Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive September 2021

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Texas Governor Signs Law Curbing Big Tech Censorship

A similar law in Florida was halted by a federal judge. Will Texas's law face the same legal battle?

Last Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 20 into law, legislation that would prohibit social media companies from banning users for their political beliefs and provide users with a legal remedy for unfair discriminatory behavior. The law is very similar to legislation passed earlier this year in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 into law at the end of May. Within days, technology trade groups had filed a lawsuit, and on June 30, a federal judge stopped the bill in its tracks with a preliminary injunction. For the bill’s proponents, the law’s intention is to protect the free speech rights of state citizens when using social media. “Freedom of speech is under attack in Texas,” said…

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Set of numbers 1, 2, 3 made of leather. 3D render font with skin texture isolated on black background.

Further Dispatches From the War on Math

Discussions of social policy where math is relevant can be useful. But a student who does not understand how an equation works will fail at both math AND social policy

Earlier this year, I reposted an article that originally ran at Salvo on the war on the teaching of mathematics as a discipline in publicly funded schools in North America. The war continues so here are some updates: Recently, three mathematicians who immigrated to the United States weighed in: The United States has been dominant in the mathematical sciences since the mass exodus of European scientists in the 1930s. Because mathematics is the basis of science—as well as virtually all major technological advances, including scientific computing, climate modelling, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and robotics—US leadership in math has supplied our country with an enormous strategic advantage. But for various reasons, three of which we set out below, the United States is…

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Concept Of Open Mind

New Theory of Mind Offers More Information, Less Materialism

First, let’s begin by noting a remarkable fact: Panpsychism seems to have triumphed in the area of theories of consciousness.

At Nautilus, evolutionary biologist Tam Hunt asks us to consider the “General Resonance Theory of Consciousness,” which he has been developing with psychologist Jonathan Schooler — “a framework with a panpsychist foundation. It may, he thinks, “at least in theory, provide more complete answers to the full array of questions the hard problem of consciousness poses.” Hunt’s quite clear about the panpsychism (the view that everything in the universe participates in consciousness): Since I came up in philosophy, rather than neuroscience or psychology, for me the easy part was deciding the philosophical orientation. Schooler and I duked it out over whether we should adopt a materialist, idealist, panpsychist, or some other position on our way to a complete answer. I…

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Tree brain with human head cape, idea concept of think  hope freedom and mind , surreal artwork, dream art , fantasy landscape, imagination of nature

The Final Materialist Quest?: A War on the Reality of the Mind

Going to war with the very concept is an approach even George Orwell did not think up

One of the stranger articles we’ve seen in a long time at Aeon proposes a war on the very concept of “the mind.” “The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them,” Joe Gough, a philosophy student, says. Here is his reasoning: The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once.…

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Developing programmer Team Development Website design and coding technologies working in software company office

The Two Most Common Problems with Outsourced Code

And how to mitigate against them

I have had many opportunities to work with developers outside the United States in a variety of capacities. To begin with, let me assure readers that there are great developers all over the world. The sun never sets on the current team I work with. The great thing about software development is that you can find great talent wherever the Internet is. There are great individual developers in every country, but I have found that, in many countries, the culture of software development has not evolved to where it is in America. When hiring individual developers, this rarely matters. The proper developers tend to gravitate to whatever level you are hiring at (or, alternatively, you can have a headhunter screen…

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Motion Blur Stretcher Gurney Patient Hospital Emergency

When the AI Call Center Can’t Handle Crises —Sci-Fi Saturday

It’s not clear whether this is a bug or a feature but it is certainly something that could happen.

“Lifeline” at DUST by Harry Jackson (September 6, 2021, 7:57 min) Jess, and her trial for a job at a high-tech call centre. When her competitor suddenly collapses, her only means to save him is a state of the art computer system. The problem is, the art is in a terrible state. Review: It’s a very good story. It illustrates the huge problem that any electronics-run system faces: Problems that only human intelligence can resolve. Gwyneth Keyworth, as Jess, sees that her co-worker Nathan Bryon is apparently collapsing at his desk. But she cannot call an ambulance because the high-tech call center does not allow that option. It’s not entirely clear why Jess does not use a private cell number…

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Demonic eyes

Ancient Philosopher: There Might Be Life Forms Not Bound to Earth

Surprisingly, a philosopher may have thought of it first over 2500 years ago

Wade Roush, author of Extraterrestrials, discusses the views of Anaximander (c. 610—546 B.C.E.) Anaximander, a philosopher who lived in Miletus in modern-day Turkey, contributed one key idea. He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing. For someone who lived 2,200 years before Isaac Newton, this was a stunning insight. The philosopher Karl Popper called it “one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.” Anaximander also thought Earth was a cylinder with the continents arrayed on one flat end, so he wasn’t right about everything. But he did invent the idea of space, a place with no absolute up or…

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Hype word card

Isn’t It Time for an Artificial Intelligence Reality Check?

Why do we think we’re so close to artificial general intelligence (AGI) when there are so many obstacles to overcome?

The Singularity is coming! The Singularity is coming! If you’re getting tired of hearing that “strong AI” is just around the corner, you’re not alone. The Stephen Hawkings, Ray Kurzweils, and Elon Musks of the world have been putting humanity on notice with predictions of machines overtaking humans for decades. It’s either the dawn of utopia or the start of a nightmare, depending on who’s talking. And every time they’re issued, the media jumps on them, because being on the cusp of a new era of intelligent beings is news. What’s missing from these confident claims, however, is a realistic assessment of the problems that rank-and-file computer scientists wrestle with every day — namely, the problem of intelligence. In their…

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Merry Christmas

Philosopher Ed Feser Distinguishes Matter From Materialism

Feser, of Pasadena College, California, asks us to consider what materialists are really saying

Edward Feser explains the problem by starting with what the materialist is not saying: The matter to which he would reduce everything is not the matter of common sense, not the hard earth of daily experience. It is instead a highly abstract theoretical construct which – just like Descartes’ res cogitans – is not and indeed cannot be known directly via perception (nor, unlike the res cogitans, by introspection either). Moreover, it is a conception the materialist has inherited from Cartesian dualism itself. And it is that conception of matter, rather than the Cartesian’s commitment to a non-empirical res cogitans, that has made it so difficult for Cartesians and materialists alike to account for how conscious awareness relates to the…

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person in black long sleeve shirt

Danaylov: Right on Technology, Wrong on AI

Danaylov's confidence in the future of AI super-intelligence is exaggerated

Our future is determined by the stories we tell ourselves. So says futurist Nikola Danaylov in his online series exploring the years and decades to come for humanity. In our previous posts, we introduced you to Danaylov and examined his perspective on science. Now we will turn to his treatment of technology and artificial intelligence. The Technology Story Like his perspective on science, Danaylov brings a balanced understanding to technology. Technology “is not an end-in-itself,” he says. “Instead, technology is merely a means-to-an-end, a tool.”  Jonathan Bartlett has also written about technology as a tool. In 2019, Elon Musk and Jack Ma shared a stage to debate the future of technology and artificial intelligence. Here’s what Bartlett had to say about it: For Ma,…

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Male hand cutting banking card with scissors

The New Internet: Reclassify Political Opponents as “Hate Groups”

Maybe this is something to talk to legislators about

You don’t want your tax money spent in a certain way? Maybe you are a “hater.” Increasingly, bad things can happen as a result. Even from corporations you trust. A friend has pointed out that many American corporations are not nearly so interested in making money these days as they are in politically correct positioning. Consider the current trend toward depublishing books the public wants to read and “de-newsing” news stories people want to hear. But the trend is growing beyond books and news. It could affect your right to bank and use credit institutions. Successful entrepreneur David Sacks has the story at Substack about how concerns about “hate speech” can further an agenda: Just as there is no set…

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Blume des Lebens mit Sternenkosmos und Lichtstreifen

The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp out consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical…

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Piano tuning process. closeup of hand and tools of tuner working on grand piano. Detailed view of Upright Piano during a tuning

Ours Is a Finely Tuned — and No Free Lunch — Universe

Mathematician Ola Hössjer and biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón explain to Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks why nature works so seamlessly

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks had a chance, recently, to talk with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and University of Miami biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón on the many ways in which the universe is finely tuned for life. This is Part 1. Part 2 will shortly follow. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-150-Hossjer-Diaz-.mp3 This portion begins at 00:00 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Today on Mind Matters news on the podcast, we’re going to talk about fine-tuning of the universe for life. Scientists know that Earth is is finely tuned for life to come into existence. For example, pronounced atheist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001). Hoyle was a great astronomer, maybe known best for his coining the term, Big…

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Mature businessman or a scientist with robot.

Artificial Intelligence and the Golden Rule

The application of the Golden Rule to AI development is complex and multifaceted, but it is still the right rule to live by

How does the Golden Rule apply to developers of artificial intelligence (AI)? To simplify the application let’s assume there are only two people involved. One runs a small trucking company but also knows how to develop sophisticated AI. This business owner develops an AI enabled system capable of driving his truck. The other person is the truck driver, whom the owner no longer needs. If the owner believed in following the Golden Rule, how should he treat his driver?  Let’s assume the driver has worked for the company for forty years but is not yet financially ready to retire. A number of answers are possible. Some companies have bridged long-time employees to retirement. The owner might do that for his…

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The code is on a laptop on a wooden table in front of the window  in the dark with a view of the lights of the night city, color lighting in the room, home decor

Know When to Hold ’em, Know When to Fold ’em

Taking control of the rewrite reflex

Computer programmers are a pretty predictable bunch. Every time they approach legacy code, the gut reaction is “let’s rewrite this from scratch.” The reaction is understandable for many reasons.  First of all, code written by someone else (or even yourself a long time ago) is hard to understand. Even good documentation can’t cover every detail you need to know, and there is nothing that helps you understand the problem better than writing the code yourself. Second, as time goes on, and you think about a problem, you always come up with better (or at least different) approaches. You might realize that some aspect of your code could be factored out. You might think that rearranging the code would make it…

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Young woman looking on the black board with mathematical formulas and calculations. Bright idea, way of thinking, discovery and challenge concept.

If You Fear High Tech Debates, Stay Away From COSM 2021

COSM 2021 will be held in person. You will interact with the real movers and shakers.

Recently, George Gilder and Jay Richards enjoyed a wide ranging discussion on the topics and people converging for the COSM 2021 Technology Summit: From Life After Google to Life After Capitalism. In the first portion, they discussed life after capitalism. Who can still innovate? In this portion, they talk about innovations that will make a difference: This portion starts at about 10:30 min. Here is a partial transcript and notes: George Gilder: Kai-Fu Lee will be there to talk about his new book, Ten Visions, about artificial intelligence. We hope that he can give us some ideas that are relevant to the new environment for US-China relations… But people like Kai-Fu Lee are keeping world of knowledge and wealth, then…

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Closeup of unrecognizable little girl using smartphone, focus on hands scrolling through internet, copy space

Drawing a Line: When Tech To Keep People Safe Seems Dangerous

A dispute at the Washington Post about tech aimed at detecting child sex abuse highlights some of the issues

Princeton computer scientists Jonathan Mayer and Anunay Kulshrestha thread that needle:: Earlier this month, Apple unveiled a system that would scan iPhone and iPad photos for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The announcement sparked a civil liberties firestorm, and Apple’s own employees have been expressing alarm. The company insists reservations about the system are rooted in “misunderstandings.” We disagree. We wrote the only peer-reviewed publication on how to build a system like Apple’s — and we concluded the technology was dangerous. We’re not concerned because we misunderstand how Apple’s system works. The problem is, we understand exactly how it works. Opinion by the Editorial Board: Apple’s new child safety tool comes with privacy trade-offs — just like all the others…

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Inside the brain. Concept of neurons and nervous system.

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the Timing of Sensory Processing

One neuroscientist, encountering the timing, made up a theory that didn’t really work, but he was a great neuroscientist anyway

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor did a recent podcast with host Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, Dr. Egnor talked about the troubles of being a non-materialist medical scientist, including demands that he be fired and death threats and so forth. In this segment, he talks about the meaning of “soul” in philosophy. Not a “spook” of some kind but common sense reasoning about life and death: Arjuna Das: So there’s a delay in how long it takes for the brain to process visual sensations compared to auditory sensations. So it’s a half second delay and this creates a problem. … We have no free will then. (01:57:50) Michael Egnor: If I can…

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Active nerve cells

How Complex Is a Single Neuron in Your Brain?

An artificial intelligence network did not do nearly as well

Every single neuron in your brain is this complex: Today, the most powerful artificial intelligence systems employ a type of machine learning called deep learning. Their algorithms learn by processing massive amounts of data through hidden layers of interconnected nodes, referred to as deep neural networks. As their name suggests, deep neural networks were inspired by the real neural networks in the brain, with the nodes modeled after real neurons — or, at least, after what neuroscientists knew about neurons back in the 1950s, when an influential neuron model called the perceptron was born. Since then, our understanding of the computational complexity of single neurons has dramatically expanded, so biological neurons are known to be more complex than artificial ones.…

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Mystical dark blue foggy forest with snowflakes.

If You Met Someone in a Dream Every Night… ? Sci-Fi Saturday

In a sci-fi short, a paramedic must confront a question about the nature of reality

“Time is a Place” (2017) by Tim Nackashi (uploaded at DUST November 24, 2018, 7:08 min) Two strangers, a woman and a man, are haunted by a recurring dream they seem to share night after night. Their illusory time together in the dream is more freeing than anything in waking life. She has not told him that in reality, she is a paramedic who discovered his unconscious body at the scene of an accident. Review: The film started out as a mess. It was unclear whether the characters are dead or alive — but, under the circumstances, that must matter. It remains unclear until the very end. But the basic idea is, in principle, intriguing: What if two people share…