Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive November 2021

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A Darwinian Biologist Resists Learning To Live With Panpsychism

Jerry Coyne makes two things quite clear: He scorns panpsychism and he doesn’t understand why some scientists accept it

Jerry Coyne, a traditional Darwinian evolutionary biologist and author of Why Evolution Is True, is having a hard time understanding why anyone would even consider taking panpsychism seriously. His bafflement over the growing acceptance of the idea that every living thing (or everything) is conscious to some extent may shed light on some new features of the changing science landscape. His jumping off point is a recent three-way debate/discussion, sponsored by MindChat, between panpsychist philosopher Philip Goff, naturalist theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, and physicalist philosopher Keith Frankish, who views the mind as an illusion created by the brain — or, as Coyne puts it, “a trick of the biological mind.” Coyne, as a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is),…

He is big boss and has power

Fake It ‘til You Make It — The Power Pose Parable

Why a study "proving" a unique way to boost confidence and reduce stress turned out to be wrong

A 2010 paper published in a top-tier psychology journal advised that “a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful.” The researchers had 42 people assume two positions for one minute each — either high-power poses (sitting in a chair with their feet on a desk and standing with their hands spread on a desk) or low-power poses (sitting in a chair with hands clasped between their legs and standing with their arms and legs crossed). Saliva samples were used to measure the dominance hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol. Risk-taking was gauged by a willingness to take a bet with a 50 percent chance of winning $2 and a 50 percent chance of losing…

Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Does Science Disprove Free Will? A Physicist Says No

Marcelo Gleiser notes that the mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws

One of the most disturbing implications of materialism in modern science is the inference that science disproves the existence of free will. Of course, this is not actually the case, but even the mistaken denial of free will has profound and very disturbing implications for our social structure, our criminal justice system, and our way of government. People who are assumed to lack free will are ultimately little more than cattle to be herded and, as philosopher Hannah Arendt has observed, the denial of free will — and the denial of individual responsibility that follows on it — is a cornerstone of totalitarianism. At Big Think, physicist and philosopher Marcelo Gleiser points to the fallacy that physics and neuroscience disprove…

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Astronomer: Hunt for ET Can Unify Science and Religion

Avi Loeb told The Hill that the Galileo Project, which looks for physical evidence of extraterrestrials, could answer religious questions as well as science ones

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb, spoke at a recent Ignatius Forum on his differences with “the scientific mainstream” about the evidence for extraterrestrial life. Perhaps in part because the venue was the Washington National Cathedral, Loeb felt motivated to reflect on the religious as well as the science implications of a search for extraterrestrial life. As a member of Harvard University’s Galileo Project which seeks to “bring the search for extraterrestrial technological signatures of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs) from accidental or anecdotal observations and legends into the mainstream of transparent, validated and systematic scientific research,” he shared his thoughts with The Hill, which covers the U.S. Congress: In finding advanced extraterrestrial intelligence, religion might simply reflect advanced science with a twist.…

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Multiverse Cosmology Is Not a Good Argument Against God

Or against fine tuning of our universe. God could have created countless universes on various principles for a variety of reasons

New Scientist’s executive editor Richard Webb, a “recovering particle physicist,” offers a look at the current state of the idea that there might be an infinity of universes out there. Why believe it? Mainly, it turns out, to avoid believing something else: Gods and their intelligent designs are less in the mainstream of scientific thought now, yet similar ideas about an optimal universe still trickle through cosmology. That is principally down to some mysterious numbers that determine its workings. Tot them all up in the standard models of particle physics and cosmology, and you end up with about 30 constants of nature – numbers like the strengths of the fundamental forces and the masses of elementary particles that our theories…

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The (Virtual) Doctor Will See You Now — Sci-fi Saturday

A lonely middle-aged man experiences a future where medicine works correctly but the human dimension has ceased to exist

“Instant Doctor” (2020) by Diogo Gameiro (uploaded at DUST , 6:25 min) Did you ever wonder what will the future of health-care hold? How will advances in medical A.I. change our lives? Will algorithms eclipse doctors entirely? We hope not. Instant Doctor is a short film to show appreciation for doctors and health-care human workers everywhere. Review: In a futuristic subway station surrounded by the latest tech, gadgets, and gizmos, a middle-aged man (Fernando Alves Pinto) is all alone, suffering a troublesome respiratory problem. The last train is leaving in eight minutes but he decides to goes into a digital instant AI doctor cubicle — surreally represented. In an interesting detail, he pays digitally in bitcoins. Not to spoil too…

Spaceship leaving Earth for interstellar deep space travel

Interstellar Travel: The Four Top Technologies for Getting There

Astrophysicist Adam Frank looks at the technologies we meet in science fiction and identifies the challenges that hold them back

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank looks at the possibilities of interstellar travel, given the “insane scale” of the distances between stars and galaxies, in relation to space exploration, whether by ourselves or by intelligent extraterrestrials. Science fiction usually starts with the assumption that the distance problem is somehow already solved. What real-world proposals are out there now for solving it? At Big Think, Frank offers four: Cryosleep, solar sails (or light sails), wormholes, and warp drives. Cautioning that they may all be pipe dreams, he offers some thoughts. Possibly the most intriguing is cryosleep: Cryosleep technology would basically “freeze” the body’s metabolism (or at least slow it down) for the duration of the journey. Despite being a staple of…

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Will The Matrix Resurrections (Drops December 22) Break the Mold?

The culturally influential trilogy (control by evil aliens) enjoys a fascinating beginning — but a thud! ending

The Matrix trilogy is famous for starting strong, then falling apart by the end. Will this happen again? We’ll see. After eleven years, the Matrix Resurrections comes out December 22, 2021. Now is the perfect time to look back at the original trilogy, starting with the first film, The Matrix (1999). The Matrix series begins by following a computer hacker named Neo, who is led by a beautiful stranger into a forbidding underworld. There, “he discovers the shocking truth — the life he knows is the elaborate deception of an evil cyber-intelligence.” He had been searching for the mysterious Morpheus who defends a human civilization from attack by machines. Neo is horrified to discover from him that not only is…

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What If ET Has Morphed Into What We Now Call the Laws of Nature?

Astrophysicist Caleb Scarf has asked us to consider a daring hypothesis for conundrums around dark matter and dark energy

Columbia astrophysicist Caleb A. Scharf, has proposed that, if advanced technology might look like magic to less technologically advanced viewers, very advanced technology might look like the laws of nature: Toward the end of Carl Sagan’s 1985 science-fiction novel Contact, the protagonist follows the suggestion of an extraterrestrial to study transcendental numbers. After computing to 1020th places, she finds a clearly artificial message embedded in the digits of this fundamental number. In other words, part of the fabric of the universe is a product of intelligence or is perhaps even life itself. It’s a great mind-bending twist for a book. Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn’t just external. Perhaps it’s already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be…

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I’ve Been on Facebook for 13 Years. Here’s Why I’m Leaving Now.

Has Facebook actually improved the ways we connect with each other? And does Meta have a chance to improve upon that?

When I first joined Facebook in 2008, it was primarily a way to remain in contact with my dad while he was deployed overseas for a year. As I went through school, and then graduated and moved across the country for college, it became a way for me to connect with new and old friends. Now, thirteen years later, I am looking at deleting my Facebook. Here’s why: Last month, Facebook creator and CEO Mark Zuckerberg made waves when he announced the creation of a parent company over Facebook called “Meta.” The basic idea is what Zuckerberg calls “the next frontier” of the internet – a virtual reality in which people can engage in connection and creativity with one another.…

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Can the “Physical World” Be Wholly Physical? Physical at All?

Nothing ever physically touches anything else in the physical world, yet the effects of objects on each other are a constant occurrence

Sounds like the answer should be “Of course!” But the question may not be as simple as it appears. Let’s wind the clock back to the first century BC, when a Roman poet and philosopher named Lucretius wrote the poem On the Nature of Things.” In this poem, Lucretius outlines a philosophy known as Epicureanism in order to demonstrate the world can be explained without reference to a deity. In the Epicurean philosophy, only three things exist: atoms, the void, and the universe. Consequently, everything we see in the physical world can be reduced to atoms bumping into each other. You may notice that Epicurean philosophy sounds similar to modern day physics. This is not an accident. Through the influence…

Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

Why So Many Neuroscientists Are Unreflective Materialists

It’s part of a larger commitment to the belief that materialism will one day refute dualism by explaining away all of the apparent immaterial aspects of the mind

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has contributed a chapter of The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021): “Have science and philosophy refuted free will?” (Ch 18) and “Can materialism explain human consciousness?” (Ch 19). In it, he notes a reality of modern neuroscience: Materialism (the mind is simply what the brain does) is not a discovery so much as a pledge of allegiance: One might think that the logical problems with materialism would insulate 21st-century neuroscience from its influence, but that is not so. Most contemporary neuroscientists work from an implicitly materialist perspective — in part because they’re unreflective, in part because materialism is the metaphysical correlate of the atheistic scientism that…

baited mousetrap

Can a Robot Be Programmed To Detect a Trap?

A team led by a Harvey Mudd professor programmed some digital gophers to spot possible traps while seeking food — and some without that ability

One issue in robotics is enabling the robot to detect danger. That’s harder than it might seem; it involves evaluating uncertainties. In their open access paper, a Harvey Mudd College research group describes the situation in dramatic terms by asking readers to picture a dilemma: Imagine a wealthy individual has announced they have hidden a large sum of money in an abandoned mine. You feel particularly adventurous and visit the mine in search of treasure. Approaching one of the mine’s many entrances, your excitement plummets as you notice the hazardous conditions. The precarious wooden floor planks separating you from a 50-foot drop are worn and rotted. Trails of crumbling rock intermittently fall from the roof and walls, indicating a potential…

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Rittenhouse Trial: Are Attorneys and Judge Tech/Math-Challenged?

Does simple pinch and zoom change pixels? The devil, though, is in the details

In one of the many exchanges between lawyers and Judge Schroeder in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, the degree to which pinching and zooming change cell phone images was addressed. Rittenhouse lawyer Mark Richards claimed it does. The district attorney Thomas Binger claimed there is no change. Richards first claimed that an image prepared by the prosecutor changed pixels using AI and logarithms. If AI is defined as any “gee whiz” technology, he was right. But pinch and zoom was invented in 2007 by Steve Jobs and uses nothing that can be considered modern AI. All nerds should laugh at the claim that “logarithms”  were used in the pinch and zoom.  Attorney Mark Richards obviously meant “algorithms”  To his credit, Richards confessed he knew…

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Indie Social Medium Now Shows Big Gain Due to Big Tech Censorship

Rumble recently received backing from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, PayPal and Facebook co-founder

In the current issue of City Journal, Steven Malanga looks at the traffic Silicon Valley is losing. Not much was expected of Rumble, an alternative YouTube founded in 2013 by Canadian entrepreneur Chris Pavlovski. But it hung on until 2020, when YouTube stepped up its efforts to remove content inconsistent with its public-spirited values or with its parent company Google’s political alliances — depending on who you talk to. At any rate, high-profile commentators were looking fora new home. And they found one: In just ten months, Rumble’s online viewership has increased 25-fold. The company has attracted funding from prominent venture capitalists and recently completed a series of deals to bring such outspoken voices as Greenwald, Gabbard, and Joe Rogan…

Couple in bed on mobile phones ignoring each other in relationship problems and technology addiction

5 Ways to Keep the Digital Marketplace Out of Your Home

Today, people who share living quarters interact much less, due to the constant presence of social media and other digital alternatives

After a busy day in the public sphere, it’s a beautiful thing to come home. Our house is a sanctuary, a safe place to relax and regroup. And it’s where we cultivate some of our most intimate relationships. Up until the early decades of the 20th century, the family home was viewed as a private domain that should not be intruded upon by the marketplace. But the development of new technologies like the telephone, radio, and television blurred the line between our public and private spheres. Today, we give a host of companies and organizations intimate access to our family through our screens, subscriptions, digital assistants, and smart appliances. This erosion of our private time and our place of refuge…

Thank You

Search Engines: Closing the Gap for Minority Languages

Thousands of the world’s languages are spoken by fewer than 100,000 people. At COSM 2021, Phil Parker outlined a plan for giving them access to information

We’ve all consulted “Dr. Google” for a health ailment or to find a recipe or learn how to fix something perhaps. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But what if you asked Google something — and it didn’t even recognize your language? Phil Parker, speaking at COSM 2021, told the story of a woman in Ethiopia searching for “lump in breast,” using one of the over 80 languages or dialects spoken in the region. Her language was one of thousands spoken by only a comparatively small population. The search engine did not recognize her input and returned no hits. She tried her query in Swahili, but there was nothing she found informative about “breast lumps” in Swahili. She finally tried her search…

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How Even Random Numbers Show Evidence of Design

Random number generators are actually pseudo-random number generators because they depend on designed algorithms

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Many questions arose during the discussion. Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How…

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Gingrich at COSM: China Is the Greatest Threat to Global Freedom

Newt Gingrich fears America will lose to China. George Gilder argues that thinking that way is self-defeating and stupid

At COSM 2021, philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich sparred over U.S.–China relations. Gilder and Gingrich, a former U.S. Congressman, exemplify the two predominant views on China today. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author Gingrich says the U.S. should decouple from China, while economist and author Gilder sees collaboration with China as our best — and only — option. Gingrich: Optimism about a more open China is waning In his opening remarks, Gingrich recalled that he was once an optimist that Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping’s opening up strategy would usher in a more democratic China because Communism was incompatible with a free market economy. But, Gingrich, who has been a history…


Can Wholly Random Processes Produce Information?

Can information result, without intention, from a series of accidents? Some have tried it with computers…

In Define information before you talk about it, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed engineering prof Robert J. Marks on the way information, not matter, shapes our world (October 28, 2021). In the first portion, Egnor and Marks discussed questions like: Why do two identical snowflakes seem more meaningful than one snowflake. Then they turned to the relationship between information and creativity. Is creativity a function of more information? Or is there more to it? And human intervention make any difference? Does Mount Rushmore have no more information than Mount Fuji? Does human intervention make a measurable difference? That’s specified complexity. Putting the idea of specified complexity to work, how do we measure meaningful information? How do we know Lincoln contained more…