Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive February 2021

a-black-cat-plays-with-a-robotic-vacuum-cleaner-that-cleans-the-floorpet-playing-with-robot-vacuum-cleaner-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
A black cat plays with a robotic vacuum cleaner that cleans the floor.pet playing with robot vacuum cleaner

Sci-fi Saturday: The Disabled Robot Vet Gets a Job Grooming Cats

Definitely worth your five minutes, in part in order to see what cartoonists can do in sci-fi with animated stills.

“A Robot is a Robot” at DUST by Danish cartoonists Emil Friis Ernst and Nilas Røpke Driessen (February 2, 2021, 05:49 min) tells a tale: “A disabled robot war veteran finds its home among humans in the tender care of an old lady, and her hair salon for cats.” The story is told, intriguingly, as a series of cartoon stills and animated stills, beginning with the robot veteran begging on the sidewalk, whereupon the old lady takes him in. The robot floats on a single wheel and has a body like a metal tea cozy — a nice change from the more “android” type. She employs the robot to groom cats, who seem to appreciate his work, until he encounters…

get-out-of-jail-board-game-prison-free-escape-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Get Out of Jail Board Game Prison Free Escape

Prof: America Now Has Two Constitutions — Yours and Big Tech’s

People who are being debanked, depublished, and deplatformed are discovering that, whatever the Constitution says, they don’t have rights if Big Tech says they don’t

University of Texas prof Michael Lind (pictured), asks us to think about the growing problem of Big Tech power as if we were living in an old time film about a corrupt county: Imagine that you are a resident in a low-population county in 1950. You run afoul of the small group of families who are effectively in charge. Your political and legal rights are unimpaired. You are free to vote and you are free to sue in municipal and county and state courts. The police treat you with unfailing courtesy and respect. But strange things start to happen. The only newspaper in the county refuses to take ads for your business. The only bank in the county announces that…

newborn-premature-baby-in-the-nicu-intensive-care-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Newborn premature baby in the NICU intensive care

Do Babies Really Feel Pain Before They Are Self-Aware?

Michael Egnor discusses the fact that the thalamus, deep in the brain, creates pain. The cortex moderates it. Thus, juveniles may suffer more

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. At the heart of the issue is the conflict between those who believe that all human beings have a right to life and those who believe that children do not have a right to live before they are self-aware. In this segment, Egnor and Wells ask another question: whether a child can…

robot-eyes-closeup-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Robot eyes closeup

Can Robots Be Engineered To Actually Feel Pain?

The descriptions of recent robotics successes slide effortlessly from “can experience” the sense of touch down to “simulate” sensations of pain

Recently, an article in Neuroscience News made some confusing claims, especially the claim that robots can have experiences in the same sense as living entities can. Let’s look at some of them: In an article from HSE University in Russia about about developing robotic intelligence based on the human brain, we read: Today, neuroscience and robotics are developing hand in hand. Mikhail Lebedev, Academic Supervisor at HSE University’s Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, spoke about how studying the brain inspires the development of robots. HSE University, “How Modern Robots Are Developed” at Neuroscience News February 3, 2021 One identified goal is to merge “biological organisms with machines, to create cybernetic organisms (cyborgs).” Given that the human brain does not really behave…

cute-baby-lying-on-tummy-in-parents-bed-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Cute Baby Lying On Tummy In Parent's Bed

Is There Bias in Terms of Which Babies Are Aborted?

Abortion is made easy for Black American women, with abortion clinics strategically located within easy walking distance

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. At the heart of the issue is the conflict between those who believe that all human beings have a right to life and those who believe that children do not have a right to live before they are self-aware. In this segment, Egnor and Wells ask, why are Black American abortion rates…

courthouse-with-judges-gavel-and-sign-no-concept-of-censorship-and-the-production-of-restrictions-and-laws-on-restriction-anti-popular-laws-usurpation-of-power-conservative-views-lack-of-justice-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Courthouse with judge's gavel and sign NO. concept of censorship and the production of restrictions and laws on restriction. Anti-popular laws, usurpation of power, conservative views. Lack of justice

“Disinformation”: Do We Really Need a “Reality Czar”?

Canada dodged a bullet in 2014. The United States will not be so lucky if it adopts Big Tech's new proposals against “disinformation” online

Recently, a New York Times technology columnist, back from a consult with Big Tech in Silicon Valley, urged U.S. President to appoint a “reality czar” to go after people who provide “disinformation” online. He concedes, “It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant.” Well yes, rather. And the czar would probably soon find himself in conflict with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But Kevin Roose (pictured), who says he has spent several years tackling “our national reality crisis”, begs us to hear the czar’s supporters out: This task force could also meet regularly with tech platforms, and push for structural changes that could help those companies tackle their own extremism and misinformation problems. (For example, it could formulate “safe…

female-chromosomes-medical-artwork-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Female chromosomes, medical artwork

AI Can Fight COVID by Detecting Changes in Virus “Language”

One research team is experimenting with natural language processors (NLP), used to analyze human speech, to detect similar virus mutations

One strategy in the fight against COVID-19 relies on the curious fact that genetics is actually a language. Genome sequencer Francis Collins has even called it The Language of God. More practically, AI programs that act as natural language processors can help catch deadly coronavirus mutations. The same strategies the AIs use for reading sentences can be used to read the virus’s attempts to escape destruction by mutations: Galileo once observed that nature is written in math. Biology might be written in words. Natural-language processing (NLP) algorithms are now able to generate protein sequences and predict virus mutations, including key changes that help the coronavirus evade the immune system. The key insight making this possible is that many properties of…

cardboard-boxes-with-empty-space-on-left-side-logistics-and-delivery-concept-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Cardboard boxes with empty space on left side, logistics and delivery concept. 3D Rendering

The Myth of “No Code” Software (Part II)

Why (and where) no-code doesn't work

In my previous article, I noted that what programmers do is translate ambiguous specifications into very exact specifications, taking into account all of the specific subtleties that the implementation requires. However, I recognize that those not familiar with custom software may not recognize the problem. This article describes in additional detail the kinds of considerations that cause no-code solutions to be problematic. The essence of the problem is this: there are an infinite number of possible ways your business could possibly work, but only one way that it actually works. The work of the programmer is to make sure the software matches the specific way that your business works. Let’s take something simple like calculating shipping. It might be easy…

in-vitro-image-of-a-human-fetus-in-the-womb-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
In vitro image of a human fetus in the womb

When Does “Human-ness” Really Begin?

Jonathan Wells notes that issues around “personhood” are now purely semantic, especially when the case is being made that many animals are persons too

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he has discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. At the heart of the issue is the conflict between those who believe that all human beings have a right to life and those who believe that children do not have a right to live before they are self-aware. In unpacking the issues, Egnor and Wells turned to the question of…

psychology-or-invent-conception-brain-function-model-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Psychology or invent conception. Brain function model.

How Much of Neuroscience Is an Unwitting Hoax?

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein saw that much materialist neuroscience was neither true, nor false, just nonsense

In 1996, NYU physics professor Alan Sokal published an article in a journal of postmodern cultural studies. The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was a hoax. Sokal simply assembled more or less meaningless phrases about cultural theory and quantum physics in a grammatically correct but meaningless manuscript. He revealed the hoax a few weeks later in a magazine. The hoax ignited a storm of controversy and, in the view of many, revealed the essential sham at the core of postmodern philosophy. What Sokal (pictured) was doing, whether he knew it or not, was invoking philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s salient critique of philosophy and science, which is that much of our discourse is language games. By…

female-reporter-or-tv-journalist-at-press-event-journalism-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Female reporter or TV journalist at press event. Journalism concept.

In Big Tech world: The Journalist as Censor, Hit Man, and Snitch

Glenn Greenwald looks at a disturbing trend in media toward misrepresentation as well as censorship

At Substack, one of an increasing number of independent news and opinion sites, lawyer and civil rights activist Glenn Greenwald looks at a disturbing trend in journalism today. The rise of the journalist as tattletale and censor, rather than investigative reporter: A new and rapidly growing journalistic “beat” has arisen over the last several years that can best be described as an unholy mix of junior high hall-monitor tattling and Stasi-like citizen surveillance. It is half adolescent and half malevolent. Its primary objectives are control, censorship, and the destruction of reputations for fun and power. Though its epicenter is the largest corporate media outlets, it is the very antithesis of journalism. Glenn Greenwald, “The Journalistic Tattletale and Censorship Industry Suffers…

facial-recognition-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
facial recognition concept

False Identification: One Woman’s Facial Recognition Nightmare

Government security officials and the ACLU stay mum, despite repeated requests for information, involvement in the Pennsylvania woman’s case

After attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6, a Pennsylvania woman has told media, she has been interrogated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and visited by the FBI. She and her daughter have both been subjected to repeated security screenings before boarding flights. Federal security officials have reportedly claimed that facial recognition technology and anonymous reports place the woman inside the Capitol Building, among those who entered illegally on January 6. She insists she never went near the Capitol, let alone engaged in any illegal activity. Repeated inquiries from Mind Matters News to the DHS and FBI about their targeting of the woman and her daughter have been ignored. So have inquiries to the American…

newborn-alert-baby-boy-on-mint-green-blanket-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Newborn Alert Baby Boy on Mint Green Blanket

Do Infants Really Have a Right to Live?

Some argue that children who are not yet self-aware do not have a right to live

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. There is an academic debate about whether babies, post-birth, have a right to live. Meanwhile, a number of countries are also moving toward child euthanasia, with or without parental consent as well. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-120-Jonathan-Wells.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 01:13. Show notes and links follow. Michael Egnor: Where did that…

programming-work-time-programmer-typing-new-lines-of-html-code-laptop-and-hand-closeup-working-time-web-design-business-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Programming Work Time. Programmer Typing New Lines of HTML Code. Laptop and Hand Closeup. Working Time. Web Design Business Concept.

The Myth of “No Code” Software (Part I)

"No code" software has its place, but not as a replacement for programmers

For at least the past twenty-five years of software development, people have been claiming that, using this tool or that tool, we will be able to build software with “no code,” and that our tools will build code for us.  The claims have varied with whatever the current technology is. In the 1990s, the idea was that we could have a system which allowed building software entirely with drag-and-drop interfaces. Tools such as Visual Basic, Delphi, PowerBuilder, and even Microsoft Access made people think that this was an achievable dream. It turned out not to be deliverable on its promises. We’ll get more into the “why” later on. Today we have a new set of tools and a new set…

artificial-intelligence-ai-data-mining-deep-learning-modern-computer-technologies-futuristic-cyber-technology-innovation-brain-representing-artificial-intelligence-with-printed-circuit-board-pc-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, deep learning modern computer technologies. Futuristic Cyber Technology Innovation. Brain representing artificial intelligence with printed circuit board (PC

Is the Mind Really Just “What the Brain Does”?

Many theories claim so. None of them work. Functionalism, the current survivor, is the best of the lot but deeply flawed

Over the past century there have been several paradigms or patterns of explanation by which philosophers and neuroscientists have tried to understand the mind. Behaviorism was the view that the input to and output from the nervous system was all that mattered. The ‘mind’ was deemed irrelevant to science. Behaviorism was eclipsed by reality—it was more or less demolished in the 1960’s by Noam Chomsky (1928–), who pointed out that language could not be understood in behaviorist terms. The study of the mind is indispensable to linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy. That this needed to be said is a scandal in itself. Identity theory — the view that mental states are identical to brain states — was the rage for several…

shot-of-corridor-in-working-data-center-full-of-rack-servers-and-supercomputers-with-pink-neon-visualization-projection-of-data-transmission-through-high-speed-internet-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.

Would Super AI Cure Cancer — or Destroy the Earth?

Max Planck Institute computer scientists say that we not only don’t but can’t know

An international team of computer scientists associated with the Max Planck Institute concluded that, given the nature of computers, there is no way of determining what superintelligent AI would do: An international team of computer scientists used theoretical calculations to show that it would be fundamentally impossible to control a super-intelligent AI “A super-intelligent machine that controls the world sounds like science fiction. But there are already machines that perform certain important tasks independently without programmers fully understanding how they learned it. The question therefore arises whether this could at some point become uncontrollable and dangerous for humanity”, says study co-author Manuel Cebrian, Leader of the Digital Mobilization Group at the Center for Humans and Machines, Max Planck Institute for…

vice-grip-tool-squeezing-a-plank-with-the-word-free-will-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Vice grip tool squeezing a plank with the word free will

A Reader Asks: Does Neuroscience Disprove Free Will?

Materialists sometimes misrepresent the evidence for free will, especially Benjamin Libet’s work

Here’s the question: I have a question regarding free will. Sam Harris in his interview with Dan Dennett said that “If we decide to do go to somewhere we experience it later but our brain decided it much earlier than our experience to this decision. If we scan the brain at that time we will tell you before you came to know” Now it raise a question because we decide through intellect. You said that free will is due to intellect so intellect is challenged here. It’s an excellent question. The answer in brief is that we most certainly do have free will. We can see this from three perspectives: scientific, philosophical, and logical. The scientific evidence The scientific evidence…

newtons-cradle-with-red-ball-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Newton's Cradle with red ball

Sci-fi Saturday: A Girl With Kinetic Powers Faces a Choice

Should she help relatives with activities she knows to be wrong?

“Kinetic” at DUST by Kylie Eaton (February 4, 2021, 05:05 min) “When Aunt Drea solicits her help with criminal activities, young Jess’s emotions spin out of control, releasing powers she’d rather keep hidden.” This “short” short film is well executed. The rural ambience is quite realistic. But “Kinetic” breaks a fundamental rule of sci-fi. For sci-fi to be a classification in art or literature, the key requirement is that the powers or circumstances must have a basis in science. None is offered here except the assertion that the girl inherited the powers from her mother and grandmother. That’s a viable idea in tales of the supernatural but not in science fiction. We have not established how the kinetic powers came…

high-ranking-military-man-holds-a-briefing-to-a-team-of-government-agents-and-politicians-shows-satellite-surveillance-footage-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
High-Ranking Military Man holds a Briefing to a Team of Government Agents and Politicians, Shows Satellite Surveillance Footage.

Sci-fi Saturday Books: Will World War III Be the U.S. vs. China?

One thing that is certain is that it will be a cyber war

Wired Magazine devoted its entire February 2021 issue to the first four chapters of a book depicting a near-future dystopia in which the U.S. goes to war with China. You can read the first part of the book here. The authors of 2034: A Novel of the New World War have military backgrounds and were inspired by Cold War literature that speculated on the worst-case scenario if the U.S. and Russia had gone to war. The reason for the Wired editors’ interest is that 2034 is no ordinary thriller. Admiral James Stavridis comes with a wealth of experience in how such a conflict might play out. He is a retired four-star U.S. naval officer who has received numerous medals and…

asteroid-near-earth-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Asteroid near Earth

Sci-fi Saturday: An Asteroid Lingers Near Earth and Devours Time

Or, at any rate, it devours our perception of time, as one man discovers

“Flyby,” a short sci-fi film at DUST by Jesse Mittelstadt (January 28, 2021 13:22 min) “When a passing asteroid begins to affect how people perceive time, one man struggles to keep up with a life that is quickly disappearing into the future.” Note: Language and mature scenes warning. When watching the opening sequence of “Flyby,” it’s hard not to think of space cigarillo Oumuamua, for which Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb made the case that it was an extraterrestrial lightsail. Loeb has recently published a book on these and similar reflections, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (January 26, 2021). Back to the film, which takes quite a different tack, of course, addressing altered perceptions…