Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive March 2021

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White, grey and pink mandelbrot fractal.

How Kurt Gödel Destroyed a Popular Form of Atheism

We don’t hear much about logical positivism now but it was very fashionable in the early twentieth century

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin interview I: Chaitin chats with Kurt Gödel,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin. Earlier, we noted his comments on the almost supernatural awareness that the great mathematicians had of the foundations of reality in the mathematics of our universe. Yesterday, we heard Chaitin’s recollection of how he (almost) met the eccentric genius Kurt Gödel (1906–1978). One way that Gödel stood out from many of his contemporaries was that he believed in God. He even wrote a mathematical proof of the existence of God. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-124-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 17:16 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: One of the things…

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Illustration: The Terrible Alien UFO Destroyer comes. The Combat Begins. Realistic Style. Scene / Wallpaper Design.

Sci-fi Saturday: Can an Alternative Universe Save a Lonely Girl?

A girl finds fighting space aliens easier than fighting a brain haemorrhage and a sense of guilt

“CARONTE” at DUST by Luis Tinoco (March 2, 2021, 14:04 min): “A self-absorbed teenager somehow contacts another universe after she’s injured in a car accident.” Language warning. The initial plot development is laudably clearer than that of many short DUST entries. Minimizing spoilers, it’s apparent early on that the heroine is not really a lieutenant in a space force. So what is happening in those scenes is happening either an alternative universe or all in her head. The characters are well imagined and portrayed and the real life scenes are deftly executed. The film ends as it must — not happily but inevitably, and with at least some sense of redemption. Quibble: There is way too much profanity. It gets…

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Nebula and stars in deep space, glowing mysterious universe. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Is Real-World Space Travel Just Too Daunting for ET?

That’s the Percolation Hypothesis as to why we don’t make contact with aliens. They can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can

Last week we looked at another reason that has been advanced, as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Science writer Matt Williams has been looking at the reasons (see the links below.) Last Saturday, we looked at the possibility that Earth is unusual in that it is a rocky planet whose intelligent inhabitants live on the surface. Many rocky planets and moons with icy surfaces may have interior oceans that harbor life.: In that case, intelligent life may not think of space exploration. Another hypothesis that Williams has examined is the Percolation Theory Hypothesis, that there are limits imposed by the laws of physics as to what intelligent life forms can do by way of…

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mysterious exotic exoplanet lit by a bright red star

Sci-fi Saturday: “This Planet Is Not in Our Co-ordinates”

A space courier crew gets a surprise when delivering a mysterious machine to a strange planet

“McPherson’s Toys” at DUST by Austin Charlesworth (Jan 23, 2021, 2:59 min): “Two anxious space couriers have to deliver an ominous package to an unfamiliar planet with unexpected results.” Animated. At only 3 min, this one is very short. It will give fast food staff time to prepare your burger. The space couriers find themselves on a planet not expected to be in their co-ordinates. The rest would make a great greeting card. Depending on how you react (the audience is mixed), that may be fun. The animation feels a bit old-fashioned but many viewers will like that. Perfect for nostalgia. Other reviews from the “We are but DUST” files: Sci-fi Saturday: A future where dreams have been privatized Unfortunately,…

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mandelbrot set abstract mathematics computer generated

Gregory Chaitin’s “Almost” Meeting With Kurt Gödel

This hard-to-find anecdote gives some sense of the encouraging but eccentric math genius

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin interview I: Chaitin chats with Kurt Gödel,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin. Yesterday, we noted his comments on the almost supernatural awareness that the great mathematicians had of the foundations of reality in the mathematics of our universe. This time out, Chaitin recounts how he (almost) met the eccentric genius Kurt Gödel (1906–1978): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-124-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 12:42 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: You mentioned that you read the article about Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in Scientific American I also know that you had a near brush with Gödel and I’ve heard the story from you. But…

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Reflections of buildings in the window of other buildings on Skyscrapers in Seattle Washington

Parler Drops Federal Suit; Now Suing Amazon in Washington State

Amazon, which was, according to Parler’s suit, about to sign an agreement with rival Twitter when it suddenly cut Parler’s services, may find Washington's state court a tougher sell

Recently, Amazon Web Services suddenly cut servers to social media site Parler, leaving it scrambling offline for a month. Parler, now back on line, has been suing Amazon in federal court. However, the social media site has abruptly changed tactics, according to a Hill report. It has dropped the federal suit. It is now suing Amazon in Washington State instead. It’s possible that Parler’s choice of venue in which to sue was motivated by the fact that Amazon is Seattle-based. Seattle passed a law in 1999 against viewpoint discrimination: “Seattle’s sweeping ban on discrimination based on political ideology doesn’t just apply to employment or public accommodations. It also includes a “Fair Contracting Practices Ordinance” banning discrimination in contracting.” (Mind Matters…

Slime molds

Slime Mold: An Earthbound “Alien” That Thinks Without a Brain

Researchers are beginning to learn just how giant molds can remember things without a nervous system. What, exactly, is doing the computations?

Turns out, it’s all in the tubes. The slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a single cell, often very large. The way Physarum gets to be so large is that when it divides, the many single cells merge into one giant cell — with no nervous system: “Its body is a giant single cell made up of interconnected tubes that form intricate networks. This single amoeba-like cell may stretch several centimeters or even meters, featuring as the largest cell on earth in the Guinness Book of World Records. Technical University of Munich (TUM), “A memory without a brain” at ScienceDaily (February 23, 2021) The paper is closed access. But how does the giant Physarum cell, with no brain, mouth, limbs, or…

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Hand holding smartphone with media icons and symbol

Arizona Fights Back Against Big Tech App Store Monopoly

North Dakota’s anti-monopoly legislation was defeated but Arizona’s passed

Big tech, flexing political muscles, is starting to get pushback at the state level. Political analyst Matt Stoller tells us a tale of two states: A loser and a winner: Two weeks ago, Apple and Google managed to defeat a major bill in North Dakota to force competition in app stores. This week, the Arizona House of Representatives defied the tech giants and passed the very same bill… Matt Stoller, “Apple Threatens North Dakota, Suffers Crushing Loss in Arizona: “A Lot of It is Just Fear”” at Substack Even sovereign states like Australia have felt the heat from pushing back against the likes of Facebook. Facebook blocked access to the Australian government’s Facebook pages during the forest fire season, due…

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Silhouette of human with universe and physical, mathematical formulas

Gregory Chaitin on the Great Mathematicians, East and West

Himself a “game-changer” in mathematics, Chaitin muses on what made the great thinkers stand out

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin interview I: Chaitin chats with Kurt Gödel,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on the almost supernatural awareness that the great mathematicians had of the foundations of reality in the mathematics of our universe: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-124-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This discussion begins at 8:26 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: There are few people who can be credited without any controversy with the founding of a game changing field of mathematics. We are really fortunate today to talk to Gregory Chaitin (pictured) who has that distinction. Professor Chaitin is a co-founder of the Field of Algorithmic Information Theory that explores the properties of…

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Promising Covid-19 Vaccine concept. Hand of a researcher take a 2019-nCov vaccine vial with wooden alphabet letters

Consultant MD Shows, Amazon Markets COVID-19 Vax Misinformation

As a recent research study showed, while Amazon acts as a censor when it chooses, its basic algorithms would frustrate any real effort to deal with misinformation

Yesterday, we looked at the way Amazon can use its near-monopoly position (83% of the market) to prevent both the publication and distribution of books. It can, as we saw, pick sides in a controversy and tag material that was previously only controversial as “hate speech.” But anyone who thinks that this corporate power is wisely used may wish to consider hospital consultant M.D. Chuck Dinerstein’s comments on the algorithm Amazon uses to decide on the science value of material on the COVID-19 vaccine. Amazon markets information for profit. It does not act, like Twitter and Facebook, primarily as a platform or carrier. It’s algorithms are designed to sell the products. So Amazon keeps track of what you like, what…

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Does Amazon’s Near-Monopoly Justify Its Use of Censorship?

Caitlin Basset looks at the little-known Seattle law that might make Amazon’s censorship much more costly

Recently, Caitlin Basset told Stream readers about the Seattle law that could give Amazon — currently big on censorship — pause for thought: Last week Amazon spiked a [2018] book critical of transgender policy. The book — When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement, by Ryan T. Anderson. Amazon removed it without warning or explanation. “I hope you’ve already bought your copy,” Anderson wrote on Twitter, “cause Amazon just removed my book.” Amazon has breached free speech principles before. In the past two years, they banned products, films and ad campaigns for ideas it deems “objectionable.” Caitlin Bassett, “Could an Obscure Seattle Law Be Big Tech’s Undoing?” at Stream (February 28, 2021) Under an apparent new rule, Amazon…

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electric vehicle of the future using smart electric car charging station at home frontal perspective

Apple Is Once Again Eyeing the Smart Car Market

Other firms are jumping in or ramping up and, with the fog from the COVID-19 pandemic clearing, we are looking out at a broader array of new vehicle plans

Early in February, rumor had it that Apple is once again eyeing the smart car market, both electric and self-driving. Improved batteries and new environment regulations might make smart cars a promising new business area. According to USA Today, the “iCar” is certain to be an electric vehicle costing over $40,000. The self-driving part is more of a challenge: But a self-driving car could introduce a “longer timeframe” in part due to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s cautious approach to unveiling new products, Ives said. Automakers and tech companies have yet to solve the thorniest challenges associated with autonomous driving. Nathan Bomey, “Is Apple making an electric, self-driving car? If it does, here are 5 things you could see” at USA…

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hacker virus malware attack during coronavirus pandemic concept

Computer Hacks of Governments, Hospitals, Firms Increase

Even the ones we depend on are vulnerable. They’re not always anxious to talk about it

It’s not just companies, it’s countries that get hacked these days. Here are some examples from the United States: ➤ The big story was the Solar Winds case last month. One version is that an intern thought that SolarWinds123 was a safe password: At this point though, it’s still uncertain whether the password leak played a role in the SolarWinds hack, CNN noted, which is believed to be the largest foreign intrusion campaign in U.S. history. This month, White House national security adviser Anne Neuberger stated that approximately 100 different companies and nine federal agencies, including the one that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, had been compromised by foreign hackers. Jody Serrano, “SolarWinds Officials Throw Intern Under the Bus for…

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Robotic man cyborg face representing artificial intelligence 3D rendering

Are We Facing the Next, Very Rapid Stage of Evolution, via AI?

Prof. Mark Alan Walker: “Person-engineering technologies will make it possible to accomplish in a matter of years what evolution would take thousands of millennia to achieve.”

These are certainly heady times in the biotech world. With the new mRNA vaccine being created in just a few days in January 2020, someone can mass produce DNA in their garage for the price of a hamburger, and Alpha Fold 2 can predict proteins from DNA with accuracy, rivalling wet lab results, it seems we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. Most viral infections will cease if all we need to do to roll out a new vaccine is sequence the virus genome and mass produce the portion that binds to human cells. On the darker side, it will also likely mean a greater threat of biowarfare. Creating a new virus may just be a matter of downloading…

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Asian woman is wearing facial mask during virus epidemic

Was the WHO Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin Thwarted by China?

The World Health Organization team was not really allowed to conduct a proper investigation in China

On January 14, 2021, an international team from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan in Hubei province in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. From the outset, the investigation was plagued with three issues: 1) It ‘s been a year since the outbreak in Wuhan, which makes an investigation into the origins of the outbreak difficult. 2) WHO has catered to the Chinese government since the beginning of the pandemic, and 3) the scientists involved in the investigation had to be approved by Beijing. Two of them had conflicts of interest. When the WHO team arrived, they faced additional barriers to a thorough investigation. They were quarantined for two weeks so they…

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Program development concept. Young man working with computer

Why Software Cannot Just Evolve — a Demonstration

The claims for Avida — a software program that is supposed to “evolve” solutions via neo-Darwinian evolution — fail the most basic test

A Michigan State University publication headlined a media release declaring: “Evolution of learning is key to better artificial intelligence” (September 19, 2019). Reportedly, researchers used the computer simulation software, Avida, to show the “evolution of learning.” On that view, artificial intelligence arises via neo-Darwinian evolution. Really? The “Sound Bites” Were Exciting… The university’s team “composed of biologists and computer scientists used a digital evolution program that allowed them to observe tens of thousands of generations of evolution in just a few hours, a feat unachievable with living systems.” According to the release: • “The results are the first demonstration that shows the evolution of associative learning in an artificial organism without a brain.” • “While the environment was simulated, the…