Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive May 2021

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Active nerve cells

Human Neurons Are Different From Animal Ones, Researchers Say

A Canadian research team got a rare chance to compare live brain tissue from donors undergoing surgery with that of rodents

Most neuroscience studies on live neurons depend on animal neurons. But a group of researchers in Canada got the opportunity to study live neurons from 66 human donors undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy and tumors. So they had a chance to compare human with rodent neurons: “The goal of this study was to understand what makes human brain cells ‘human,’ and how human neuron circuitry functions as it does,” says Dr. Taufik Valiante, neurosurgeon, scientist at the Krembil Brain Institute at UHN and co-senior author on the paper. University Health Network, “Researchers Identify Unique Characteristics of Human Neurons” at Neuroscience News (May 3, 2021) Looking specifically at live human cortical pyramidal cells, they found “notable and unexpected differences between their…

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Artificial intelligence concept. Robotic hand is holding human brain. 3D rendered illustration.

Failed Prophecies of the Big “AI Takeover” Come at a Cost

Like IBM Watson in medicine, they don’t just fail; they take time, money, and energy from more promising digital innovations

Surveying the time line of prophecies that AI will take over “soon” is entertaining. At Slate, business studies profs Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith offer a whirlwind tour starting in the 1950s, with stops along the way at 1970 (“In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being”) and at 2014: In 2014, Ray Kurzweil predicted that by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence and will have all of the intellectual and emotional capabilities of humans, including “the ability to tell a joke, to be funny, to be romantic, to be loving, to be sexy.” As we move closer to 2029, Kurzweil talks more about 2045. Jeffrey Funk and…

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The War of Logic vs Creativity

Are You Left-Brained? Right-Brained? That’s Nice. Now Forget It.

The rise and fall of a really Cool myth about the brain

If you have a few minutes waiting in line, you can try various tests on the internet to help you “figure out the huge dilemma”: Are you left- or right-brained? Or, at least, “Which side of your brain is more dominant?” (in 30 seconds). Buzzfeed, more elaborately, offers a Triangle Test to reveal the dominant side. This stuff is fun (maybe). But should we take it seriously? No. Many of us have heard one version or another of the pop psych myth that the brain functions as two separate departments, logic (left) vs. creativity (right). The myth carries conversations and sells workshops, books and TV shows. In reality, the brain’s two hemispheres work together for most jobs, the degree of…

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Digital eye. Green matrix background. Concept of Artificial Intelligence

Researcher: Fear of AI Caused by Four Common Misconceptions

AI isn't panning out the way so many popular media articles predicted and there are reasons for that, a computer science prof says

As part of the Demystifying AI series, software engineer Ben Dickson, founder of TechTalks, tackles some of the most serious misunderstandings he thinks the public has about AI. For example, while AI can win in board games, where the map is the territory, “some of the early goals of AI like housekeeper robots and self-driving cars continue to recede as we approach them.” So why isn’t AI panning out the way so many popular media articles predicted? Dickson points to a recent article at ArXiv by professor Melanie Mitchell of the Santa Fe Institute, author of Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans (2019): The year 2020 was supposed to herald the arrival of self-driving cars. Five years earlier, a…

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Happy april fool's day and funny pranks concept with a pair of comical glasses with bushy eyebrows and thick mustache isolated on blue background with copy space

Comedy: An Endangered Art Form in the Age of Rage?

A deeper issue underlies the current posturing against the Babylon Bee and the cartoon skunk PePe LePew

The Babylon Bee, an evangelical Christian satire site, has become unFunny to much of the elite commentariat of our day. The comedy gold the commentariat has attacks has created says a good deal about the role of Big Social Media in funnelling and shaping our culture. Many commentators were not used to hearing their icons mocked, even gently. By 2019, fact-checking site Snopes started “fact-checking” obvious satire and the Bee responded (of course) with ridicule. But a New York Times headline of the day raises the issue that must really have been nagging at many aspirants to social power: “Satire or Deceit? Christian Humor Site Feuds With Snopes.” The Bee has its defenders, notably David French: Snopes has fact-checked whether…

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Social media concept.

Fallout From Facebook’s Huge Privacy Hack: A Serious Unfriending

The Big Hack in April, in which even Mark Zuckerberg’s data got scraped, was hardly the first one Facebook faced

We’ll let engineering prof Karl Stephan start the story, comparing Facebook to God: For purposes of discussion, we will compare Facebook to the traditional Judeo-Christian God of the Old and New Testaments. And we will restrict the comparison primarily to two matters: communication and trust (or faith). Users of Facebook communicate with that entity by entering personal information into Facebook’s system. That act of communication is accompanied by a certain level of trust, or faith. Facebook promises to safeguard one’s information and not to reveal it to anyone else without your permission… Karl D. Stephan, “In Facebook we trust” at MercatorNet Safeguard the information? As recent news reports revealed, a month ago today, a hacker released roughly 533 million users’…

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Closeup of hand female caregiver holding oxygen mask with cute child patient in hospital bed or home,little girl putting inhalation,doctor or nurse intensive care,health care,support,help concept

A Short Film Explores the Dreamscape of a Child in a Coma

While her faithful father waits and tries to connect with her…

Last week, five animated short films competed for Oscar gold, with the top prize going to the emotionally charged “If Anything Happens I Love You.” The short is a bold examination of bereavement as two parents grapple with the violent loss of their young daughter. It’s a worthy winner. However, my own pick didn’t make the shortlist. WiNDUP (2020), written and directed by young creative Yibing Jiang, is also a poignant meditation on parenthood and grief — in this case, for a child in a possibly irreversible coma — as well as a technical gem. Jiang’s company, Unity, uses custom-built software to create shorts in “real-time 3D” on standard computers. Doing without certain tools that animators take for granted today,…

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Concept of rivalry between robots and humans

Will Humans Ever Be Fully Replaceable by AI? Part 2

Particles and energy can be translated into each other. Might man also be a type of duality, with a natural and a spiritual reality?

In Part 1, we looked at the many dimensions to our thinking. Now, we ask, What then is man? Is man simply a complex biological machine that is fully explained by analyzing it in the four dimensions of space and time? Is the brain just a biological computer fully contained in four dimensions? Most of the world’s religions hold that man exists beyond the mere physical. Man has a soul, a spirit; these exist outside of the physical universe. There are characteristics, attributes, and values that are very real and have great impact, but which defy direct observation or quantification. String theory, an active research area in modern physics, requires 10 or 11 dimensions to fully explain what we see…

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boy standing and looking at broken golden gear wheels, digital art style, illustration painting

Trying To Disprove Free Will Shows That Materialism Doesn’t Work

If you have a metaphysical theory and it contradicts science, logic, and everyday experience, then your metaphysics should be abandoned

Biologist Jerry Coyne, who is also an atheist activist, offers another post denying free will. Journalist Oliver Burkeman published an essay at the The Guardian last week, asking, “The clockwork universe: is free will an illusion?”, quoting Coyne among others. Coyne, who believes that free will is indeed an illusion, offers support at his blog. Read at your leisure but note: He ignores critical science issues around free will, including the following: 1. Nature is not deterministic. The fact that nature is not predetermined in detail has been shown quite convincingly by the experimental confirmation of Bell’s theorem in quantum mechanics. Succinctly, over the past 50 years, at least 17 teams of researchers have asked and answered the question: does…

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Woman experiencing sad emotions and evaluate their emotions from the side. Emotional Intelligence Concept

Neuroscientist: We Are Closing In On the Secret of Self-Awareness

But then he turns around and admits that we are frustratingly far from understanding how it all works. His frustration is understandable.

Cognitive neuroscientist Stephen M. Fleming, author of Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness (2021), offers an excerpt at Slate in which he implies that we have made some headway in understanding self-awareness. Size alone is not the key to intellectual capacity, he says, but rather the “brain soup,” the number of neurons that can be packed into the brain. Primates of all types (monkeys, apes, and humans) are much more efficient at packing neurons into the brain than rodents are: “Regardless of their position on the tree, it seems that primates are evolutionary outliers—but, relative to other primates, humans are not.” He points to a portion of the prefrontal cortex, the “association cortex” which is “particularly well-developed” in humans, relative…

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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.

Sci-fi Saturday: The Artist’s Android Has a Surprise for Him…

He makes the fateful decision to allow her to depart from her programming during a crisis

“Muse” (2020) by Azhur Saleem and (April 13, 2021 at DUST, 12:33 min) “An artist turns to his android muse for help when trying to sell his newest paintings, but events take a dark and disturbing turn when the android learns what has inspired the work.” An artist welcomes in an art gallery owner to view his latest offerings, his in-house android at his beck and call. When the meeting turns sour and the guest tries to leave, Alderman calls on Kay and… So begins the next day. When police officers come knocking regarding an altercation outside, it transpires that Alderman has amended Kay’s CPU to respond to un-programmed demands – including murder to which she complies and the police…

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red dwarf star sun space view, 3d render

Could Red Dwarf Stars Host Planets With Intelligent Life?

Red dwarfs are much more numerous than brighter yellow dwarfs like our sun

Our Sun is a yellow dwarf star, shiny but comparatively short-lived. Red dwarfs are said to be the most common and longest-lived type of star in our galaxy. They are long-lived because they do not emit much radiance. How large are their habitable zones? A key problem turns on how much light they emit that is useful for life. That was quite a topic of discussion earlier this year at Centauri Dreams (dedicated to “Imagining and Planning Interstellar Exploration”). Astronomer and mathematician Henry Cordova offers some thoughts: All else being equal, the radiant flux received by the planet must then be directly proportional to the luminosity of the star, and inversely proportional to the square of the planet’s distance from…