Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive March 2022

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Concept creative idea and innovation. Hand picked wooden cube block with head human symbol and light bulb icon

Computer Prof: We Can’t Give Machines Understanding of the World

Not now, anyway. Melanie Mitchell of the Santa Fe Institute finds that ever larger computers are learning to sound more sophisticated but have no intrinsic knowledge

Last December, computer science prof Melanie Mitchell, author of Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans (2019), let us in on a little-publicized fact: Despite the greatly increased capacity of the vast new neural networks. they are not closer to actually understanding what they read: The crux of the problem, in my view, is that understanding language requires understanding the world, and a machine exposed only to language cannot gain such an understanding. Consider what it means to understand “The sports car passed the mail truck because it was going slower.” You need to know what sports cars and mail trucks are, that cars can “pass” one another, and, at an even more basic level, that vehicles are objects that…

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Back view of disabled athlete woman with prosthetic leg

Promising New Developments in AI Prostheses Raise Stark Questions

The Olympic performance of amputee runner Oscar Pistorius in 2012 led to accusations that the prostheses performed better than natural limbs

Our rapidly developing ability to interface neurons and electronics offers amputees much more functional prostheses (though it is still a long and winding road). Here are some encouraging recent developments: ● A newer technology pioneered at Helsinki University Hospital and Imperial College London enables improved compatibility between a prosthesis and the remaining portion of the amputee’s limb. One current problem is that the connections between the prosthesis and the muscle that gives the commands (the myoelectric interface) can grow weaker due to external factors like sweating. Currently existing systems require adjustments or other measures from the user, but Yeung and his team developed a fully automated system that learns during normal use and thus adapts to varying conditions. “In this…

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Hinduism religious ceremony puja flowers and candle on river Ganges water, India

Understanding the Hindu View of Free Will and Evil

Arjuna Gallagher points out that concepts of reincarnation and karma make both problems look very different in the Hindu tradition

In last week’s Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism, Metaphysics, and Free Will,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor again interviews Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. (The earlier podcast was Hinduism, Reincarnation, and the Mind–Body Problem.) Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — philosopher David Bentley Hart, neuroscientist Mark Solms, atheist Matt Dillahunty… a variety of voices on the spiritual life. Gallagher has also produced a documentary, The Persecuted Saints You’ve Never Heard Of about the persecution of Orthodox Christian monks. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-178-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript, notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow: Michael Egnor: In our last session, we talked a little bit about the evolutionary argument against…

Man showing tricks with cards

The AI Illusion – State-of-the-Art Chatbots Aren’t What They Seem

GPT-3 is very much like a performance by a good magician

Artificial intelligence is an oxymoron. Despite all the incredible things computers can do, they are still not intelligent in any meaningful sense of the word. Decades ago, AI researchers largely abandoned their quest to build computers that mimic our wondrously flexible human intelligence and instead created algorithms that were useful (i.e., profitable). Despite this understandable detour, some AI enthusiasts market their creations as genuinely intelligent. For example, a few months ago, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, argued that “statistics do amount to understanding.” As evidence, he cites a few exchanges with Google’s LaMDA chatbot. The examples were impressively coherent but they are still what Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis characterize as “a fluent spouter of bullshit” because computer algorithms…

Students raised up hands green chalk board in classroom

What Do We Want With Mathematics Curriculum?

If we are going to dedicate such a large portion of our children's lives to learning mathematics, we had better know why

Modern policy discussions in America almost always leave out the biggest question – why are we doing what we are doing in the first place? Leaving out first principles always leaves people trying to find the most practical way to accomplish nothing in particular. We have become accustomed to not asking questions about first principles because they always sound too doctrinaire, but then we wind up, at best, making the misplaced assumption that everyone is reaching for the same goal, or, far worse, viewing the activities themselves as the goals. One place where this problem repeatedly rears its ugly head is education, and especially mathematics education. Why are we teaching math? What do we want people to get out of…

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AI Cyberpunk Konzept: Transhuman / Cyborg Kopf mit Sonnenbrille; Neon beleuchtet + leuchtend | 3D Render Illustration [4K]

Why the Imago Dei (Image of God) Shuts the Door on Transhumanism

As the belief that technology promises us a glorious post-human future advances among scholar who profess Christianity, we must ask some hard questions

Transhumanist ideology is advancing among scholars who profess Christianity so the question must be asked, is the dream of a post-human (Human+) existence compatible with the Christian faith? More specifically, is transhumanism (H+) compatible with the doctrine of Adam and Eve as the first humans created in the “image of God” (imago Dei)? The answer is no. The biblical doctrine that God’s image exists in every human person — and also in humanity as a whole — shuts the door to transhumanism. We can see this if we look at what the Bible teaches about anthropology, ethics, and salvation in Christ alone. Anthropology: Who does the Bible say that we are? First, the transhumanist history of human origins and Human+…

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Venus. Cinematic and very realistic sunrise seen from space on venus

Why Researchers Focus On Possible Life on Venus

Chemicals that we shouldn’t find unless they are produced by life forms are sparking interest in exploring Venus from both public and private sources

At one time, Venus was considered a likely candidate for hosting life. But its late- discovered carbon dioxide atmosphere turned out to be very discouraging so researchers focused on Mars. However, research into microbes on Earth has now identified many extremophiles that live under daunting conditions so researchers don’t want to run the risk of making “rules” for life forms that sometimes seem as if they were made to be broken. One possibility raised is that, given that life forms transform their environment over time, simple ones might be slowly shaping it over a long period of time: A team of researchers has put forward a new theory suggesting possible life on the planet Venus could be making the environment…

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Sculptor artist creating a bust sculpture with clay

Firefly Episode 7: Jayne Can’t Live With Himself As a Hero

Jayne Cobb, otherwise dumb muscle, once helped many people — inadvertently — and is stuck with deadly consequences when the truth emerges

After the strong “Stagecoach” rebound of Episode 6, Episode 7 focuses on Jayne Cobb. Up to now, the dumb muscle has mainly been comic relief. But when Mal and his crew stop by a planet to retrieve some smuggled cargo — under the pretense of ordering a shipment of mud used to make ceramic parts — we learn a little more about the big man’s past. As the crew exits the Serenity to pick up the goods, they come across a giant mud statue… of Jayne. He has no idea why the statue is there but, come to think of it, he’s been acting nervous throughout the mission. Years ago, we learn, things went south at a job he was…

Brain under water 3D render, subconscious mental life and brainstorm idea.

Consciousness Experiments Confirm Each Research Group’s Theories

Human consciousness is by far the biggest mystery in the universe. We can be pretty sure that a researcher bold enough to claim to have found simple answer is mistaken. A recent study out of Tel Aviv University dramatically illustrates the problems we face. The researchers, focusing on the methods of study (methodological choices) that consciousness researchers from various schools of thought chose, found that a computer program could predict their results with 80% accuracy. That wasn’t supposed to happen: “The big question is how consciousness is born out of activity in the brain, or what distinguishes between conscious processing and unconscious processing,” Prof Mudrik explains. “For example, if I see a red rose, my visual system processes the information…

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Concept of modern technical equipment to scanning damaged brain

Confirmed: “Secret” Tunnels Connect Our Skulls and Brains

The newly confirmed skull tunnels produce immune system cells and funnel them to the brain in case of inflammation or damage

Neuroscientists usesd to think that immune system cells were carried in the bloodstream from, say, big leg bones in order to address brain inflammation following a stroke, injury, or disorder. It turns out that the brain gets neutrophils from much closer to home, right under the scalp. That’s what one group discovered when looking for the cells in the tibia (the larger of the shinbones in the leg) in mice: They found that the skull contributed significantly more neutrophils to the brain in the event of stroke and meningitis than the tibia. But that raised a new question – how were the neutrophils being delivered? “We started examining the skull very carefully, looking at it from all angles, trying to…

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MRI or magnetic resonance image of head and brain scan. Close up view

Yes, the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe

But that’s not even the most remarkable thing about our brains

The question was asked — and answered — by Central University of Venezuela psychology student Jaimar Tuarez: Astronomist Carl Sagan said: “The total number of stars in the universe is greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on planet earth.” We are talking about ten sextillion stars, a 1 followed by 22 zeros (1×10²²). In size, the universe studied ranges, according to estimates, between 13 and 48 million light year In comparison, the human brain has approximately 1×10¹¹ neurons that interconnect with each other 1×10¹⁵ times (in a changing manner). All this with a weight of around 1.5 kg and a volume of 1,300 cubic centimeters. That is enough to tell us who we are: beliefs,…

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Aerial view of nuclear explosion over a city.

What Would Surviving a Nuclear Explosion Be Like?

Nuclear war has been in the news lately but we naturally try to avoid thinking about its effects

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to renewed concerns about the use of nuclear weapons. We hear a variety of responses ranging from “real but not immediate danger” through “a wake-up call for the world.” Here’s what would happen if a nuclear weapon was detonated in an average American community: Pete and Judy Bradley are relaxing on a Sunday afternoon following a Thanksgiving weekend with family members. Highways and airports are filled with travelers on their way home. While the Bradleys are looking at the digital photos they took during the holiday, their darkened living room is suddenly, brilliantly illuminated by a blinding flash of light. The photo of their granddaughter displayed on their computer screen disappears. The Bradleys…

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Child playing in ball pit. Colorful toys for kids. Kindergarten or preschool play room. Toddler kid at day care indoor playground. Balls pool for children. Birthday party for active preschooler

At Scientific American: Does Quantum Mechanics Kill Free Will?

Physicists take sides. Sabine Hossenfelder thinks superdeterminism enables quantum mechanics to kill free will; George Ellis disagrees

One of the most interesting science writers of our era is John Horgan, who has managed to infuriate so many of the right people (to infuriate, that is) while giving the rest of us something to ponder. In a recent column in Scientific American he takes on the question of whether quantum mechanics (quantum physics) rules out free will. At first glance, that might seem unlikely. Isn’t quantum mechanics (QM) the ultimate in things you can’t determine in advance? Ah, but some physicists think they have found a way around that: superdeterminism. Sabine Hossenfelder explains that, if we knew enough, we would see that everything is determined anyhow: “The reason we can’t predict the outcome of a quantum measurement,” she…

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Fake gold and silver coins closeup

In It For the Money: The Trump Coin Sham

Beware deceitful memorabilia hawkers who sell cheap mementos, hoping you'll be the fool that helps make them rich

Americans have a seemingly insatiable demand for memorabilia, no matter how cheaply it is made or how cheesy it looks. Some are preparing for their nostalgic years; some think they are making smart investments in collectibles that become more valuable as time passes. The problem with “investing” in collectibles is that an investment’s intrinsic value depends on how much income it generates. Stocks, bonds, rental properties, and profitable businesses all have intrinsic value. Mementos don’t. They rely on the Greater Fool Theory. If fools don’t appear, memento collectors are stuck with cheap and cheesy trinkets. This sobering reality does little to discourage people intoxicated by dreams of riches. For example, the White House Gift Shop sells a large collection of…

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Dozens of Drones Swarm in the Cloudy Sky.

Robert J. Marks: Straight Talk About Killer Robots

Dr. Marks, the author of Killer Robots, shares his expertise with Gretchen Huizinga of the Beatrice Institute

In the first segment of the recent podcast, “What Does It Mean to Be Human in an Age of Artificial Intelligence?”, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks discussed what artificial intelligence can and can’t do and its ethical implications with veteran podcaster Gretchen Huizinga In the second segment, they discussed “How did all the AI hype get started?” Then, in this third part, the discussion turned to the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. Dr. Marks is the author of The Case for Killer Robots, which looks at the issues raised in some detail. Here he gives a brief overview. The entire interview was originally published by Christian think tank, the Beatrice Institute (March 3, 2022) and is repeated…

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Software computer programming code

First Steps to Serverless on AWS: A How-To Guide

A step-by-step tutorial on how to build and deploy a simple serverless web application on AWS

In a previous article, we talked about what serverless applications are and how they work. In this article, we will build and deploy a simple serverless web application on AWS (AWS is the cloud computing platform created by Amazon). For this application, I will assume that you have an AWS account already set up (if not, start here). While AWS has an enormous number of tools available for developers, we will focus on two: Lambda and API Gateway. Lambda is the general serverless function-invocation system on AWS. Essentially, everything that happens in AWS, whether it is a file upload, a video transcoding job, or an HTTP request, can be enabled to trigger a function defined in Lambda for further processing. Lambda functions…

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Mayapur temple , ISKON headquarter.

What Do the World’s 1.2 Billion Hindus Think About the Mind?

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviews Hindu Arjuna Gallagher on the similarities and differences between that tradition and Western theism

In our most recent Mind Matters News podcast, “Hinduism, Reincarnation, and the Mind–Body Problem,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviews Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu in New Zealand. Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which features an array of guests who have something to say about the spiritual dimension of our lives — philosopher David Bentley Hart, neuroscientist Mark Solms, atheist Matt Dillahunty… a variety of voices that can help us understand the intellectual climate in which we live. Gallagher has also produced a documentary, The Persecuted Saints You’ve Never Heard Of.about the persecution of Orthodox Christian monks. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/03/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-177-Arjuna-Gallagher-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Michael Egnor: I don’t know a lot about Hinduism, and I…

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Beautiful realistic flight over cumulus lush clouds in the night moonlight. A large full moon shines brightly on a deep starry night. Cinematic scene. 3d illustration

Is This Idea Too Crazy?: There Was Life on the Early Moon?

Not quite as crazy as some might think. The early solar system was very different from the current one

Life got started on Earth while the planet was still somewhat unstable. It could have got started within 100 million years of Earth’s formation at 4.5 billion years ago or as late as 3.5 billion years ago, depending on who you talk to. Either way, things were much more extreme and much less stable back then. That was true for Venus, Mars, and the Moon as well. To the extent that the universe appears fine-tuned for life to a dramatic degree, it’s at least reasonable to think it could have survived on, say, the Moon or Mars until conditions there became prohibitive. And if panspermia is a correct assumption (that life spread throughout the galaxy and took root in various…

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Large cog wheels in the motor.

Can Computers –- and People — Learn To Think From the Bottom Up?

That’s the big promise made in a recent article at Aeon

Tufts University biologist Michael Levin and Columbia University neuroscientist Rafael Yuste have an ambitious project in hand: To explain how evolution “‘hacked’ its way to intelligence from the bottom up,” that is, from nothing. They base their thesis on computer science: This is intelligence in action: the ability to reach a particular goal or solve a problem by undertaking new steps in the face of changing circumstances. It’s evident not just in intelligent people and mammals and birds and cephalopods, but also cells and tissues, individual neurons and networks of neurons, viruses, ribosomes and RNA fragments, down to motor proteins and molecular networks. Across all these scales, living things solve problems and achieve goals by flexibly navigating different spaces –…

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Stagecoach - Shepherd Boy. Date: circa 1840

Firefly Episode 6: We Meet a Stagecoach — and a Vixen!

In this enjoyable episode, there is only one plot hole and it isn’t really significant

Episode 6 is much better than Episode 5. First of all, the “guns problem” is fixed. We’re back to shooting bullets instead of lasers (?) out of the guns. Some of the rifles do sound a bit different from what we might expect but at least the weaponry is consistent with the ammunition used. The story opens with a stagecoach driving down the riverbank. A group of robbers attempt to take the coach, but the drivers turn out to be Captain Mal and mercenary crew member Jayne Cobb in disguise. After a brief firefight, the bad guys are apprehended, and all is well. The next scene is a congratulatory party for the crew put on by the settlers. The next…