguity, says Robert J. Marks

Larry L. Linenschmidt interviews Robert J. Marks on the difference between performing a task and understanding the task, as explained in philosopher John Searle’s famous “Chinese Room” thought experiment.

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Tesla Motors logo sign

2019 AI Hype Countdown #1: Tesla’s Robotaxis—Tales of a Phantom Fleet

Musk put out a tweet on December 22, saying “Sorry, it's been a bit of a struggle.” At last, a claim we can unreservedly believe

Because Tesla has yet to make a yearly profit in any of its sixteen years of existence, it depends on capital raises of various forms (equity, debt, etc.) to stay in business. Capital raises require big promises and Tesla’s overstatements about its self-driving cars are always good for a few billion.

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Photo by Daniil Kuželev

Researchers: Our Conscious Visual Perception Lies Outside Our Visual Cortex

They concluded that the end step of perceiving where objects are occurs in the frontal lobes, a finding they describe as “radical”

A major consequence of the advance of modern neuroscience is that we now “know” so much less than we used to. But what we do know points us in promising research directions.

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Businessman forecasting a crystal ball

2019 AI Hype Countdown #2: Big Data Is Our Crystal Ball!

The biggest problem is that human behavior is not as predictable as the models imply

Many models are ridiculously simplistic, making the results worse than worthless. They become a way of solidifying biases.

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Photo by NeONBRAND

Why Materialism Fails as a Science-Based Philosophy

I don’t believe that either panpsychism or cosmopsychism is true. But I have some sympathy with people who hold those views

There is no doubt that consciousness is a fundamental property of animal and human existence. As philosopher Philip Goff notes, a philosophy like materialism that cannot plausibly account for it cannot be correct.

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Quantum computing concept with qubit icon 3d rendering

2019 AI Hype Countdown #3: Quantum Supremacy? Less Supreme Than It Sounded

It’s possible that Google’s result can be generalized to more useful scenarios than the test case though it isn't immediately obvious how

What Google really achieved was increased stability in its quantum computing platform—keeping qubits stable has been a hard problem in quantum computing for a long time. That was certainly a step forward, but advertising it as “quantum supremacy” was certainly a classic exercise in hype.

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The Expanse Still Image

Sci-Fi TV: 2019’s Best and Worst

2019 featured many sci-fi television and movies that were less sci-fi than political narrative

In 2019, I fell out with Netflix. I felt bombarded by more and more edgy content, as though Netflix wanted me to know how “adult” it is. Rather than producing a few amazing originals, Netflix started vomiting up a ton of terrible originals.

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The coins are stacked on the ground and the seedlings are growing on top, the concept of saving money and financial growth.

2019 AI Hype Countdown #4 Investment: AI Beats the Hot Stock Tip… Barely

At the end of the day, AI-based investing actually performed like a bad index fund

Artificial intelligence may do well summarizing data, but the new insights that will lead the economy forward cannot be gleaned that way. What we need is not old data but new truths.

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Face made of shiny metal cubes. Looking Down.3d render

2019 AI Hype Countdown #5: Transhumanism never grows old

The idea that we can upload our brains to computers to avoid death shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between types of thinking

Computers are very effective but they operate with a very limited set of causal abilities. Humans work from an entirely different set of causal abilities. Uploading your brain to a computer is not a question of technology. It can’t work in principle.

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The mankind races - ethnic and multi ethnic - scientific model - concept

China: DNA Phenotyping Profiles Racial Minorities

In the United States, targeting minorities means political pushback; in China, no such discussion is allowed

While there is some merit to the idea that the population of a particular geographic region will have similar DNA patterns, this science comes with a host of assumptions that, when taken too far, crosses the line into pseudoscience.

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2019 AI Hype Countdown #6: AI Will Replace Scientists!

In May of this year, The Scientist ran a series of pieces suggesting that we could automate the process of acquiring scientific knowledge

In reality, without appropriate human supervision, AI is just as likely to find false or unimportant patterns as real ones. Additionally, the overuse of AI in science is actually leading to a reproducibility crisis.

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Businessman Robot Hands Law Connection HUD Network

2019 AI Hype Countdown #7: “Robot rights” grabs the mike

If we could make intelligent and sentient AIs, wouldn’t that mean we would have to stop programming them?

AI programs are just that—programs. Nothing in such a program could make it conscious. We may as well think that if we make sci-fi life-like enough, we should start worrying about Darth Vader really taking over the galaxy.

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2019 AI Hype Countdown #8: Media Started Doing Their Job!

Yes, this year, there has been a reassuring trend: Media are offering more critical assessment of off-the-wall AI hype

One factor in the growing sobriety may be that, as AI technology transitions from dreams to reality, the future belongs to leaders who are pragmatic about its abilities and limitations.

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Smart car, Autonomous self-driving mode vehicle on metro city road IoT concept.

Expert: We Won’t Have Self-Driving Cars For a Decade

Machine Learning rapidly moved self-driving cars from the lab to the roads but the underlying technology remains brittle

Myths are not inherently bad but the real world crushes them. One myth currently taking a beating is “self-driving cars are just around the corner.” Here’s why not. 

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Rows of prison cells, prison interior.

2019 AI Hype Countdown #9: Hype Fought the Law and…

Autonomy had real software but the hype around Big Data had discouraged Hewlett Packard from taking a closer look

Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain was sentenced this year to a five year prison term and a ten million dollar fine because he was held “ultimately responsible for Autonomy's revenues having been overinflated by $193m between 2009 and the first half of fiscal 2011.”

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Students studying in college library

Machines Can’t Teach Us How To Learn

A recent study used computer simulations to test the “small mistakes” rule in human learning

Machine learning is not at all like human learning. For example, machine learning frequently requires millions of examples. Humans learn from a few examples.

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Usb charging port in woman's neck, cyborg woman concept.

2019 AI Hype Countdown #10: Sophia the Robot Still Gives “Interviews”

In other news, few popular media ask critical questions

As a humanoid robot, Sophia certainly represents some impressive engineering. It is sad that the engineering fronts ridiculous claims about the state of AI, using partially scripted interactions as if they were real communication.

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Near Space photography - 20km above ground / real photo

The Expanse: A Mind Matters TV Series Review

The attention to detail and the realistic portrayal of space set it apart from run-of-the-mill sci-fi

I love the deep mystery surrounding the show’s central narrative device, the proto-molecule. It is somewhat sentient and is desperately trying to figure out what happened to the civilization that created it and was then wiped out while it lay dormant in our solar system for millions of years.

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thousands of umbrella in causeway bay hong kong in rainy day on august 18 2019

Can a Totalitarian State Advance AI?

China vs. Hong Kong provides a test case

George Orwell identified two characteristics of a totalitarian state that offer insight into its central intellectual weaknesses.

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Zen garden stones on sand with pattern, top view. Meditation and harmony

Yes, Consciousness Is Real But That’s Not the Half of It

Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci ends up skating deftly around the main problems

Those who would understand immaterial realities like consciousness should not speak so disrespectfully of dualism as Dr. Pigliucci does.

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