Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive December 2020

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Robo Women 3

Erica, Robot Film Star, is Pretty Typical Modern-Day Puppeteering

It may be a good film, to be sure, Jonathan Bartlett stresses, but there is little new AI in there

Yesterday, we looked at Erica the Robot, our #9 technology hype of 2020. While Erica, described as the star of a film, b, to start production in 2021, may be more sophisticated than some, clever animatronics have actually been around for decades (think Muppets… ). So Robert J. Marks and Eric Holloway talked about the question of how much of the Erica puff signifies something really groundbreaking and how much is the usual AI hype. Jonathan Bartlett (pictured) gets back to us with some further thoughts on that very question: The hype around Erica starts with the simple description of her role in the film. Many articles about the film say that Erica was “cast” in the role. However, being…

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Digital binary code matrix background in graphic concept

Smith and Cordes’ Phantom Pattern Problem A Top 2020 Book

Published by Oxford in 2020, it deals with the “patterns” Big Data throws up that aren’t really there

David Auerbach has picked The Phantom Pattern Problem (2020) by Gary Smith and Jay Cordes as one of the top books of 2020 in the science and tech category. Auerbach, who describes himself as “a writer and software engineer, trying to bridge the two realms,” is the author of BITWISE: A Life in Code (2018). He has an interesting way of choosing books to recommend: Those that resist the “increasingly desperate and defensive oversimplification” of popular culture: I hesitate to mention too many other books for fear of neglecting the others, but I will say that of the science and technology books, several deal with subjects that are currently inundated with popularizations. In my eye, those below are notably superior…

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Many Robo Women 7

#9: Erica the Robot Stars in a Film. But Really, Does She?

This is just going to be a fancier Muppets movie, Eric Holloway predicts, with a bit more electronics

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks has been interviewing fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the year. Lots of stuff happened and it’s the time of year for fun and entertainment! So here’s #9: Erica the Robot, from Japan, is to star in a film (filming begins in 2021): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #9 starts at about 16:58 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. A link to the complete transcript follows the Additional Resources. Robert J. Marks: Okay. We are counting down the Dirty Dozen hyped AI stories of 2020, and we’re at #9. In June 2020 in The Hollywood Reporter, we learned of the robot in…

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Junk Science concept

The British Medical Journal’s Top Picks in Offbeat Medical Science

In its legendary Christmas edition, the Journal highlights interesting findings that are often junk science

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious medical journals. Each Christmas, they take time off from the usual dry academic papers and publish studies that are noteworthy for their originality: “We don’t want to publish anything that resembles anything we’ve published before.” Although the papers are unusual, BMJ’s editors state that: While the subject matter may be more light-hearted, research papers in the Christmas issue adhere to the same high standards of novelty, methodological rigour, reporting transparency, and readability as apply in the regular issue. Christmas papers are subject to the same competitive selection and peer review process as regular papers. The articles are often goofy, and four have won the dreaded satiric…

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The human stomach is strong. The internal organs are shaped by green trees. (environment)

Did You Know You Have a Second Brain?

Our guts operate on a quite separate nervous system. Learning more will help control gastrointestinal diseases

Our huge gastrointestinal tracts operate their own nervous system, using neurons that follow different principles from those of brain neurons, according to recent findings: Our approximately seven-meter long gastrointestinal (GI) tract has its own functionally distinct neurons. Since this enteric nervous system (ENS) operates autonomously, it is sometimes referred to as the “second” or “abdominal” brain. While the ENS controls muscle movement (peristalsis) in the gut and its fluid balance and blood flow, it also communicates with the immune system and microbiome. Karolinska Institutet, “New fundamental knowledge of the ‘abdominal brain’” at Medical Xpress (December 7, 2020) Paper. (subscription required) The Karolinska researchers made progress in studying the little-understood second brain by mapping the neuron types in the digestive systems…

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Artificial intelligence and future technologies. Mixed media

#10: Big AI Claims Fail To Work Outside Lab

A recent article in Scientific American makes clear that grand claims are often not followed up with great achievements

As the year winds down, our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the past year. Hey, as we like to say, great stuff happened in AI this year. But well, lots of “stuff” happened too and it’s time to have some fun! So here’s #10: Replication problems tarnish the image of rapid AI progress: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #10 starts at about 12:44 A partial transcript and Show Notes follow, along with Additional Resources and the entire transcript. Robert J. Marks: # 10, Will artificial intelligence ever live up to its hype? The subtitle to the article with that name in this month’s Scientific…

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Dictionary showing the word definition

Jill Biden: Who Should, and Shouldn’t, Be Called “Doctor”?

The controversy around Jill Biden’s title, “Dr.,” could use some clarification from the dictionary

There is a controversy about whether Joe Biden’s wife should be referred to as “Doctor” Jill Biden. Isn’t “Doctor” a title for physicians only?The question is resolved easily by consulting a dictionary. Two of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are: 1.a person skilled or specializing in healing arts especially : one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice 2.a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (such as a PhD) conferred by a university Jill Biden has a doctorate (an EdD) from the University of Delaware. Independent of one’s politics (I’m not a Biden fan), Jill Biden can be accurately referred to as Dr. Jill Biden.…

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Hands hold a paper sheet with the message your vote matters over a crowded street background. People legal and democratic rights, every voice counts. Election campaign and electoral agitation concept

How Crypto Can Help Secure Fair Elections

Here’s what we need for a cryptosecure election protocol (CEP)

(Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions in a variety of contexts but we began to focus on what happens if Alice and Bob are competing for a political office. Bernard Fickser, whose argument for reform we have been following, offers a look at how a crypto secure election system might work.) We now come to the most interesting part of this article, namely, a cryptographically based protocol for securing elections. If such a protocol can be made to fly, it will do much to secure free and fair elections as well as to boost voter confidence that votes are being accurately counted and not mixed with…

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Walter Bradley Center: Year in Review 2020

Despite COVID-19, we had a very productive year

Mind Matters News is sponsored by the non-profit Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Discovery Institute. Will you help Mind Matters News continue by supporting the work of the Bradley Center with an end-of-year donation? In a world awash with over-hyped claims (both pro and con) about artificial intelligence, the work of the Bradley Center couldn’t be more timely and important. People know at a fundamental level that they are not machines. But faulty thinking can cause people to adopt views that in their heart of hearts they know to be untrue. The Bradley Center seeks to help individuals—and our society at large—to realize that we are not machines, while at the same time helping to put…

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Data technology background. Big data visualization. Flow of data. Information code. Background in a matrix style. 4k rendering.

Torturing Data Can Destroy a Career: The Case of Brian Wansink

Wansink wasn’t alone. A surprising number of studies published in highly respected peer-reviewed journals are complete nonsense and could not be replicated with fresh data

Until a few years ago, Brian Wansink (pictured in 2007) was a Professor of Marketing at Cornell and the Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. He authored (or co-authored) more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and wrote two popular books, Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, which have been translated into more than 25 languages. In one of his most famous studies, 54 volunteers were served tomato soup. Half were served from normal bowls and half from “bottomless bowls” which had hidden tubes that imperceptibly refilled the bowls. Those with the bottomless bowls ate, on average, 73 percent more soup but they did not report feeling any fuller than the people who ate from normal bowls. Eating is evidently…

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Online dating app or site in mobile phone. Finding love and romance from internet with smartphone. Man giving like. Many hologram photos of beautiful woman around cellphone. Stalker looking at profile

Can AI Find You the Love of Your Life?

Faced with a steeply declining birth rate, Japan’s government has decided to try AI matchmaking

Well, outsourcing everything to technology is the thing these days and the Japanese government, faced with a steeply declining birthrate, is giving AI matchmaking a try: Around half of the nation’s 47 prefectures offer matchmaking services and some of them have already introduced AI systems, according to the Cabinet Office. The human-run matchmaking services often use standardized forms to list people’s interests and hobbies, and AI systems can perform more advanced analysis of this data. “We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” the official said. AFP-JIJI, “We have a match! Japan taps AI to boost birth rate slump” at Japan Times (December 7, 2020) Declining birthrate? Japan Times…

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nautilus shell

We’re the Walter Bradley Center. But Who Is Walter Bradley?

A new biography, For a Greater Purpose, discusses Bradley’s life and legacy

Mind Matters News is published by the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence. And a natural question is, who is this guy, Walter Bradley? Find out in a new biography authored by design theorist William Dembski and myself, For a Greater Purpose. The Foreword is written by the extraordinary philosopher J. P. Moreland. From the book, here’s what others are saying about Walter Bradley: ● “Walter Bradley is one of the most extraordinary men I have ever known. I am in awe of him.” —William Lane Craig, PhD, DTh, ReasonableFaith.org ● “One of the great blessings God has granted me in my life is the opportunity to have co-ministered with [Walter Bradley] among faculty and students on university…

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Therapist helping young man learning to walk again in rehabilitation

Why Robotics Offers Hope for Paraplegics

The breakthrough idea is that the human brain can process electronic signals from machines as well as signals from peripheral nerves

Neuroengineer Gordon Cheng compares technology that can help paraplegics to walk again to learning to drive a car: The idea behind this is that the coupling between the brain and the machine should work in a way where the brain thinks of the machine as an extension of the body. Let’s take driving as an example. While driving a car, you don’t think about your moves, do you? But we still don’t know how this really works. My theory is that the brain somehow adapts to the car as if it is a part of the body. With this general idea in mind, it would be great to have an exoskeleton that would be embraced by the brain in the…

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Inner Life of Super Human

A Silicon Valley Psychologist Doesn’t Believe in Consciousness

Duncan Riach thinks that, with increasing complexity, computers will appear to be conscious too but it’s a misunderstanding for both humans and computers

Duncan Riach, who believes that computers can become selves, doesn’t believe in consciousness. As he explains, I’ve lost friends over this because a denial of consciousness undermines a final refuge of the arrogance of selfhood: universal consciousness. But even most normal people are strongly insistent that consciousness is a real thing, a special thing, and that they possess it. The problem I have is that there’s not only no evidence for it, but what people seem to be referring to as consciousness is explainable as an effect no more unusual, no less materialistically explainable, than water flowing downhill… Rather than jumping to the conclusion that this body has a soul and/or that somehow this “I am,” this feeling of something…

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Psychologist: Consciousness Is Not a Thing But a Point of View

Mark Solms attempts to explain consciousness in his new book, Hidden Spring

Anyone who thinks about consciousness soon realizes that it is a Hard Problem. It means being a subject of experience, rather than an object to which experiences happen. A dog has consciousness. He yelps when in pain. But a rock does not care about becoming sand. In an interesting article in Psychology Today, neuropsychologist Mark Solms outlines some thoughts from a book he has written on the subject, The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness (Norton, 2021): Physiological processes do not produce consciousness in the sense that the liver produces bile. Consciousness is not a thing but rather a point of view. What we perceive objectively as physiological processes in the brain we perceive subjectively as conscious…

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Time concept. Hi-res digitally generated image.

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “Speed of Time” from DUST

A computer nerd writing a pizza delivery program discovers that his work is way more important than he, or anyone, thought

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: “Speed of Time,” 12:19 min by Russ Nickel and William J. Stribling, September 17, 2020: “Johnny Killfire (John Hennigan) must go back in time and team up with his former self (Sean Marquette) to stop the TimeBorgs from getting their hands on an app that breaks the space-time continuum by delivering pizzas into the past…before they were even ordered.” It sounds like an agreeable quarter hour. Imagine what happens when an accomplished ground warrior busts in from another time on a quiet family at the breakfast table… Unfortunately, things go downhill from there, unless the film is intended as a satire on a certain type of science fiction. Pizza delivery rips a…

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360 degree massive black hole panorama, equirectangular projection, environment map. HDRI spherical panorama. Space background with black hole and stars

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “Alone” at DUST

Space engineer Kaya Torres, the only survivor of a black hole, contacts an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company until she dies

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: “Alone” by William Helmuth (December 3, 2020): From the Press Kit: Kaya Torres, an engineer with a sailor’s mouth and a stubborn spirit, barely escapes her research ship when calamity breaks it in half. Now she’s circling a black hole in a pod, with no one coming, no one to help. She’s alone. While figuring out what to do, Kaya starts sending messages to Hammer, a cartographer marooned on a nearby planet. And as their friendship grows, Kaya’s options slowly dwindle, until survival seems hopelessly out of reach… As Torres is “marooned on my lifepod” as the only survivor of the DSV Intrepid, she is able to contact an “interstellar penpal” to…

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Blue Ice covered mountains in south polar ocean. Winter Antarctic landscape. The mount's reflection in the crystal clear water. The cloudy sky over the massive rock glacier. Travel wild nature

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “The Beacon” at DUST

Especially harrowing is the Arctic encounter where the grieving husband finds out what really happened

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: (“The Beacon” by Chris Staehler, 25:10 min) “Mark and Kara Verne are both young shipping pilots struggling to make ends meet. When Kara goes missing months after taking a large interstellar contract, Mark travels to the far reaches of the galaxy in search of his wife.” The story sets up well. A business opportunity suddenly presents itself that will enable the copule to greatly improve their fortunes. When she goes missing, her desperate husband has a hard time finding out what happened. The film is definitely worth seeing, if only for the bureaucrat from hell that Mark confronts about the problem though it strikes a false note when he offers her a…

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Retro old beige fridge in loft style wooden kitchen

#11: A Lot of AI Is As Transparent As Your Fridge

A great deal of high tech today is owned by corporations

As the year draws to a close, our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews fellow computer nerds, members of our Brain Trust, Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway on their picks for over hyped AI of the year. Hey, great stuff happened in AI this year. But well, lots of “stuff” happened too. And it’s time to have some fun! So here’s #11! Corporate types insist that they believe in transparency. But a lot of AI is as transparent as your fridge. Our team has the story: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #11 starts at about 9:08 A partial transcript and Show Notes follow. A recent article in top science journal Nature pointed out that AI developments that matter today are often not…

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Multi-ethnic group of people standing in row and wearing masks at polling station on election day

How Electoral Fraud Is Different From Financial Fraud

Money can be moved around safely but votes must be credited to a single intended destination

(Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions in a variety of contexts but, just for now, let’s look at how Alice’s vote might be stolen, as opposed to funds from her account being stolen. What would help prevent that? This is Bernard Fickser’s view:) The role of the voter in the electoral context has no parallel in the financial context. As a result, a significant difference exists in the roles of financial Alice and Bob versus electoral Alice and Bob. In the financial context, Alice, Bob and others like them (Carol, David, Earnest, etc.) are financial agents that consciously move money, or capital, among themselves. In the…