Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive May 2022

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Chinese hacker. Laptop with binary computer code and china flag on the screen. Internet and network security.

The Internet Is Freedom? Not for Exiled Democracy Activists

Modern electronic communications ensure that persecution need not stop at the border, as many expat Chinese are discovering

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a U.S. citizen and four Chinese intelligence officers “had been charged with spying on “prominent dissidents, human rights leaders and pro-democracy activists” in the United States on behalf of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Americans and others who live in open societies may not be aware of this transnational oppression problem if they do not have contacts who have escaped totalitarian regimes. Briefly, today, the persecution doesn’t stop at the border. Modern electronic communications are part of the reason why not: “If anyone doubts how serious the Chinese government is about silencing its critics, this case should eliminate any uncertainty,” said Acting Executive Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr.…

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Fresh raw lobster

Asked at “The Scientist”: Do Invertebrates Have Feelings?

Just as vertebrates differ greatly in intelligence and sentience, invertebrates may differ greatly too. The seafood industry is taking heed.

People did not ask this question about invertebrates like bees and snails fifty years ago: Decades ago, scientists and lawmakers had all but reached a consensus that invertebrates could not feel pain, let alone other emotions like joy or fear. Recently, however, evidence is mounting that invertebrates are more than just reflexive beings. Experiments in bees, crabs, and octopuses show that some invertebrate animals can learn from painful experiences, have positive and negative emotion-like states, and might even experience a range of other emotions beyond pain and pleasure. But not all scientists agree that invertebrates feel anything analogous to vertebrate—much less human—emotion. Natalie Mesa, “Do Invertebrates Have Emotions?” at The Scientist (May 26, 2022) Assessing the evidence is tricky. In…

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Man having a migraine headache.

Medical Opioids: The War Between Chronic Pain and Addiction

“Stretch” tells Robert J. Marks, the surgeries did not really work and he became addicted to the painkillers while trying to live a normal, working life

In a recent podcast, “A first-hand account of kicking Fentanyl addiction: reversing Hebb’s law” (May 12, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed a man who got addicted to Fentanyl as a medical drug. Some opioid addictions begin in the hospital. In the previous portion of this episode, “Stretch” told Robert J. Marks how he became addicted to medical doses of opioids while seeking relief from pain stemming from operations — because “neurons that fire together wire together (Hebb’s Law )”. Now he talks about the experiences that set his mind on the road to recovery. Before we get started: Robert J. Marks, a Distinguished Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering, Engineering at Baylor University, has a new…

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ants building a bridge

Do Ants Think? Yes, They Do — But They Think Like Computers

Computer programmers have adapted some ant problem-solving methods to software programs (but without the need for complex chemical scents)

Navigation expert Eric Cassell, author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts (2021), offers some insights in the book into how ants organize themselves using what amount to algorithms, without any central command: Ants are remarkably consistent in their lifestyle: All of the roughly 11,000 species of ants live in groups, large or small. There are no known solitary ants. Living in groups, they have developed a social lifestyle that includes “agriculture, territorial wars, slavery, division of labor, castes, consensus building, cities, and a symbolic language.” (p. 85) How is this managed by ants with very small brains (200,000 to 250,000 neurons) and very limited individuality? For comparison, among mammals, the agouti has roughly 857 million…

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Portrait of insidious hacker organizing virus attack on corporate servers in hideout place. Serious man looking at camera sitting at desk with multiple displays.

At the Water Cooler: They’re Talking About Computer Hacks Again

Some people appear to know all the answers to the latest assaults on our finances and privacy. If only the government would listen… (?)

In 2020, hackers threatened to release thousands of Finnish psychotherapy patients’ records to the internet unless they paid a steep ransom. Meanwhile, just last month, U.S. authorities uncovered a ‘Swiss Army Knife’ for hacking industrial control systems. “The malware toolkit, known as Pipedream, is perhaps the most versatile tool ever made to target critical infrastructure like power grids and oil refineries.” (Wired) So yes, we have a problem. Wired sums up last year’s hacking news: “As John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, puts it, ‘2021 is the year where we’re realizing that the problems we chose not to solve years or decades ago are one by one coming back to haunt us.”” (December 24, 2021) The…

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abstract image of dna chain on blurred background

Information Theory: Evolution as the Transfer of Information

Information follows different rules from matter and energy, which might change the way we see evolution

One reason that the theory of evolution is controversial is the claim that sheer randomness produces information. That is, randomly generated events are somehow selected for survival and continuing complex development (Darwinian evolution). The theory is understandably popular because, if correct, it would answer a great many questions. The problem is, we do not see randomly generated events producing complex mechanisms in the life around us. We are asked, however, to believe that this modern synthesis (MS) is true over the grand sweep of evolutionary time. Over the years, it has become evident that evolution happens in a number of ways. including horizontal gene transfer between unrelated species, epigenetic inheritance of genes that changed during our parents’ lifetimes, and convergent…

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Asian adult granddaughter hurrying over to her fallen grandpa in coma on floor and calling 911 on her mobile phone at home. elder senior fall and faint risk at home concept

Can Brain Death Be Reversed? Some Researchers Are Hopeful

Some researchers study the salamander, which can regenerate parts of its brain, for answers for brain-injured humans

Although we have been told since 1968 that brain death is irreversible (“A definition of irreversible coma. Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Harvard Medical School to Examine the Definition of Brain Death”), some are beginning wonder whether, with newer technologies, that is still true. Bioquark CEO Ira S. Pastor offers some thoughts: Despite the label of irreversibility associated with the 1968 Harvard Ad Hoc Committee definition, there are several documented cases in the literature of potential brain death reversal, primarily associated with younger subjects whose central nervous system maintained some degree of underlying neuroplasticity. As most leaders in this field acknowledge that residual “nests” of neuronal activity and residual blood flow do indeed exist in the recently…

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Time and space travel concept abstract background

What Would Happen If We Traveled at 2x the Speed of Light?

We can’t reach the speed of light just by speeding things up, let alone exceed it. But are there other ways?

Recently, a 13-year-old in Mumbai asked philosopher of mathematics Sam Baron what would happen if someone were to move — hypothetically — at twice the speed of light. Baron replied, As far as we know, it’s not possible for a person to move at twice the speed of light. In fact, it’s not possible for any object with the kind of mass you or I have to move faster than the speed of light. Sam Baron, “Curious Kids: what would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The Conversation (May 24, 2022) He explains why not as follows, To accelerate an object with mass, we have to add energy. The faster we want the object to…

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3d render background illustration of ancient greek temple ruins with female goddess statue, rocks and columns burning on dark war backdrop.

Ancient Inventions That Feel Like Modern Ones

Tim Brinkhof looks at inextinguishable Greek fire and the 2000-year-old Chinese seismograph, among other wonders

New York City-based journalist Tim Brinkhof opens a window into the past on conceptually advanced technology from centuries ago or even ancient times. Take “Greek fire,” for example, that could set both enemy ships and the sea around them ablaze in an inextinguishable fire: Constantinople used it to sink the fleet of the Ummayid Caliphate in 678. The now-lost recipe probably involved petroleum, sulfur, or gunpowder. However, what makes Greek fire so impressive is not the chemistry of the fire itself but the design of the pressure pump the Byzantines used to launch it in the direction of their enemies. As the British historian John Haldon discusses in an essay titled “‘Greek Fire’ Revisited,” researchers struggle to recreate an historically…

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Jupiter's moon Europa in front of the planet Jupiter

Why Scientists Think There Might Be Life on Europa

Jupiter’s moon Europa, somewhat smaller than Earth’s moon, may have surface water and organic chemicals, researchers say

Recent evidence suggests that Europa’s icy shell may have pockets of liquid water: “Because it’s closer to the surface, where you get interesting chemicals from space, other moons, and the volcanoes of Io, there’s a possibility that life has a shot if there are pockets of water in the shell,” says study author Dustin Schroeder, a geophysics expert at Stanford University in a statement. “If the mechanism we see in Greenland is how these things happen on Europa, it suggests there’s water everywhere.” Elizabeth Gamillo, “Europa’s Icy Shell May Be Habitable for Life” at Smithsonian Magazine (April 20, 2022) The paper is open access. NASA has noted the likely presence of organic chemicals as well: For Europa to be potentially…

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Exploration of new worlds, space and universe, new galaxies. Planets in backlight. Exoplanets. Solar systems. 3d rendering

Serenity: My Defense of the Film’s Initial Choices (Part 1)

Some viewers have complained that director Joss Whedon changed the characters’s behavior in the film vs. the TV series. I believe they are mistaken

I watched the movie Serenity (2005) long before I ever watched the series, and I fell in love it. Some people have complained that, because Joss Whedon couldn’t decide between writing the film for the fans of the preceding TV series Firefly or for a new audience, the movie was hard to follow. This was not my experience, although I didn’t know the backstory and thus didn’t understand the significance of some of the events of the film. But these events help explain why the movie Serenity never got its long-desired sequel. The movie opens with Simon rescuing his sister River from the lab where she was held captive. This event had actually been recorded by the security archives and…

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Opioid Drug Prescription

Some Opioid Addictions Begin in the Hospital

In a recent podcast, “A first-hand account of kicking Fentanyl addiction: reversing Hebb’s law” (May 12, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews a man who got addicted to Fentanyl as a medical drug. “Stretch” tells us how he got hooked and how he finally beat the narcotic, without once going to the street for help, though his experience was challenging, to say the least. Readers may also wish to read or hear anesthesiologist Richard Hurley’s perspective here and here. Before we get started: Robert J. Marks, a Distinguished Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering, Engineering at Baylor University, has a new book, coming out Non-Computable You (June, 2022), on the need for realism in another area as…

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Deepfake concept matching facial movements with a different face of another person. Face swapping or impersonation.

The Threat That Deepfakes Pose to Science Journals

Image manipulation has been a problem for decades but convincing deepfakes could magnify the problem considerably

When a team of researchers at Xiamen University decided to create and test deepfakes of conventional types of images in science journals, they came up with a sobering surprise. Their deepfakes were easy to create and hard to detect. Generating fake photographs in this way, the researchers suggest, could allow miscreants to publish research papers without doing any real research. Bob Yirka, “Computer scientists suggest research integrity could be at risk due to AI generated imagery” at Tech Explore (May 25, 2022) They created the deepfakes in a conventional way by starting with a competition between two powerful computer systems: To demonstrate the ease with which fake research imagery could be generated, the researchers generated some of their own using…

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Twins with New Baby on the Way

What Is the Human Mind Like Before Birth?

Researchers stress that the unborn child’s brain is in a rapid, ongoing, and little understood state of development

Some have addressed the question of the prenatal mind by trying to determine when various parts of the brain develop. The difficulty with that, as neuroscientist Mark Solms and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor have noted, is that it’s not clear that there is a “seat” of consciousness in the brain. If it is a human brain at all, it is developing human consciousness, in the same way that a kitten brain is developing cat consciousness. At any rate, human consciousness is a “Hard Problem with no special location in the brain. Unborn babies, like very young born ones, spend most of their time asleep, as neuroscientist Christof Koch has pointed out: Invasive experiments in rat and lamb pups and observational studies…

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Teenagers laughing during a group counseling session for youth

What Anti-Opioid Strategies Could Really Lower the Death Toll?

Anesthetist Dr. Richard Hurley discussed with Robert J. Marks the value of cognitive behavior therapy — reframing the problem

In a recent podcast, “Exercising Free Won’t in Fentanyl Addiction: Unless You Die First” (May 4, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed anesthesiologist and pain management expert Dr. Richard Hurley on the scourge of opioids and what information strategies might help combat it.Yesterday, they looked at highly addictive opioids like Oxycontin, Percodan and Fentanyl and the many needless deaths that result from their misuse. Today, the focus is on strategies for prevention. Note: Robert J. Marks, a Distinguished Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering, Engineering at Baylor University, has a new book, coming out, Non-Computable You (June, 2022), on the need for realism in another area as well — the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Stay tuned. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/05/Mind-Matters-News-Episode-185-Richard-Hurley-Episode-1-rev1.mp3…

stick em up bot
bad Bot with a ray gun

Could Elon Musk Really Banish the Twitterbots?

Assuming he buys Twitter, industry opinion is divided as to whether his ambitious plan can succeed

Norton, the antivirus giant, offers some timely thoughts on Twitterbots. First, not all bots are malicious: Twitter bots, also known as zombies, are automated Twitter accounts controlled by bot software. While they are programmed to perform tasks that resemble those of everyday Twitter users — such as liking tweets and following other users — their purpose is to tweet and retweet content for specific goals on a large scale. Twitter bots can be used for helpful purposes, such as broadcasting important content like weather emergencies in real time, sharing informative content en masse, and generating automatic replies via direct messaging. Emerging Threats, “What’s a Twitter bot and how to spot one” at Norton (June 16, 2020) But some are malicious:…

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Female Temporal Lobe Brain Anatomy - blue concept

Woman Missing Key Language Part of Brain Scores 98% in Vocab Test

Missing her left temporal lobe, she was told for years by doctors that her brain did not make sense

While the human brain appears essential to being human, people can live normally — and even excel — with large parts of the brain missing or with brains that have been cut in half. That happened to EG, who grew up missing her left temporal lobe. As told at Wired: For EG, who is in her fifties and grew up in Connecticut, missing a large chunk of her brain has had surprisingly little effect on her life. She has a graduate degree, has enjoyed an impressive career, and speaks Russian—a second language–so well that she has dreamed in it. She first learned her brain was atypical in the autumn of 1987, at George Washington University Hospital, when she had it…

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男性 寒気

Catatonia: A Look Inside Apparently Frozen Minds

The condition of frozen immobility is reported to occur in more than 10% of patients with acute psychiatric illnesses

Jonathan Rogers, a psychiatrist and researcher who specializes in catatonia, shares his sense of mystery: Occasionally, as a doctor, I am asked to see a patient in the emergency department who is completely mute. They sit motionless, staring around the room. I lift up their arm and it stays in that position. Someone takes a blood test and they don’t even wince. They haven’t eaten or drunk anything for a day or two. Questions start running through your mind. What’s wrong with them? Would they respond to someone else? Do they have a brain injury? Are they putting it on? And – hardest of all – how am I to know what’s going on if they can’t tell me? Jonathan…

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Stock Market Management

Some Economic Models are Alluring, Others are Useful

In some markets, prices are affected by market forces and in others, like the job market, they are not

Statistician George Box is credited with the aphorism, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Unfortunately, as the brilliant economist Ed Leamer, once quipped, “Economists are like artists. They tend to fall in love with their models.” A large part of the art of economics is distinguishing between attractive models and useful models. The traditional bedrock of economics is the demand-and-supply model. Every introductory economics course explains how demand and supply are related to price and how the equilibrium price is where demand is equal to supply. This can be a very useful model for predicting how changes in demand and supply affect prices and trades — if we make the tempting assumption that the market price is equal…

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Young woman poses as drug addict.

Opioids: The High Is Brief, the Death Toll Is Ghastly

Fentanyl has medical uses in, say, open heart operations where the patient is on life support; otherwise, it is often a one-way ticket off the planet

In a recent podcast, “Exercising Free Won’t in Fentanyl Addiction: Unless You Die First” (May 4, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed anaesthesiologist and pain management expert Dr. Richard Hurley on how highly addictive opiods like Oxycontin, Percodan, and Fentanyl act on the brain. Between April 2020 and April 2021, misused opioids killed over 100,000 Americans. Opioids like Fentanyl have a use in medicine but they are easy to get and subject to abuse. Note: Robert J. Marks, a Distinguished Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering, Engineering at Baylor University, has a new book, coming out, Non-Computable You (June, 2022), on the need for realism in another area as well — the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Stay…