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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Monthly Archive February 2020

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Why the Mind Cannot Just Emerge from the Brain

The mind cannot emerge from the brain if the two have no qualities in common

In his continuing discussion with Robert J. Marks, Michael Egnor argues that emergence of the mind from the brain is not possible because no properties of the mind have any overlap with the properties of brain. Thought and matter are not similar in any way. Matter has extension in space and mass; thoughts have no extension in space and no mass.

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AI(Artificial Intelligence) concept.

Why Eliminative Materialism Cannot Be a Good Theory of the Mind

Thinking that the mind is simply the brain, no more and no less, involves a hopeless contradiction

How can you have a proposition that the mind doesn’t exist? That means propositions don’t exist and that means, in turn, that you don’t have a proposition.

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Futuristic and sci-fi human android portrait with pcb metallic skin and binary code green background. AI, IT, technology, robotics, science, transhumanism 3D rendering illustration concepts.

Is Transhumanism Uncomfortably Tempting?

An ethicist asks us to stop and reflect

Jacob Schatzer identifies three issues in the essay, “The Allure of Transhumanism,” that might prompt some queasy recognitions in all of us, at times.

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man inside man

Kastrup: No, Consciousness CANNOT Be Just a Byproduct

Philosopher Bernardo Kastrup responds to biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness could be a mere by-product of a useful evolved trait

In response to Biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness is merely a byproduct of a useful evolved trait, computer engineer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup points out that consciousness, which requires vast organized, underlying complexity, is one of the most difficult unsolved problems in science. It cannot be a mere accidental byproduct of something else.

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3D Illustration with exotic deep space formations

Star Trek: Picard—On Second Thought, Some Serious Quibbles

A Mind Matters review: Now that I’m four episodes in, I’ve gotta say, the “haters” might be onto something. Not everything but something

Why does Picard seem to be obsessed with Commander Data? And what happened to The Federation? Star Trek fans are quick to point out that Star Trek: Picard takes an unnecessary malevolent tone towards The Federation. Why do the Romulans look different? I’m still watching but I’d like some answers.

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Scoring the winning points at a basketball game

Is “Hot Hands” Just a Basketball Myth?

Not so fast…

The paper that busted the myth of “hot hands” is justly famous. But statisticians are not prophets. Craig Hodges’ streak of 19 in a row in the 1991 contest is still too incredible to be explained by luck or cherry-picking. The numbers show that hot hands don’t happen every day, but they do happen.

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face recognition technology concept illustration of big data and security in city with crowd

The Danger AI Poses for Civilization

Why must Google be my helicopter mom?

If I have a coffee cup with “AI inside,” it’s probably connected to the Internet, which is just another way of saying that my coffee cup is transmitting data to some company’s servers about my coffee drinking habits. Whatever benefit the app provides will come at a cost to my autonomy, privacy, and competence as a person.

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Photo by Eugene Triguba

AI has changed our relationship to our tools

If a self-driving car careens into a storefront, who’s to blame? A new Seattle U course explores ethics in AI

A free course at Seattle University addresses the “meaning of ethics in AI.” I’ve signed up for it. One concern that I hope will be addressed is: We must not abdicate to machines the very thing that only we can do: Treat other people fairly.

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Photo by Chris Yang

Technology Centralizes by Its Very Nature

Here are some other truths about technology, some uncomfortable ones

To see what I mean about centralization, consider a non-digital tool, say, a shovel. The shovel doesn’t keep track of your shoveling, read your biometrics, and store a file on you-as-shoveler somewhere. It’s a thing, an artifact. So you see, the new digital technology is itself the heart of the surveillance problem. No Matrix could be built with artifacts.

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Middle aged Asian man wearing glasses and medical face mask on public train, Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, air pollution and health concept

Coronavirus in a World Without Trust

In China, medical heroism thrives despite both paranoia and justified mistrust of authorities

While China’s citizens are living in an information vacuum, the government has stepped up its surveillance strategies in order to track people who have been near someone infected with the coronavirus. Some commentators consider these measures disproportionate to the actual risk posed to others and in violation of human rights. Others see them as necessary.

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Sagrada Familia
Spandrels within the interior arches of the Sagrada Familia

Did Consciousness Evolve?: A Darwinist Responds

Jerry Coyne argues that consciousness is a mere byproduct of useful traits that are naturally selected. But wait…

The critical problem that consciousness poses for Darwinian evolution is that there is no survival advantage for subjective first-person existence over objective third-person existence.

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra

Why Does Mathematics Interpret Reality?

In the latest issue of Communications of the Blyth Institute, Gordon Mullings presents his account of why mathematics and physics are connected

The amazing applicability of mathematics to the real world has caused many mathematicians, philosophers, and physicists to pause throughout history. How can something as abstract and ideal as mathematics apply to the real world?

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Schrift

Unexplainability and Incomprehensibility of AI

In the domain of AI safety, the more accurate the explanation is, the less comprehensible it is

With AI decision-making, a non-trivial explanation can’t be both accurate and understandable but it can be inaccurate and comprehensible. There is a huge difference between understanding something and almost understanding it.

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Photo by Hannes Richter

Bernardo Kastrup: Consciousness cannot have evolved

How many joules of consciousness would make you a human instead of a chimpanzee? How many more joules of consciousness would make you a genius?

Computer scientist and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup argues that evolution deals with things that can be measured quantitatively but consciousness cannot be quantified. 

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Futuristic and technological scanning of the face of a beautiful woman for facial recognition and scanning to ensure personal safety.

Teaching Computers Common Sense Is Very Hard

Those fancy voice interfaces are little more than immense lookup tables guided by complex statistics

Researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) published a paper recently, deflating claims of rapid progress toward giving computers common sense.

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An abstract computer generated fractal design. A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.

Are Divergent Series Really an “Invention of the Devil”?

The real villain in the piece is horrendously non-specific concepts of infinity. But that can be fixed

It turns out that hyperreal numbers (i.e., infinities that obey algebraic rules) resolve many of the paradoxes that previously plagued conceptions of divergent series. It is now possible to assign specific values to divergent series.

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The Expanse, Season 4: The Best So Far?

A Mind Matters Perspective: Unlike critic Zac Giaimo, I preferred Season 3 but it really depends on what you are looking for

Season 4 is, as critic Zac Giaimo notes, integral to character building and plot development for the overall series. I gave it 9/10 in an earlier review. However, I don’t know if I completely agree with Giaimo’s Amazonian optimism. Season 3 set up urgent questions that should be answered by the end of the show, preferably beginning in Season 5.

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Two female women medical doctors looking at x-rays in a hospital.

AI Can Help Spot Cancers—But It’s No Magic Wand

When I spoke last month about how AI can help with cancer diagnoses, I failed to appreciate some of the complexities of medical diagnosis

As a lawyer with medical training reminded us recently, any one image is a snapshot in time, a brief part of the patient’s whole story. And it’s the whole story that matters, not a single image, perhaps taken out of context.

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Young birch with black and white birch bark in spring in birch grove against the background of other birches

Researchers: Trees “sense” their height and weight

We have only recently discovered how complex plant communications are

Trees rarely just fall over but we seldom stop to think about why they don’t. Manipulating the weight of downy birch trees, the team discovered that a tree can adjust its stem thickening in relation to its height, especially if the stem is free to move a bit. They were able to test this thesis by studying a mutant tree that sadly lacks that ability.

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Citation

Anti-Plagiarism Software Goof: Paper Rejected for Repeat Citations

The scholar was obliged by discipline rules to cite the flagged information repetitively

Not only was Jean-François Bonnefon’s paper rejected by conventional anti-plagiarism software but the rejection didn’t make any sense. Bonnefon, research director at Toulouse School of Economics, was informed of “a high level of textual overlap with previous literature” (plagiarism) when he was citing scientists’ affiliations, standard descriptions, and papers cited by other—information he was obliged to cite accurately, according to a standard format. “It would have taken two [minutes] for a human to realise the bot was acting up,” he wrote on Twitter. “But there is obviously no human in the loop here. We’re letting bots make autonomous decisions to reject scientific papers.” Reaction to the post by Dr Bonnefon, who is currently a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute Read More ›