Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive December 2021

crowd of same person
Top view of grey crowd of identical people and special one woman, difference and diversity concept. Unique among the faceless, not like everyone else. Shocked, wondered, going mad. Collage.

How Do I Know If I Am Living in a Digital Ghetto?

AI-enabled tools can help to achieve the objectives of those motivated to create anger, fear, isolationism, or bigotry by manipulating our attention

I have recently been enjoying the PBS documentary on the history of New York City, part of the “An American Experience” series. With that in the back of my mind, I read design theorist William Dembski’s thought-provoking article, “How Does Worldview Differ from Cultural Environment?” I found myself contemplating various aspects of his argument and in this article, I would like to present some thoughts, using this statement as a launching point: When I taught apologetics at seminary, I would stress to my students that in doing apologetics, they needed to get out of the ghetto. Some seem to think that there is a Christian community in which one can isolate oneself. Beyond this Christian community there is a secular…

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Crab close up, Cuba

How Could We Know If an Octopus or Lobster Felt Pain?

Researchers found that, when it comes to awareness, octopuses were the stars, followed by lobsters, crayfish, crabs, etc.

Some researchers, commissioned to find out, offered their wrap-up thoughts at Phys.org recently. They started applying the same standards to octopuses as are applied to mammals that are lab animals. Specifically, they used eight criteria for determining sentience — in the sense that, if you did the same thing to a dog and got the same reaction, would you assume it was pain? The results have been interesting: We found the strongest evidence for sentience in cephalopods. Octopuses were the stars. With around 170 million brain cells, they have higher brain-to-body ratios than most reptiles and fish. This allows octopuses to perform remarkable feats of learning and memory. Octopuses also behave in ways that point strongly to experiences of pain.…

choosing which guy
Beautiful woman undecided which man to choose

New: AI Learns to Simulate Common Sense

It is a simulation because the AI can perform the task but does not “understand” what the concepts mean

Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, was concerned AI had no common sense. In early 2018, Allen said “AI still lacks what most 10-year-olds possess: ordinary common sense.” He continued, “If we want AI to approach human abilities and have the broadest possible impact in research, medicine and business, we need to fundamentally advance AI’s common sense abilities.” Billionaire Allen coughed up $125 million and founded the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle. I believed that AI would never simulate common sense but always left the door open. Unlike understanding, creativity and sentience, common sense could possibly be computable. There was no indication that common sense was non-algorithmic. And now AI has simulated common sense. The classic test for…

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Information censorship - Typewriter locked with a chain

Are Media Gag Orders Fair in an Internet World?

Editor Michael Cook says no, based on the Pell sex abuse case Down Under. New ways must be found to ensure that a jury is not prejudiced

This article by editor Michael Cook tackles the problem of media gag orders in an internet world. Australian media outlets were recently fined A$1.1 million for contempt of court for publishing information that was widely available elsewhere concerning the trial of George, Cardinal Pell on charges of sexual molestation. Significantly, they could not publish information that cast doubt on the fairness of the trial, that they were in a better position to understand than foreign media would be. Cook suggests new approaches going forward. The article first appeared at MercatorNet on June 9, 2021 under the title “They’re still picking up the pieces after the Cardinal Pell fiasco.” A media pygmy, MercatorNet spends much of its time complaining about the mainstream media…

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Businesswoman Signing Cheque

Mental Models for What Government Does With Our Money

Models used by pedantic experts, even if more accurate, confuse instead of clarify the key difference between taxation and government debt

We live by mental models. Although we rarely take the time to think about it, any time we reason about something we are using a mental model. Sometimes those models are close to reality, and sometimes they are not. When you turn your steering wheel, it does in fact turn your tires — but power steering adds quite a bit of assistance. So the mental model is close to correct but not exactly true. Similarly, in chemistry, multiple models of the atom are usually taught. In the widely used Rutherford model (also called the “planetary model”), electrons “orbit” the nucleus at different distances. However, this model was not found to be precisely true. A more precise view of the atom…

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embryo silhouette in woman hand

Political Website’s Christmas Gift to Readers: Promoting Abortion

FiveThirtyEight asked readers to share their abortion stories and got something it hadn’t bargained on: Many were glad it didn’t happen
If you want to understand the mindset of the abortion lobby, note that this plea for accounts of killing of children in the womb appeared on Twitter on Christmas Day. Read More ›
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3d rendering of Human cell or Embryonic stem cell microscope background.

Are the Brain Cells in a Dish That Learned Pong Conscious?

Human-derived organoids learned faster than AI and always outperformed mouse-derived organoids in terms of volley length, raising troubling questions

Recently, science media were abuzz with a remarkable story about minibrains (mouse and human brain cells in a dish) learning to play the video game Pong: Scientists have successfully taught a collection of human brain cells in a petri dish how to play the video game “Pong” — kind of. Researchers at the biotechnology startup Cortical Labs have created “mini-brains“ consisting of 800,000 to one million living human brain cells in a petri dish, New Scientist reports. The cells are placed on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes the neural activity. “We think it’s fair to call them cyborg brains,” Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs and research lead of the project, told New Scientist. Tony Tran,…

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Problem solving concept. Mixed media

Does Superdeterminism Resolve Dilemmas Around Free Will?

If we lack free will, we have no justification whatsoever to even believe that we lack free will

The conventional view of nature held by materialists, who deny free will, is that all acts of nature, including our human acts and beliefs, are wholly determined by the laws of nature, understood as the laws of physics. We cannot be free, they assert, because all aspects of human nature are matter, and the behavior of matter is wholly determined by physical laws. There is no “room” for free will. It’s noteworthy that physicists who have studied determinism in nature (specifically, in quantum mechanics) have for the most part rejected this deterministic view of free will and implicitly (if not explicitly) endorsed the reality of free will. There are two reasons for this. First, experiments that have followed from the…

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Movie at cinema concept. 3D glasses with red and blue lenses with soft colored shadow on dark background.

The Matrix Resurrections: The Studio Is Making Us Do This!

Mark Zuckerberg, eat your heart out. If there is one word to describe this movie, that word is Meta.

Let’s address the most contentious issue first. This movie isn’t great, but it’s not The Last Jedi bad. Matrix fans aren’t going to be storming the gates in protest, because their beloved characters were assassinated for “the message.” It’s true that Neo is nerfed so that Trinity can take his place. This is annoying because, as I’ve said before, nobody wants to see a Dragon Ball Z spectacle featuring Neo’s powers just so the poor sap could die in obscurity because nothing he did mattered anyway. They didn’t do this, and that is to the writer’s credit. If there was anybody who deserved a deus ex machina sent by the Social Justice Warriors from on high, it was Trinity. Her…

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Tennis ball in net on flag China background.

Peng Shuai Backtracks Her Accusations

This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how China's propaganda works

On December 19, Peng Shuai was stopped by a journalist with Singaporean Chinese-language state-owned newspaper Lianhe Zaobao while she was in Shanghai for the International Ski Federation’s Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour. The Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Chen Qingqing, of the Chinese state media mouthpiece Global Times, posted a short video on Twitter of Peng with former NBA and CBA basketball player and current chairman of the China Basketball Association, Yao Ming hours before the Lianhe Zaobao interview was posted. In the interview Peng said that she never said or wrote about anyone sexually assaulting her. The Wall Street Journal reports: “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding,” Ms. Peng said in an interview, describing the situation as touching on “my personal privacy.” “There shouldn’t be any distorted interpretations,” she…

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Identification Documents

A French-Based Company Wants to Make Your IDs Digital

What kinds of security concerns should be addressed before we consent to their vision of convenience?

Imagine all of your information and documents – all of it – stored on your phone. We’ve grown accustomed to carrying around our banking and payment systems, address and phone books, and our social media apps on our phones, but now imagine even your passport and your driver’s license taking the form of a personal QR code. Imagine being asked to verify your identity not with a physical ID, but with the phone in your pocket. Thales Group, a French-based technology company, is asking you to imagine just such a reality. In October 2020, Thales posted a video to YouTube, showcasing their digital ID wallet and boasting of its many convenient qualities: The idea of storing your information in one…

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Relaxation arch

Our Beliefs Change Us But the Core Is What Matters

A doctor who studies mystical experiences reflects on what ties life-changing beliefs together

Does what we believe matter? Last week, we noted that in podcast #165 at Mind Matters News (December 16, 2021), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued a discussion with neurologist Andrew Newberg on what we know about spirituality and the brain. This week, they talked about how we connect with spirituality in different ways. Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God won’t go away (2008). https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/74a74c07-fccf-470d-8f45-bff8170e64b2-Mind-Matters-News-Episode-165-Andrew-Newberg-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at approximately 13:13 min. Show Notes, and a partial transcript follow: Andrew Newberg: When somebody conceives of a soul as immaterial, what does that mean? How does a brain understand that? And how do we engage that in an…

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Decreasing and increasing graph on chalkboard

The Cult of Statistical Significance — and the Neglect of Oomph

Statistical significance has little meaning when separated from practical importance

A central part of John Maynard Keynes’ explanation of the Great Depression was his assertion that household income affects household spending. When people lose their jobs and income, they cut back on their spending, which causes other people to lose their jobs and their income — propelling the economy downhill. Keynes’ theory was based on logic and common sense. It was later tested empirically with household survey data and with national income data compiled by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Figure 1 shows U.S. after-tax personal income and consumer spending for the years 1929 through 1940. Since income and spending both tend to grow over time along with the population, the data were converted to annual percentage changes. The observed statistical…

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Chorus sheet music

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas Music is All in Your Mind

Is music a matter of matter and energy alone, or is there something more to the story?

What better time than the Christmas season to explore immaterial realities of the human mind? A perfect example to consider is Christmas music. It’s everywhere during the holiday season. But what exactly is music? Described in purely physical terms, music is what humans sometimes perceive from the vibrations of air. Individual pieces of music are described less in physical terms and more in subjective terms using words that reflect how humans experience music in their minds. Eight key elements of music fall mostly into the category of qualia, i.e., experiences that occur in the hearers’ minds only: Dynamics, Form, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, Texture, Timbre and Tonality. Do you know the Christmas song “We Three Kings” when you hear it? Written in 1857, the song has been arranged…

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The red human figure extends its influence to the neighboring figures. Spreading ideas and thoughts, recruiting new members. Infection of other people, zero patient. Leader and leadership, new team.

Why Influence Matters More Than People Realize

How do we go from defending ourselves to persuading others?

7 From Apologetics to Rhetoric During my years as a seminary professor, every course I taught had some connection with apologetics. One of the courses I taught that I liked best was rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Unfortunately, it is an art that Christian apologetics has failed to fully appropriate. Aristotle rightly distinguished three appeals of persuasion. These were logos, ethos, and pathos. You can try to persuade by logical argument. That’s logos, and Christian apologetics is hypertrophied in that department. But you can also try to persuade by the force of your personality, or by your reputation for moral probity, or by your demonstrated expertise and qualifications. That’s ethos, and it speaks to your standing and credibility in the act of persuasion.…

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multiverse conceptual illustration

In an Infinity of Universes, Is Another You Reading This Article?

Maybe. But the recent science evidence is not especially encouraging

It is generally believed that the early universe widely inflated. So, reporting on a recent article submitted to Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter points out: First off, they found that eternal inflation wasn’t nearly as common as originally thought. Their explanation for why cosmologists had thought eternal inflation was generic was because those earlier cosmologists had studied only a limited set of models. They found that many viable inflation models (“viable” here means they didn’t obviously contradict observations) didn’t lead to an eternally inflating scenario. Paul Sutter, “How real is the multiverse?” at Space.com (December 16, 2021) Cosmologists line up on both sides: Prominent proponents of the multiverse have included well-known cosmologists such as Max Tegmark and…

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Red arrows to go left or to go right

What If Your Schooling Meant an AI Telling You What To Do?

Lee and Chen are techno-optimists. They recognize the benefits of innovative technologies while acknowledging its inherent limitations and societal costs

Author, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, and former head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, shared with COSM 2021 his predictions for the future of AI. His presentation drew from his book AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future, co-authored with prominent science fiction writer Chen Quifan. AI 2041 offers seven short stories that explore the ethical and societal implications of machine-learning technologies on various industries, such as manufacturing, art, and education. The last three chapters address potential societal and geopolitical issues raised by artificial intelligence. Each short story includes an “analysis” section, authored by Lee, which delves into the issues raised by the story and its characters. Lee and Chen are techno-optimists. They recognize the benefits of innovative technologies while acknowledging…

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Red Pill Blue Pill concept. The right choice the concept of the movie matrix. The choice of tablets

The Matrix Trilogy: Some Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the films and am looking forward to the Matrix Resurrections but there are some things I need to say as a reviewer

While waiting for The Matrix: Resurrections, December 22: I admit, I’ve given this trilogy a hard time. But I do actually enjoy the films… when I’m not thinking about them. There are some good elements, and I want to point those out before going further. First of all, the relationship between Neo and Trinity is solid. It develops with the trilogy and we don’t have to suffer through a bunch of “will they?/won’t they?” tropes. A viewer can get invested in their relationship, so it hurts when Trinity dies. I appreciate any film where this risk is taken, instead of breaking up the characters and then getting them back together just so the writers don’t have to show the relationship’s…

Female surgeon praying in operation theater
Doctor nurse surgeon prayer praying Adobe Stock licensed

Science Is Discovering That Mystical Experiences Are Real

When we contemplate, says neurologist Andrew Newberg, who studies such experiences, the frontal and parietal lobes of our brains quiet down

In podcast #165 at Mind Matters News (December 16, 2021), neurosurgeon Michael Egnor continued a discussion with neurologist Andrew Newberg on what we know about spirituality and the brain. Dr. Newberg has published a number of books on the topic, including How God Changes Your Brain (2009) and Why God Won’t Go Away (2008). The “science is atheism!” clubhouse would not be very happy with him. A partial transcript follows, with notes and links. Michael Egnor: Do you see differences in the brains of people who are meditating in a theistic and a non-theistic way? Is there something different about belief in God that you can see in the brain? Andrew Newberg: Well, that’s a great question. We haven’t specifically…