Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive February 2022

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Atom Particle Eyes

Theoretical Physicist: Quantum Theory Must Be Replaced

Impatient with the results of recent experiments, she seeks a better theory that is not observer-dependent

Recently, we ran a piece featuring the views of well-known science writer John Horgan who talked about a truly strange element of quantum physics confirmed by recent experiments — that it seems as if there is no knowledge apart from observers’ minds. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder is decidedly unhappy with that approach: Physicists have shown that objective reality doesn’t exist. This is allegedly an insight derived from quantum mechanics. And not only this, it’s been experimentally confirmed. Really? How do you prove that reality doesn’t exist? Has it really been done? And do we have to stop saying “really” now? That’s what we’ll talk about today. Many of you’ve asked me to comment on those headlines claiming that reality doesn’t…

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Young disabled man playing on piano electronic synthesizer with artificial prosthetic hand in music shop

What If a Prosthetic Limb Could Feel Like the Real Thing?

No, this isn’t some Uncanny Valley; the human nervous system responds to electrical signals from machines

A NOVA special premiering February 23, looks at a remarkable new development in prostheses that “allows prosthetic legs to move and feel like the real thing.” Here’s the trailer: Follow the dramatic personal journey of Hugh Herr, a biophysicist working to create brain-controlled robotic limbs. At age 17, Herr’s legs were amputated after a climbing accident. Frustrated by the crude prosthetic limbs he was given, Herr set out to remedy their design, leading him to a career as an inventor of innovative prosthetic devices. Now, Herr is teaming up with an injured climber and a surgeon at a leading Boston hospital to test a new approach to surgical amputation that allows prosthetic limbs to move and feel like the real…

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Big red semi tractor trailer  room for copy

Trudeau’s Truckers Reveal Problems with Banking Infrastructure

And crypto isn't the solution you might think it is

On February 14th, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, invoked the Emergencies Act in order to stop the flow of funding to the truckers who were protesting vaccine mandates in Canada. This order allows and encourages banks to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected of involvement with the protest. The Canadian use of the Emergencies Act in this way has been widely criticized for its draconian and expansive overreach of governmental authority. However, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian government from moving forward with the plan, and they have said that they have already begun freezing accounts. Even before this, though, a Canadian judge had halted access to funds donated to the truckers through the GiveSendGo website. Additionally, GoFundMe, of…

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AI, Machine learning, Hands of robot and human touching on big data network connection background, Science and artificial intelligence technology, innovation and futuristic.

“Slightly” Conscious Computers Could Doom Atheism

That might sound surprising but let’s follow the logic of the “consciousness” claim through to its inevitable conclusion

Recently, Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI, proposed that artificial intelligence (AI) may currently be “slightly” conscious. His claim was probably in reference to the GPT-3 AI that can generate text from a prompt. I’ve played with a couple of the linguistic neural networks a bit, and you can try them out here. Some of the output is quirky, which could be mistaken for personality and make the algorithm appear conscious. The algorithm also generates emotional statements, that can generate empathy in a human user of the system. Just as kids make believe their dolls are alive when they develop an emotional bond with their toy, the algorithm text generates empathy in the human user. It can make us feel a…

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Atheism. Torn sheet of paper with the inscription.

Faith in God Is the Only Coherent Basis for Reason

Access to truth is always a matter of faith — the validity of reason cannot be validated by reason itself

Atheists commonly assert that there is a profound dichotomy between faith and reason. This is exemplified by atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne ’s book Faith vs. Fact. He implies that we can have faith in the truth of something or we can have factual knowledge of the truth but we cannot have both. Faith and fact are, in his view, mutually exclusive. But that is not true. Faith in God provides an indispensable foundation for the power of human reason. In the perspective proposed by medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), we must accept radical skepticism about the veracity of our perceptions and our concepts. One may ask: how do we know that what we perceive or what we…

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Asian woman doctor in personal protective suit or PPE wearing mask and goggles pray for covid-19 outbreak to improve. Medical, coronavirus, covid-19 and healthcare concept.

Excluding All Reference to God From Science Is A Form of Theology

It’s negative theology, to be sure, Michael Egnor and his guest Joshua Farris agree, but still a theology — and one with implications

In this third podcast discussion, “Don’t Blame Me, I’m a Meat Robot,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and theology professor Joshua Farris discuss how a belief in God is compatible with science. Egnor argues that belief in God is a necessity, to prevent science going off the rails: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/02/MInd-Matters-Episode-174-Joshua-Farris-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, and links follow: Michael Egnor: I wanted to talk just a little bit about philosophy of science and its relation to theology. First question is, is a belief in God compatible with the practice of science? It seems like a silly question, but it’s actually a pretty hot question nowadays… Joshua Farris: There’s this common idea that when we proceed utilizing the method of methodological naturalism — as methodological…

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Most of the energy of a collapsing supernova is radiated in the form of neutrinos, produced when protons and electrons in the nucleus combine to form neutrons

Some Elements of Our Universe Do Not Make Scientific Sense

Well-attested observations of neutrinos are not compatible with the Standard Model of our universe that most physicists accept

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder offers a look at a burgeoning genuine mystery in physics that involves the “outsider” particle, the neutrino. According to Fermi National Accelerator Lab, the neutrino is: one of the so-called fundamental particles, which means it isn’t made of any smaller pieces, at least that we know of. Neutrinos are members of the same group as the most famous fundamental particle, the electron (which is powering the device you’re reading this on right now). But while electrons have a negative charge, neutrinos have no charge at all. Neutrinos are also incredibly small and light. They have some mass, but not much. They are the lightest of all the subatomic particles that have mass. They’re also extremely common—in…

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Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Why a Science Fiction View of the Universe Makes Sense

Our universe is very difficult to understand, as a theoretical cosmologist explains

Theoretical cosmologist Katie Mack, author of The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) (2020) lists, in an essay based on her book, a number of facts about our universe that make it hard for us to even fathom it. Even astronomers, she says, have a hard time: Here in the Solar System, space and time are both more or less well-behaved, but when you have to deal with the cosmos as a whole, you have to factor in the fact that it refuses to sit still for its fitting… If you look at a galaxy far, far away, not only do you have to factor in that the image you’re looking at is old, you have to account for the fact…

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Fencer  with fencing sword. Fencers duel concept.

Firefly Episode 4: Mal Ends Up in a Swordfight Amid Outer Planets

It all starts when ship’s engineer Kaylee decides she wants to dress like a Southern belle…

In Episode 4 we open with the crew returning to the planet Persephone where the series began. While in the Market, Kaylee, the ship’s engineer, finds a dress that she particularly likes and Mal, who is growing impatient because he’s carrying something heavy, says there’s no way she could use such a dress because she’d look silly working on the ship in such a thing. Of course, this infuriates everyone, and they all leave in a huff. Now, what’s interesting about this scene is the world-building. The show really commits to the whole Western genre because the dresses remind one of the southern belle’s style or even something out of the Victorian Era — vintage garments that high society might…

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Man and woman shooting with gamepads while playing in virtual reality using VR headsets in the playing room

Take Control of Your Tech Before Metaverse Hits

Soon you will be enticed on all sides by a host of virtual worlds. They will look and feel very real and very cool

This story originally appeared at Newsmax. (February 17, 2022) Facebook’s recent name change to Meta has ushered in the Age of the Metaverse. Big Tech’s focus is shifting to a new frontier, the untamed wilds of the virtual world. Or is it worlds? Interestingly, the Germanic word world has a literal meaning of “age of man.” Which sounds quite fitting. But will the metaverse be an age that will see us grow and be nourished, as the root of age suggests? Or will we give in to our modern tendency toward laziness, entitlement and poor judgment? Before someone dares you to slip on a VR headset to get your first taste of the metaverse, get one thing straight — who is the boss of your tech? By…

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Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

When a Tiny Brain Is Actually an Advantage

Small size — which includes having a small brain — hones the gnat ogre’s remarkable neurological abilities

The University of Minnesota, pointing to a just-published research paper, asks us to contemplate a remarkable piece of flight engineering on the part of a rather frightening fly: For those of us who occasionally trip over a curb or bump into a door frame, it’s hard to imagine an organism with a brain smaller than the period at the end of this sentence deftly maneuvering around obstacles while chasing fast-moving prey on the wing… The research, carried out by Paloma Gonzalez-Bellido, Mary Sumner, and Trevor Wardill of the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, and Sam Fabian of the Imperial College London Department of Bioengineering, focuses on the aerial feats of a miniature robber fly known as a gnat…

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Projecting The Future

What Is AI Doing To Me? AI’s Manufactured World Lacks Value

The best way to defend ourselves from AI's influence is to return to the abstract ideas of virtue, value, and goodness

During the Christmas season I watched that wonderful classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. About the same time, I had learned of the writings of Samuel Strauss in The Atlantic. I realized that both “Miracle on 34th Street” and Strauss were dealing with issues similar to those we are wrestling with today related to artificial intelligence (AI). Perhaps the most famous lines from “Miracle on 34th Street” are: Susan Walker: I believe, I believe, I believe. Fred Gailey: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Kris Kringle: Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind. The point made is that what is most…

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Art director checking the photos on a monitor

How the Digital Age Is Transforming the Entertainment World

Principally by creating many new opportunities that, as Ari Emanuel puts it, are Not Showing at a Theater Near You

Philosopher of technology George Gilder interviews Ari Emanuel, CEO of entertainment and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., about the new decentralized media landscape powered by dramatic advances in technology. Endeavor, which was founded in 1898 and has 6500 employees, represents “talent across entertainment, sports, and fashion, such as actors, directors, writers, athletes, models, musicians, and other artists in various mediums comprising film, television, art, books, and live events.” (Yahoo Finance) A partial transcript of the talk Emanuel gave at COSM 2021 (November 10, 1:00 pm), on navigating the new media landscape, follows: George Gilder: What did you see in the early nineties that led you to leave your comfortable position and then move out and create a new force…

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A chariot wheel at the sun temple at Konark.

Ancient Indian Philosophy Sounds Surprisingly Modern

A period of expansion of horizons from about 800 BC – 200 BC encouraged people in India to ask thoughtful questions about reality

Jessica Frazier, a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, offered some thoughts about a remarkable period in human history, the Axial Period (roughly 800 BC – 200 BC) when a number of today’s major thought traditions got started or were amplified. One of these traditions was philosophy of mind in India. Frazier, author of Hindu Worldviews (Bloomsbury, 2017), offers a look at one of the drivers of the trend: The answer lay in the public’s growing worry about existential problems. Mortal life seemed little more than a flame struck over the open ocean at night; our minds shine but a brief, faint spotlight on the immensity of the world before sputtering into darkness again. As their frustration grew,…

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Glowing forex chart background

What If Quantum Physics Were Applied To Economics?

A mathematician argues that ideas that seemed bizarre in classical physics makes perfect sense in economics

Applied mathematician David Orrell offers a look at the difference quantum mechanical thinking would make to economics. The author of Money, Magic, and How to Dismantle a Financial Bomb: Quantum Economics for the Real World (2022) received considerable criticism for an article he wrote four years ago, “Economics is quantum,” which he summarizes in a followup article, published this month: The idea is that money is best understood as a quantum social technology, with quantum properties of its own. In financial transactions, for example, value can be modelled as a probabilistic wave function which ‘collapses’ down to an exact number when money is exchanged. When you put your house up for sale, you might have a fuzzy idea of its…

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Female scans face using facial recognition system on smartphone for biometric identification. Future digital high tech technology and face id

IRS Backs Off on Facial Recognition Demand

Starting this summer, the IRS would have required all online users to submit a facial recognition scan. Now, they've changed their mind

The IRS is abandoning a new security program that would have required all online users to submit facial recognition scans in order to access its online services. Last November, the IRS announced that in summer 2022, it would begin requiring all online patrons to verify their accounts via facial recognition. The program was to be operated by ID.me, a private, third-party partner of the IRS. ID.me also contracts with a select few other federal entities, as well as 27 U.S. states. Facial recognition technology is a controversial new form of security. It’s been widely embraced by the Chinese Communist Party in its effort to maintain social control over a large population, and it has begun to creep into some jurisdictions in Western…

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Man's hand holding white blank styrofoam ball with handwritten imaginary number formula against the white background.

Why Would a Purely Physical Universe Need Imaginary Numbers?

Our computers and the entire modern world depend on them, says science writer Michael Brooks in an excerpt from his new book

In an excerpt from his new book, The Art of More: How Mathematics Created Civilization, science writer Michael Brooks offers the intriguing idea that the modern world arose from imaginary numbers: Imaginary numbers are not imaginary at all. The truth is, they have had far more impact on our lives than anything truly imaginary ever could. Without imaginary numbers, and the vital role they played in putting electricity into homes, factories, and internet server-farms, the modern world would not exist Michael Brooks, “Imaginary Numbers Are Reality” at Nautilus (February 9, 2022) Imaginary numbers, are we recall from school, are the square roots of minus numbers. Two plus numbers, multiplied, result in a plus number. But so do two minus numbers.…

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2022 Beijing Olympics: Politicizing the Olympic Games

One columnist wrote that unlike the 2008 games, the 2022 games “carries a distinct sense of foreboding.”

Despite admonitions to not “politicalize the games,” Beijing’s opening ceremonies for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games conveyed a political message to the world. Politics has always been part of the Olympic Games. The impetus behind the modern Olympic Games, as conceived by William Penny Brookes and Pierre baron de Coubertin, was to use sports for promoting peace among nations, an inherently political agenda. Decisions on whether dignitaries will attend or who lights the torch are intentional on the part of the visiting and hosting countries, particularly since the first televised Games in 1960. Therefore, when the Chinese Olympic Committee chose first-time Olympic athlete Dinigeer Yilamujiang, also spelled Dilnigar Ilhamjan,* a twenty-year-old cross-country skier of Uyghur heritage, the country was…

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Playful White Cockatoo

The Remarkable Things We’re Learning About Bird Intelligence

These findings are only among birds that have actually been studied; most birds have not been studied for intelligence

At one time, there was an assumption — not really a theory — that vertebrates would be more intelligent than invertebrates and mammals would be more intelligent than birds. Well along came the octopus, which turns out to be as intelligent as a typical mammal. And the New Zealand crow, which can be as smart as an ape. These life forms have significantly different brains from each other so intelligence does not appear to reside in a specific organization of the brain. While researchers puzzle that out, let’s look at some recent findings as to what the bird (avian) brain can do. We are looking at behaviors that probably require some individual intelligence, not just an inherited program: ● Cockatoos…

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Mirror reflection of pyrite crystal on black background

Fool’s Gold: Even AI Successes Can Be Failures

Large doses of data, math, and computing power do not make a computer intelligent

I recently read this enthusiastic claim by a professional data miner: Twitter is a goldmine of data…. [T]erabytes of data, combined together with complex mathematical models and boisterous computing power, can create insights human beings aren’t capable of producing. The value that big data Analytics provides to a business is intangible and surpassing human capabilities each and every day. Anthony Sistilli, “Twitter Data Mining: A Guide to Big Data Analytics Using Python” at Toptal I was struck by how easily he assumes that large doses of data, math, and computing power make computers smarter than humans. He is hardly alone, but he is badly mistaken. Computer algorithms are really, really good at making mathematical calculations and identifying statistical patterns (what Turing winner Judea Pearl calls “just curve…