Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive August 2021

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Business Leadership Attributes and Features in Literature

What Does Super-Investor Peter Thiel Think You Should Read?

Some books to consider include history as well as business strategy. The two cannot be separated

Peter Thiel, whose name is practically synonymous with successful high-tech investing, will be speaking at COSM 2021. He has also offered some thoughts on books worth reading: Here are three of them, courtesy Kevin Rooke: ➤ The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (Harper Business 2014): From Thiel: “Every management guide presumes that all great companies follow a formula. But successful startups don’t imitate; they build innovations that can’t be copied. Ben Horowitz knows no recipe guarantees success. He has written the first true guide for protecting a startup from self-sabotage.” ➤ Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder (Basic Books, 2010) From Thiel: “He tells how…

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Bull figurine standing on bitcoins, concept of cryptocurrencies

Seven in 10 Institutional Investors Expect To Buy Cryptos

Mainstreaming continues, despite the detractors, with major investment players signing on

Cryptocurrencies are now estimated to be worth roughly $2 trillion and — despite pressure from regulators — demand from investors continues: In July 2021, FTX—the Antigua-based cryptocurrency derivatives exchange which offers futures, leverage tokens and OTC trading—raised $900 million from over 60 investors. This included venture capital firms Paradigm and Sequoia, hedge funds and the private equity group Thoma Bravo. It was the largest private equity deal in the crypto industry’s history, valuing the business at $18 billion—one of the largest rounds of financing for a digital assets startup. In May 2021, Block.one —the Peter Thiel, Alan Howard and Louis Bacon backed blockchain software firm—pumped $9.7 billion into a new cryptocurrency exchange subsidiary called Bullish Global. Even excluding Block.one’s capital…

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Coins on a gray table

Why Is Randomness A Good Model, But Not A Good Explanation?

After all, random processes are used all the time to model things in science

The previous article I wrote about randomness proved quite controversial. After all, random processes are used all the time to model things in science. How can I say randomness is not a scientific explanation? Let me first make a distinction between a model and an explanation. A model shows us how some physical thing operates, but it does not explain the cause of the thing. An explanation, on the other hand, tries to explain the cause. But surely if we can effectively model something with randomness, then randomness must also be part of the causal explanation for the thing? Well, not so fast. Let’s look at how we model randomness with computers. Computers themselves are not random in the slightest.…

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Ultrasonic transducer on the blue background

A Neuroscience Theory That Actually Helps Explain the Brain

Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory is an instance of getting something right

Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein. Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries. It is the theory that the brain is a type of…

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Agentur

It’s AI Art — But Is That Really Art?

Much depends on the claque that agrees that it IS art

There are reports that AI has created wonderful music and great paintings. But who judges whether a creation is or isn’t art? 19th century writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford claimed that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”1 So any analysis of AI art or music will be subjective. One person’s modern art masterpiece can be viewed by others as like a child’s finger painting. The same is true for music. The delightful chaos of Charles Ives music is interpreted by some as noise. The value of all art can cannot be quantized but, indeed, “is in the eye of the beholder.” The degree to which art is held in high regard can be emotionally manipulated. A great example is…

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AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Deep learning. Mindfulness. Psychology.

Is Brain Science Helping Us Understand Belief in God?

To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t

A recent article about a Harvard neuroscientist’s research on the correlates of religious experience in the brain raises many familiar questions about the relevance of neuroscience to religious experience. Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities. Nonetheless, Ferguson thought, As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of [religious] experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound. Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at The Scientist (Jul 13, 2021)…

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Terracotta warriors, China

China’s Data Laws Restrict Businesses and Favor the State

The Data Security Law and the Personal Information Protection Law are part of the Chinese government’s plan to steer the private sector toward State goals

In previous articles, I looked at how the Chinese government is reigning in China’s tech sector first of Jack Ma and Ant Group’s initial public offering on the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges and then Didi Global, Inc. The Chinese government has since passed two data laws and released an update that clarifies the 2017 Cybersecurity Law. The result is better protections of citizens’ data from being used, exploited, or sold by private companies, and encroaching government presumption of the private sector in which the State has virtually unrestricted access to and jurisdiction over private companies’ data.  Clarification of the 2017 Cybersecurity Law The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) gained oversight powers over other state agencies in 2014 under Xi Jinping. Jane…

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Concept of shame and ridicule

Non-Materialist Science Is Wanted — Dead or Alive

Exploring a non-materialist approach to the mind has included a death threat for neurosurgeon Michael Egnor

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which epilepsy provides a glimpse into the way the mind is not simply the brain but has powers in its own right. In this segment, Dr. Egnor talks about the problems of being a non-materialist physician in a materialist world — death threats and all. Here is a partial transcript and notes for the 1 hour 44 minute mark to the 1 hour 56 minute mark: Arjuna Das: You said how scientists, if they reject physicalism, it doesn’t help their career. They might get less opportunities or less prestige or whatever… I…

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Picture of a young man having an asthma attack

How Much Can Will Power Do Against Nature? – Sci-fi Saturday

Despite his career-ending disability, Aaron — as an alternative to accepting life as a bystander — is trying to use his skills to take down a gunrunning gang

“Outcast” (2020) at DUST by Royce Adkins (August 16, 2021, 12:29 min) A former super soldier with chronic asthma fights to prove his worth. Review: The film opens with a gritty scene in a hospital where a veteran medic (Rod Emelle) tells a veteran soldier (Aaron) that if he doesn’t start using his asthma meds right, they will kill him quicker than his respiratory problems. Not too many spoilers, one hopes, but despite his career-ending disability, Aaron — as an alternative to accepting life as a bystander — is trying to use his skills to take down a gunrunning gang. His friend Imara (Gail Bean) is wants to dissuade him from the role of lone wolf lawman. As the story…

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Six worlds

New Class of “Hycean” Exoplanets May Feature Life

The new James Webb Telescope will enable much clearer resolution for the composition believed necessary for hosting life

A group of Cambridge astronomers, studying the more than 4000 confirmed exoplanets, think that hydrogen-rich planets may host life. These “Hycean” planets are more numerous than planets similar to Earth and are easier to observe, especially through the new James Webb telescope, to be launched later this year. They are thought to be completely covered by oceans and are termed “mini-Neptune water worlds”: Many of the prime Hycean candidates identified by the researchers are bigger and hotter than Earth, but still have the characteristics to host large oceans that could support microbial life similar to that found in some of Earth’s most extreme aquatic environments. These planets also allow for a far wider habitable zone, or ‘Goldilocks zone’, compared to…

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Green sprouts on blurred city background, environmental concept

It’s 2075! Our Motto: “Ignorance is Bliss” — Sci-fi Saturday

This animated short asks us to consider a future world in which information is reduced to a sort of haze

“Kernel” at DUST by Olly Skillman-Wilson (August 25, 2021, 5:12 min, animated) The world has become a place where information is tightly filtered and controlled, expelled into the air like a thick smog. Leonard Paisley is an ageing neurobotanist, his life work to preserve the knowledge of the past in his biome. When some equipment malfunctions his commitment is tested. Review: It’s 2075 AD and freedom of the press is not even remembered. Against a background of futuristic skyscrapers, a billboard advises us, “Not Knowing Is a Virtue.” Another that “Ignorance Is Bliss.” And “‘Tis Folly To Be Wise” Well, at least they are not telling us to Love Big Brother Or Else. Except for the fact that the landscape…

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man before big brain

Can Science Really Engineer a Bigger Human Brain?

Computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham wonders why we would bother. There is no strict relationship between brain size and intellectual achievement

In a three-part series at Psychology Today, Hobart and William Smith College computational neuroscientist Daniel Graham, author of An Internet in Your Head: A New Paradigm for How the Brain Works(2021), tackles that question: First, most parts of the human brain are already larger than they should be for an animal life form of our size. But the difference is hardly commensurate with average human intelligence vs. average chimpanzee intelligence. Sure enough: Neuroscientists have struggled to explain what our extra brain mass actually accomplishes. The best guess seems to be that, at the species level, our extra brain mass allows us to store more lifetime memories. One piece of evidence for this is that bigger-brained (and therefore bigger-bodied) mammals also…

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Time is running out concept shows clock that is dissolving away into little particles. Black and white wall clock

A Cruel Experiment Plays With Three Lives: Sci-fi Saturday

Rational thought offers no contest, in this minimalist film, to the will to survive or at least get revenge in death

“2-Bullet Solution” at DUST by Matt Mullins and Chris Naylor (July 26, 2021, 3:32 min) 3 Test Subjects, 2 Bullets, 1 Solution Review: It’s a philosophical dilemma of sorts. Three people, two men and a woman, are experimentally trapped in a chamber slowly filling with a fatal gas. They have two minutes, three guns and two bullets. The survivor will be released. This cast list (presumably in order of appearance) gives a sense of utter minimalism, in that they don’t really have names: Stretch – Caitlin HutsonBeard – Andrew DiBartolomeoEdge – Kosey BaskinVoice – Christina RoseHandler – Matt Baxter Discouragingly, no one discusses options like using the bullets to break a lock. The fight scene (over the bullets) seems unrealistic;…

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Venus against the background of the sun. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Carl Sagan Institute: Who Can See Us From Outer Space?

Most exoplanets are spotted when they dim a star’s light while crossing it. Earth does the same thing

We’ve all heard of astronomer Carl Sagan’s pale blue dot (Earth from a billion miles away, 1990). But Jaimie Green reminds us at Slate that Sagan (1934–1996) also published a paper in 1993 that looked at Earth from that distance as if it were an exoplanet. What signals would prompt them to suspect life here? That approach is still followed by astronomer and director Lisa Kaltenegger at Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute. One question is, where would an intelligent, technologically advanced civilization need to be to see us? Kaltenegger and her collaborators used new data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission to figure out which stars have, have had, or will in the next 5,000 years have the right…

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Silhouette of business people work together in office. Concept of teamwork and partnership. double exposure with light effects

CFO Extraordinaire Hope Cochran to Speak at COSM 2021

CFO, mother of three, and...opera singer? Yes, surviving backstage chaos was good training for technology ventures.

Brilliant minds in technology and business will be converging in Seattle to take part in Discovery Institute’s COSM 2021 this November. Among those minds will be Hope Cochran, mother of three, CFO extraordinaire, the first female managing director of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, and former opera singer. Opera singer? Yes. In fact, Cochran is a classically trained vocalist. She earned a dual degree at Stanford in economics and music. At the start of her career, she would do “audit by day and opera by night” (as she told Armoire in 2019).  “…I could not imagine, not taking music lessons,” Cochran explained in a podcast released earlier this year. “And if you joined on as a major, you got to take them for free. So,…

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sad mixed breed dog posing in a cage in animal shelter

Are Animals Capable of Committing Suicide?

Generally, experts think not. They may, of course, become profoundly depressed and engage in self-harm

At Discover Magazine, Richard Pallardy offers an anecdote: In April 1970, Ric O’Barry visited a dolphin named Kathy at the Miami Seaquarium, where she was languishing in “retirement” after three years as the title character on the television show Flipper. O’Barry, who had captured her from the wild and trained her to perform, remembers thinking that she seemed depressed. She was all alone in a concrete tank — not a good thing for a highly social animal like a dolphin. He claims the former cetacean starlet swam into his arms, sank to the bottom of the tank and refused to resurface, drowning herself. Richard Pallardy, “Do Animals Commit Suicide?” at Discover Magazine (August 10, 2021) There is no lack of…

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Wildfire under transmission power lines

Eminent Historian Niall Ferguson To Speak at COSM 2021

Ferguson’s new book, “Doom: The politics of catastrophe” is considered timely reading in the COVID-19 era

Historian Niall Ferguson, will be speaking at COSM 2021 in Seattle on Doom: The politics of catastrophe (November 11, 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm.) His talk will be based on his new book, Doom (Penguin, 2021), which offers a disturbing but timely thesis: “Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises. and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all.” (from the Publisher) But we are not better prepared. Any thoughtful person who…

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cuttlefish

Cuttlefish Have Good Memories, Even in Old Age

They are cephalopods and many types of cephalopod show a number of intelligent characteristics which we are only beginning to investigate

Octopuses have been called a “second genesis” of intelligence, that is, they are invertebrates with high intelligence, instead of vertebrates. But their close relatives, squid and cuttlefish (they are all cephalopods), are not far behind, according to recent research. One unusual finding is that cuttlefish have very good memories: Can you remember what you had for dinner last Tuesday? Or on this day last year? It turns out that cuttlefish can, right up to old age – the first animal we’ve found that doesn’t show signs of deterioration in memory function over time. David Nield, “The Incredible Brains of Cuttlefish Hold Memories That Never Seem to Fade” at ScienceAlert (18 August 2021) Of course, cuttlefish live only a couple of…

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Bussiness man Hand press button on panel of printer, printer scanner laser office copy machine supplies start concept.

Science Sleuths Catch Authors Using AI Tool for Plagiarism

Odd phrases like “counterfeit consciousness” instead of “artificial intelligence” began appearing in computer science journals, triggering an investigation

The expression “tortured phrases” likely reminds teachers of student essays. Paradoxically, it takes time to develop a “natural” style. But last April, when that sort of language started appearing in computer science journals, some alert researchers suspected that something more serious than mere awkwardness was at work: The researchers could not understand why researchers would use the terms ‘counterfeit consciousness’, ‘profound neural organization’ and ‘colossal information’ in place of the more widely recognized terms ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘deep neural network’ and ‘big data’. Holly Else, “‘Tortured phrases’ give away fabricated research papers” at Nature But they figured it out. Many computer science papers, especially from China, were partly constructed using automated translation and software that may disguise plagiarism. But the software…

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press and media camera ,video photographer on duty in public new

Media Try But Fail To Learn From Their Romance With Cuomo

Revoking Cuomo’s Emmy, amid facile self-reproach, is hardly a substitute for unpacking the bigger facts of what the recently resigned New York governor did wrong

In a revealing article in Columbia Journalism Review New York City journalist Ross Barkan talks about the many media fails in covering the misdeeds of recently resigned New York State governor Andrew Cuomo. And yet, somehow, Barkan deftly pulls the punches. His omissions tell us a good deal about what is wrong with mainstream media today. Cuomo was brought down by credible sexual assault and intimidation allegations over many years. One reason justice took so long was the media’s infatuation with Cuomo, ignoring on-the-ground realities of all types — some deadly, as we shall see. Barkan gets a lot of stuff right: Cuomo was not nearly as skilled at handling the COVID-19 epidemic as major media painted him: But Cuomo’s…