Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive January 2022

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Monarch Butterfly Congregation 2

Can Animal Behavior Simply Be Transferred Into the Genome?

For example, how do Monarch butterflies from Canada get to the same trees in Mexico as their great-grandparents landed in?

Recently, geologist Casey Luskin interviewed Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021) on one of the central mysteries of biology: How do animals “know” things that they can’t have figured out on their own? Here’s the first part, with transcript and notes. Below is the second part, which looks at some “how” questions. Eric Cassell is an expert in navigation systems, including GPS whose experience includes more than four decades of experience in systems engineering related to aircraft, navigation and safety. He has long had an interest in animal navigation. His model for animal navigation is the natural algorithm: The animal’s brain is “programmed” to enable navigation. Here’s Part II of our…

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Robot hand making contact with human hand on dark background 3D rendering

Musk Goes All-In on the Tesla Robot

Musk puts all other projects on hold to pursue the dream of eliminating human labor, despite the reality that humans are irreplaceable

In August, during Tesla’s “AI Day” presentations, Musk unveiled the “Tesla Robot.” Or, in reality, a dancing person in a robot costume, along with some made-up specifications about the robot. Many (including the present writer) found this idea for a product line ludicrous, and a mere headline grab. However, in a recent conference call with investors, Elon Musk has doubled down on the Tesla Robot, now named “Optimus,” as being the foundation for the future of the company. In fact, it looks like Tesla has put all of its other development projects on hold in order to work on the robot. The Cybertruck (announced 2019, originally expected in 2021), Semi-truck (announced in 2017, originally expected in 2020), and Roadster 2.0 (announced in 2017,…

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Woman sleep on the bed turns off the alarm clock wake up at the morning, Selective focus.

Get Your 8 (or 5?) Hours of Sleep

Data misrepresentation may win you big gigs, but it makes a bad name for scientists

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology and founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has become famous for his book and a TED talk promoting the importance of sleep for health and performance. He even got a job at Google as a “sleep scientist.” Walker has a receptive audience because he is entertaining and his arguments make sense. In one of his books, Walker used a graph similar to the figure below to show that a study done by other researchers had found that adolescent athletes who sleep more are less likely to be injured. The figure is compelling, but there are several potential problems. The hours-of-sleep data were based on 112 responses to an online…

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Científicos examinando un extraterrestre

Will Religions Crumble If We Find Extraterrestrial Life?

NASA funded a group of theologians to try to assess the probable reaction of religious people to extraterrestrial life or intelligent aliens

In 2016–2017, NASA partially funded 24 religious scholars to brainstorm how adherent of various faiths would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial life. As Erin Snodgrass put it at Insider, A rabbi, a priest, and an imam walk into a research program funded by NASA to talk about the intersection of God and aliens. It’s not the start of a religious joke. It’s precisely what happened at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey in 2016 when two dozen theologians gathered to participate in a program partially funded by NASA to research how humans might respond to the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Erin Snodgrass, “How would humans respond to the discovery of aliens? NASA enlisted dozens of religious…

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Technology in human and machine concept as advanced tech or robots taking over humanity and people merging with a cyborg or computers idea

The Deadly Dream of Human+ Look at the Price Tag…

Some are prepared to sacrifice actual humans now for the hope of future immortality

Recently, Elon Musk announced progress toward clinical trials of a brain implant which he believes will allow paralyzed people to control technology with their thoughts. For those who call themselves transhumanists, this potential breakthrough is more than a tool to help the disabled. For transhumanists, Musk’s technology offers hope that someday humanity will evolve beyond the limits of our frail bodies and become Human+. Two decades ago, Kevin Warwick expressed his dream of transcending humanity this way: I WAS BORN human. This was merely due to the hand of fate acting at a particular place and time. But while fate made me human, it also gave me the power to do something about it. The ability to change myself, to…

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Common octopus in large sea water aquarium

Science Paper: Could Octopuses Be Aliens From Outer Space?

It’s the octopus’s intelligence that causes such usual theses to float in the science literature

A 2018 science paper that suggests that the brainy cephalopod might have originated off the planet has been receiving new attention. The basic thesis is that the Cambrian Explosion, which produced most of the basic animal life forms we see today, was the outcome of extraterrestrial viruses carried on a meteor that crashed onto Earth 540 million years ago. The underlying theory is panspermia, a hypothesis espoused by Francis Crick, that some viruses and bacteria travel on the tails of comets or meteors and may take root on planets: These comets could have introduced Earth to novel life-forms that evolved on other planets, including viruses, durable microorganisms like unearthly tardigrades or, as the new study suggests, even fertilized animal eggs…

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Terraforming

Firefly: Can Science Fiction Reimagined As The Wild West Work?

I strongly recommend the original 2002–2003 series for its careful development of the culture that grows up around world-building (terraforming)

I recently read an article in Screen Rant which claimed that Disney+ was planning a Firefly series remake. A trailer for the original: Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. (2002-2003) When I heard this rumor, I felt like Darth Vader screaming No! into the void and wanting to choke something. Since Disney+ has a reputation for producing films which are nothing short of family-friendly abominations, it isn’t surprising that the fandom mobbed Twitter, demanding that the Mouse stay away from their beloved sci-fi franchise. So far, there has…

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3d rendering of an android robot cyborg woman humanoid - side view and  isolated in an empty background

Watch a Robot Try To Replicate Human Emotions

We wouldn’t know there was such a thing as human emotions if this were our only source

A robot by BilTek trying to replicate human emotions The reactions have been pretty much what we might expect: The clip, posted by EHA News, shows the head of the robot, which has been designed to look so life-like that its eyes, mouth and facial expressions are detailed enough to be able to mimic human expressions. One Twitter user commented that the robot was showing ‘The UK emotions of being absolutely off ya bonk’. Simon Catling, “Scientists Create Robot Trying To Replicate Human Emotions And Everyone’s Saying The Same Thing” at UNILAD (January 14, 2022) Catling notes that a video of another, much creepier, robot by Engineered Arts surfaced last month: The robot in question – called the Ameca –…

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Closeup of a red wood ant. Concept useful insects.

Neuroscience Mystery: How Do Tiny Brains Enable Complex Behavior?

Eric Cassell notes that insects with brains of only a million neurons exhibit principles found only in the most advanced man-made navigation systems. How?

Recently, geologist Casey Luskin interviewed Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021) on one of the central mysteries: How do animals “know” things that they can’t have figured out on their own? Consider, for example, butterflies migrating over several generations from Canada to Mexico and back. No single butterfly makes the whole trip there or back. How can animals do math they know nothing about? How can a great deal of information be packed into a brain with comparatively few neurons? We are slowly learning about some of that. Eric Cassell is an expert in navigation systems, including GPS, whose experience includes more than four decades in systems engineering related to aircraft,…

Blurred. Live broadcast blogger or journalist using a mobile phone in the auditorium. Pink background. Vertical photo or video mode. Soft focus. Copy space.

2022 Winter Olympics: Security Vulnerabilities in the MY2022 App

All Olympics attendees are required to download the MY2022 app to track their health and other personal data, despite security concerns

This February should be a time of celebration in China. The opening ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is the day after the beginning of Lunar New Year. The Olympic Games commence two days later on February 4th. However, the Chinese government has put a damper on celebrations by continuing to pursue its “zero-Covid” strategy even though every other country has eased restrictions and begun transitioning from a “pandemic” to “endemic” mentality.  People in Beijing along with surrounding regions have become exasperated over the daily testing protocols and harsh measures that are in place to ensure the Chinese Communist Party can save face over its prior claims of having defeated the virus. Among many of the issues plaguing the…

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Young mechanic repairing the robot in his workshop

AI Should Be Less Perfect, More Human

Authors Angus Fletcher and Erik J. Larson point us toward a more sustainable future working alongside artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is fragile. When faced with the ambiguity of the world, it breaks. And when it breaks, our untenable solution is to erase ambiguity. This means erasing our humanness, which in turn breaks us. That’s the problem Angus Fletcher and Erik J. Larson address in their piece published this week in Wired. AI can malfunction at the mildest hint of data slip, so its architects are doing all they can to dampen ambiguity and volatility. And since the world’s primary source of ambiguity and volatility is humans, we have found ourselves aggressively stifled. We’ve been forced into metric assessments at school, standard flow patterns at work, and regularized sets at hospitals, gyms, and social-media hangouts. In the process, we’ve lost…

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Puppy pressing his paw against a Girl hand

Dogs Understand Many More Words Than We Think

They also pick up very readily on human emotions, researchers have found

Sophie Jacques, Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, came up with some interesting figures on dogs recognizing words. Starting in 2015, she and a colleague developed a list of 172 words organized in different categories (for example, toys, food, commands, outdoor places) and gave it to an online sample of 165 owners of family and professional dogs. We asked them to select words that their dogs responded to consistently. We found that, on average, service dogs respond to about 120 words, whereas family pets respond to about 80 words, ranging between 15 to 215 words across all dogs. We also found that certain breed groups, such as herding dogs like border collies and toy dogs like chihuahuas, respond to…

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Surreal 3d illustration of multiple faces in a wall. Concept of post-human and transhumanism ideas.

Is Transhumanism Really a Form of Liberation?

The central transhumanist doctrine is that the body can be dispensed with. What are the consequences?

Libby Emmons, editor-in-chief at The Post Millennial, Canada’s non-Woke “young” media outlet, offered some unexpected thoughts on transhumanism, the idea that we must take charge of the evolution of our species — sometimes expressed in the idea that we can upload ourselves as digital entities and live forever. Emmons is not sure that transhumanism is really a form of liberation. She acknowledges the value of, for example, prostheses controlled by thoughts alone. But she asks us to consider what full-blown transhumanism entails: With the widespread acceptance of human augmentation, bio-tech, AI, and transgenderism, we are removing agency from the human body, and granting it entirely to the mind. But our humanity lies not in our consciousness, but in the biological…

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Black Chimpanzee Mammal Ape

Chimps Who Can’t Crack Nuts Prove They Are More Like Humans? Huh?

The lengths to which some researchers will go to attempt to discredit human exceptionalism are an assault on reason and common sense

In a recent experiment, researchers determined that chimpanzees need to be taught how to use stones to crack nuts; individuals don’t grasp the idea for themselves. In a series of four experiments, 35 parties of chimps were given oil palm nuts and stones but “on no occasion did the chimpanzees crack or eat either oil palm or Coula nuts,” presumably because they did not know how. Then the primatologists go on to draw an amazing conclusion: Their culture is therefore more similar to human culture than often assumed… “Our findings suggest that chimpanzees acquire cultural behaviors more like humans and do not simply invent a complex tool use behavior like nut cracking on their own,” says Koops. The presence of…

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Portrait of guy on blue neon light digital interface background. Young man with beard. Censored concept.

Royal Society: Don’t Censor Misinformation; It Makes Things Worse

While others demand crackdowns on “fake news,” the Society reminds us that the history of science is one of error correction

A leading science organization, the Royal Society (Britain’s equivalent of the National Academy of Sciences), has put out a report discouraging social media censorship, with special reference to the COVID-19 pandemic: The Royal Society, the U.K.’s academy of sciences, published a study of online scientific and health misinformation Wednesday, investigating its root causes and brainstorming possible solutions. The scientists concluded that censoring content deemed to be misinformation is often harmful and antithetical to the principles of scientific inquiry… The report found that online censorship risked pushing misinformation underground and off of major social media platforms, where it is less likely to be exposed to countervailing opinions. Censorship also risks removing or suppressing content that may be true or helpful to…

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Portrait of a Beautiful lion, lion in the dark

Will the Real “Predatory Journal” Please Stand Up?

Large publishers serve themselves by painting "predatory journals" with a broad brush

The scientific publishing industry has been on a hunt for what it calls “predatory journals.” They want to make sure that all scientific publications occur in “legitimate” and “reputable” journals. Additionally, they encourage scholars to avoid “predatory” journals which are there merely to enrich themselves by having you pay for access. While I agree with these ideas in principle, I’ve noticed more and more that the way that these principles are applied has been, well, incredibly self-serving for the journals. To begin with, let’s look at a commentary on predatory journals published in 2019 in the journal Nature: Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such…

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Close up of top important cryptocurrencies which dollar bank note in background. which including of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, Zcash and Ripple coin. Business and financial as concept.

Why Cryptocurrencies Like Bitcoin Are Not Ready for Prime Time

Bernard Fickser at Expensivity — friendly to cryptos in principle — offers an unsparing look at the current problems

At Expensivity, Bernard Fickser, who has explained how to sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) now offers “The Truth About Cryptocurrencies: A Clearheaded Guide to the Crypto World.” (January 15, 2022) For your convenience, we are serializing his work, which can be read in whole here. Here’s Part 6 (of 6): 6 Conclusion: Is Crypto a Mature Technology? So far, this article’s approach to crypto has been a balancing act, weighing pros against cons. Thus, we’ve seen much to commend crypto, but also much to raise doubts about it. In this closing section, I’m going negative. My concluding thesis is this: peer-to-peer distributed blockchain-based cryptocurrencies as they exist now represent an immature technology and miss much of what we would like to see…

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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of twin fetuses - week 17

There’s No Science Argument on Whether Unborn Children Are Human

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor notes that abortion activists argue that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother — that’s politics, not science

The recent March for Life in Washington featured signs like “Save the baby humans” (featuring a whale), “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love” – Mother Theresa” and “One heart stops; many hearts break.” Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has a message for people who wonder whether the preborn child is a human being: Ever ask #Why we should believe that a human embryo is a human life? There is no question about it—from the moment of conception, a unique human being exists. Pro-abortion activists will try to say that the embryo is a different species, some unclassified thing, or part of the mother, but none of these are true. The science of sexual reproduction is as…

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unicorn on gold cube mountain . start up, illustration concept of leader on a market.3d rendering. 3d illustration.

Is Rationality Finally Emerging for Unicorn Share Prices?

Share prices are falling as losses continue to mount

2021 was a great year globally for venture capital and startups. Initial public offerings (IPOs) raised a record $594 billion in 2021 globally while VC funding is on track to hit a record $454 billion invested through the first three quarters of 2021.This is up from $332 billion for the first three quarters of 2020, which was the previous record for three quarters. U.S. startups also did well with big increases in both VC funding and IPOs in 2021. Almost $100 billion of funding was given to startups in the first three quarters while for the full year, there were 416 IPOs, of which 128 were from the tech section. The total amount raised was $156 billion, of which $69 billion was for the tech sector.…

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Hands shaping brain model

Chalmers and Penrose Clash Over “Conscious Computers”

Philosopher Chalmers thinks computers could be conscious but physicist Penrose says no

Two authors I’ve been reading recently are Roger Penrose and David Chalmers. Penrose is a physics Nobel laureate who has stoked controversy by claiming in The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics (1989) that the mind can do things beyond the ability of computers. Chalmers is a philosopher of science who claims in The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1997) that consciousness cannot be reduced to physical processes. Both thinkers are well respected in their fields, even though they articulate positions that imply that the mind’s operation is beyond current science. At the same time, they believe that there is a way to see the mind as part of nature (that is,…