Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive May 2021

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3D rendering of female robot looking sad.

Can We Apply Tests for Consciousness to Artificial Intelligence?

A robot could be programmed to say Ow! and withdraw its hand from a hot object. But did it feel anything?

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, where the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness, they established that one of the implications of quantum mechanics is that consciousness is a “thing”; it exists in its own right. How can we apply that finding to claims for artificial intelligence? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 25:33 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): Here is the big AI question: I know that I am conscious. Is there a way we can test for consciousness in others? And if we can, could we apply this test of consciousness in others to artificial intelligence? Can I test…

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mobile connect with security camera

How Much of Your Income — and Life — Does Big Tech Control?

Erik J. Larson reviews the groundbreaking book Surveillance Capitalism, on how big corporations make money out of tracking your every move

In a review of Shoshana Zuboff’s groundbreaking Surveillance Capitalism (2019), computer science historian Erik J. Larson recounts a 1950s conflict of ideas between two pioneers, Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) and John McCarthy (1927–2011). Wiener warned, in his largely forgotten book The Human Use of Human Beings (1950), about “new forms of control made possible by the development of advancing technologies.” McCarthy, by contrast, coined the term “artificial intelligence” (1956), implying his belief in “the official effort to program computers to exhibit human-like intelligence.” His “AI Rules” view came to be expressed not in a mere book but in — probably — hundreds of thousands of media articles warning about or celebrating the triumph of AI over humanity. If you are skeptical…

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Phrenology Head

Phrenology: The Pseudoscience That Just Won’t Give Up

Are we arguing about this AGAIN?

Phrenology is the detailed study of cranial sizes and shapes as a proxy for brain size and shape. Practitioners believed themselves to be able to use this information as an indicator of both the character and the mental abilities of the person whose brain was being investigated. Phrenology has been widely discredited, and is thought by many today to be pseudoscience. However, the vestiges of phrenology remain with us today, and are still used to justify various common beliefs and inferences, even by otherwise very educated people. The most common way that this happens is the use of brain size in the evaluation of the character of human evolution. It is often supposed by researchers that brain size can be…

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Quantum particle, quantum mechanics

Can a Materialist Consciousness Theory Survive Quantum Mechanics?

Quantum mechanics requires that the observer be part of the measurement; thus quantum measurements must include consciousness

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, where the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness, one of the questions was whether quantum mechanics can help decipher consciousness. But that leads to another question: Can any materialist view of consciousness survive quantum mechanics? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 22:35 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Is quantum consciousness rooted in materialism? Can you look at quantum consciousness and say, this is materialistic? Angus Menuge: That’s a tricky question. For most materialists, their paradigm is really set by older 19th-century views of physical science. By definition, this goes beyond that. However, if one defines materialism…

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Light rays through the black window. Toned photo

Can LSD Help Us Understand the Mind–Brain Relationship?

Is the mind generated by the brain or does the brain merely focus the mind on the current scene? An experiment sheds some light

In a fascinating article inThe Guardian titled “Acid test: scientists show how LSD opens doors of perception,” science editor Ian Sample discusses recent research on the mechanism by which LSD alters the brain and the mind. He begins by quoting Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) who noted that LSD “lowers the efficiency of the brain as an instrument for focusing the mind on the problems of life.” Remarkably, recent work in neuroscience supports Huxley’s view. The research, conducted at Cornell University, confirms what has been called the Rebus model of psychedelics. Rebus is a rough acronym for “relaxed beliefs under psychedelics”; the model proposes that the brain is essentially a prediction engine for daily life. In this model, the brain processes information…

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in the dzhokang temple

Why the Chinese Communist Party Feels It Must Destroy Religion

Persecution of religious groups is not based on what they actually teach but on whether their separate existence could pose a threat to the Communist Party

The U.S. Department of State’s just-released 2020 Annual Report on the state of religious freedom around the world devotes 136 pages to China. That’s because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses an extensive network of surveillance cameras coupled with facial recognition software — as well as cell phone tracking, internet and message monitoring, and biometric profiling — to persecute adherents of non-state-sanctioned organizations. Advances in collecting and storage of massive amounts of data to be sifted by algorithms have made this possible. In 2020, according to the report, the CCP used the COVID-19 pandemic to suppress religion through monitoring house church locations, shutting down online services, and creating bureaucratic barriers to opening buildings for worship. Through this “stability maintenance program,”…

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Melting Watch

Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold

An employee wants to rebel against the greed and injustice but then she would run out of time …

“The Bargain” at DUST by Eleonora Mignoli (May 18, 2021, 10:57 min) “Hired by a man who buys and sells time, a young bodyguard is torn between serving her master and fighting for the people he ruins with his power.” Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to…

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Two ants. Conflict, ants fight. Conceptually - dialogue, conversation, meeting, showdown, difficult negotiations. Beautiful rainbow background. Ants large, raised abdomens

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Insects Could Put Humans on Trial?

In Science+, a shrunken inventor finds himself facing Ant Justice

“Science+” at DUST by Leela Varghese (February 28, 2021, 11:11 min) “When Matt accidentally shrinks himself and is captured by the ants whom he has unwittingly been squashing, he must find a way to escape their clutches and his impending death sentence.” Review: This is what good comedy looks like. Matt is filming himself doing various science projects for his (possibly) YouTube program “Science+”, when he gets shrunk by his own shrink-o-matic. The ants, seen face to face, turn out to be roughly like people, of whom — Matt discovers — he has killed nearly 3500. They learned English from humans in Britain but otherwise they speak Ant. You must hear that. And no more spoilers. The story raises some…

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Hausschwein

Did an AI Disprove 5 Math Conjectures With No Human Help?

Yes and no. Read the fine print…

Mathematicians have thought that five long-standing conjectures in graph theory might be true but they have not been able to prove them: Wagner programmed a neural network to create random examples and use these measures to assess their suitability as a counterexample. The AI discarded the worst scoring ones and then replaced them with more random examples before starting again. In dozens of cases the AI was unable to find an example that disproved the theory, but in five cases it landed on a solution which showed that the conjecture must be false. Matthew Sparkes, “An AI has disproved five mathematical conjectures with no human help” at New Scientist (May 20, 2021 A subscription is required to read the whole…

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Spherical energetic quantum bubble

Can Quantum Mechanics Help Decipher Consciousness? Free Will?

Nobel laureate Roger Penrose, among others, looked to the quantum world for models

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness and various proposed solutions. One of the questions that oftem\n comes up is quantum consciousness. Earlier, they had discussed Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and panpsychism. But now, what about recent Nobelist Roger Penrose’s approach: quantum consciousness? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 18:22 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): Okay. Another model of consciousness of which I am aware is so-called quantum consciousness. I’m really interested in this because reading the works of Roger Penrose, he maintains that humans can do non-algorithmic things. And he looked around at the…

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Fresco at Palace of Knossos in Crete

How a Searchable Database Is Helping Decipher a Lost Language

A cryptographer “solved” Minoan B from ancient Cretan culture in the 1950s but Minoan A remained a mystery until recently

There was once a flourishing civilization on the island of Crete called the Minoan culture (3000–11100 B.C.). Two languages are associated with it, Minoan A and, later, Minoan B. Minoan B was deciphered but Minoan A has remained a mystery that has “tormented linguists for many decades,” as Patricia Klaus puts it. Deciphering it would give us a window back as far as 1800 BC.: Linear A, which was used by the Minoans during the Bronze Age, exists on at least 1,400 known inscriptions made on clay tablets. The language has baffled the world’s top archaeologists and linguistic experts for many years. Patricia Claus, “Minoan Language Linear A Linked to Linear B in Groundbreaking New Research” at Greek Reporter (May…

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shout abstrat illusion background. 3D Illustration

Panpsychism Is, in Angus Menuge’s View, a Desperate Move

But he thinks it is worth keeping an eye on as an understandable reaction to materialism

In Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks’s second podcast with philosopher Angus Menuge, the big topic is the perennial “Hard Problem of consciousness and various proposed solutions. Last time, they talked about the surprisingly large philosophical problem created by a concept like “red.” This time, they talk about whether Integrated Information Theory (IIT) and panpsychism in general are a way out of the dead end of naturalism. That is, if our science hypothesis is that consciousness is just an illusion, then we don’t — and can’t — have a hypothesis. There must be a better solution than that: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 10:35 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Okay. Let’s…

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Illustration of spiral arrangement in nature.  Golden Ratio concept

Quick Facts on IIT (the Leading Theory of Consciousness)

IIT may be part of a trend in science in which emergence and panpsychist theories are slowly replacing materialist and physicalist ones

Consciousness, as a concept, is so easy to experience and so hard to define. Or explain. The most popular current theory of consciousness is Integrated Information Theory (IIT), pioneered by neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by Allen Institute neuroscientist Christof Koch. For the purpose of discussing IIT, science writer Mike Hogan works with this definition: Consciousness for purposes of this theory is defined as ‘self-awareness’ or the Central-Identity; the inner-voice that allows your brain to talk to itself, an awareness that ‘you’ exist, the rationalization of your own relevance to that existence, and an awareness of the cause and effect of your actions in regard to yourself and your environment. Mike Hogan, “The Best Available Story of Human Consciousness” at…

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Information technology background. Network business infographics. it computer technology concept.

It From Bit: What Did John Archibald Wheeler Get Right—and Wrong?

In a chapter in a forthcoming book, William Dembski explores the strengths and weaknesses of Wheeler’s perspective that the universe is, at bottom, information

In his chapter in a forthcoming book, Mind and Matter: Modern Dualism, Idealism and the Empirical Sciences (Discovery Institute Press), information theorist William Dembski looks at the ways physicist John Archibald Wheeler (1911–2008, pictured) changed our understanding of reality. What did Wheeler, an early atomic bomb theorist who coined the terms “black hole” and “wormhole,” get right? What did he get wrong? Wheeler is probably best known for a catchphrase, “it from bit,” introduced in a 1989 paper where he explains, It from bit symbolises the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that what we call reality arises in the…

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Paint can and brush on red background, top view

Angus Menuge Explains Why “Red” Is Such a Problem in Philosophy

“Red” is an example of qualia, concepts we can experience that have no physical existence otherwise

In philosopher Angus Menuge‘s second podcast with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, the big topic is the perennial Hard Problem of consciousness and various proposed solutions. Menuge, who is chair of philosophy at Concordia University, talks about some of the ways consciousness is hard to pin down and why it doesn’t follow the rules we might expect in a fully material universe: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-134-Angus-Menuge.mp3 This portion begins at 01:01 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks (pictured): There is a lot of research happening in modeling consciousness. Panpsychism, quantum consciousness, and integrated information theory (IIT) are examples of consciousness models that have been getting a lot of press and visibility lately… So first,…

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retro robot orator, speaker, 3d, render

Can a New AI Debating Program Win All the Debates?

While billed as an autonomous debating system, Project Debater features very little autonomy

From ancient days, reason has been considered the hallmark of what sets humans apart from animals. Aristotle defined humans as the rational animal and this definition has stuck through the history of Western philosophy. Human reason is best demonstrated in debate. Thus, if we can create programs that argue a point effectively, then computers will have conquered an important frontier of what it means to be intelligent. Recently, we learned at Nature that one research team claims to have developed such a program: A fully autonomous computer system has been developed that can take part in live debates with people. The findings hint at a future in which artificial intelligence can help humans to formulate and make sense of complex…

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Robot vs man. Human humanoid robot work with laptops at desk.

Will Humans Ever Be Fully Replaceable by AI? Part 3

Data outlines what can be quantified but does not show the comparison between AI and human performance at the most important points

To get the right answer to the question of whether artificial intelligence will ever become capable of replacing man we must get the ontology, epistemology, and metrology right. Ontology seeks to understand the essential nature of things and the relationships between different things. Epistemology looks at what we can know and how accurately we can know what is knowable. Finally, metrology explores how we make measurements and comparisons. To get the right answer we must measure the right things (ontology), select what we will measure (epistemology), and determine how we make our measurements and comparisons with accuracy, precision, and repeatability (metrology). Mistakes in any of these areas will lead to a bad outcome. A common mistake is to measure what…

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Dying woman with nurse

Do People Suddenly Gain Clarity About Life Just Before Dying?

A small number of cognitively challenged or dementia patients become lucid — for the first time in years — just before dying

The percentage of people who suddenly become lucid on the point of death may be small but their stories are remarkable. The best known case was that of Anna Katharina Ehmer (1895–1922) who, due to mental disabilities, lived in a psychiatric institution called Hephata in Germany for most of her life (from 1896 to 1922). She … allegedly never spoken a single word during her life. Yet, she was reported to have sung dying songs for a half hour before she died. The case was reported by the head of this institution and by its chief physician. We consider it difficult to evaluate the authenticity of the case definitively in retrospect. Nevertheless, there are similar cases and a variety of…

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communicator technology on wood table top view

Apple’s Supply Chain Includes Forced Labor in China

Big companies like Apple claim they try to avoid forced labor but maybe not hard enough

The Information, an online periodical covering the tech industry, found that Apple’s supply chain includes companies that use the forced labor of members of minority groups in China, particularly Uyghurs — Chinese citizens who are ethnically Turkish and mostly Muslim: The Information and human rights groups have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China. At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found. The revelation stands in contrast to Apple’s assertions over the past year that it hasn’t found evidence of…

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Stock market data on digital LED display. Fundamental and technical analysis with candle stick graph chart of stock market trading to represent about Bullish and Bearish point.

Can Darwinian Theory Explain the Rise and Fall of Businesses?

The fashionable field of organizational ecology says yes — organizations are like animals in nature

When you think of “business,” do you think of stuffy suits and boring meetings? But maybe that’s just a pose. Organizational science studies what makes businesses survive, thrive and die. The description makes businesses sound more like living, vulnerable animals, doesn’t it? There is even a widely accepted subfield called organizational ecology, founded by Michael Hannan and John Freeman (1944–2008), which applies evolution theory to businesses. In 1989, Harvard University Press published their very influential book on the topic. Organizational ecology applies a specifically Darwinian form of evolution theory to businesses. That is, the main driving force of change for businesses is seen as natural selection. The “ecology” part of organizational ecology is the idea that the ever-changing business environment…