Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive May 2022

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Man making fire with tinder polypore fungus in a forest

Biochemist: Why Only Humans Could Learn To Use Fire

Many animals display intelligence but controlling fire requires other advantages as well

Biochemist Michael Denton contends, in an excerpt from Chapter 11 in his The Miracle of Man (2022), that humans were designed to use fire. Here is some of his evidence that “only a special type of unique being very close to our own biological design could have taken the first and vital step to technological enlightenment, fire-making”: From first principles, a creature capable of creating and controlling fire must be an aerobic terrestrial air-breathing species, living in an atmosphere enriched in oxygen, supportive of both respiration and combustion. This fire-maker must have something like human intelligence to accomplish the task, and while it is true that other species — e.g., dolphins, parrots, seals, apes, and ravens — possess intelligence and…

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Programming code script abstract screen of software developer.

Why You Are Not — and Cannot Be — Computable

A computer science prof explains in a new book that computer intelligence does not hold a candle to human intelligence.

An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Non-Computable You (2022) by Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks (Discovery Institute Press, June 2022) The Non-Computable Human If you memorized all of Wikipedia, would you be more intelligent? It depends on how you define intelligence. Consider John Jay Osborn Jr.’s 1971 novel The Paper Chase. In this semi-autobiographical story about Harvard Law School, students are deathly afraid of Professor Kingsfield’s course on contract law. Kingfield’s classroom presence elicits both awe and fear. He is the all-knowing professor with the power to make or break every student. He is demanding, uncompromising, and scary smart. In the iconic film adaptation, Kingsfield walks into the room on the first day of class, puts his notes…

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dolphin underwater on reef close up look

The Remarkable Medicines Wild Animals Find in Nature

The “animals’ pharmacy” mainly aims at treating parasites and wounds using plants and insects

It turns out that many animals know how to alleviate some of their common health problems and we are only beginning to (officially) learn about it. Dolphins, for example: Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins get skin conditions, too, but they come about their medication by queuing up nose-to-tail to rub themselves against corals. In the journal iScience on May 19, researchers show that these corals have medicinal properties, suggesting that the dolphins are using the marine invertebrates to medicate skin conditions. Thirteen years ago, co-lead author Angela Ziltener (@DWAORG), a wildlife biologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, first observed dolphins rubbing against coral in the Northern Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. She and her team noticed that the dolphins…

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Engineers Meeting in Robotic Research Laboratory: Engineers, Scientists and Developers Gathered Around Illuminated Conference Table, Talking, Using Tablet and Analysing Design of Industrial Robot Arm

At Salon, Funk and Smith Take On “Stealth AI Research”

All we know for sure about the claims about Google AI’s LaMDA showing human-like understanding is that, since 2020, three researchers who expressed doubt/concerns were fired

Yesterday at Salon, Jeffrey Funk and Gary N. Smith took a critical look at “stealth research” in artificial intelligence. Stealth research? They explain, A lot of stealth research today involves artificial intelligence (AI), which Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s CEO, has compared to mankind’s harnessing of fire and electricity — a comparison that itself attests to overhyped atmosphere that surrounds AI research. For many companies, press releases are more important than peer review. Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, recently reported that LaMDA, Google’s state-of-the-art large language model (LLM), generated this text, which is remarkably similar to human conversation: Blaise: How do you know if a thing loves you back? LaMDA: There isn’t an easy answer…

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weasel peering out of a burrow

Dawkins’ Weasel Program vs the Information Life Acquires En Route

To demonstrate what is wrong with fully naturalist assumptions like those of Richard Dawkins’ Weasel program, I developed Weasel Libs, modeled on Mad Libs

In his famous Weasel program zoologist and philosopher Richard Dawkins shows that the simple combination of random mutation and natural selection (Darwinian evolution) can produce the English sentence, “Methinks it is like a weasel”, in a short time period. The point of his program is to demonstrate that evolution can generate the complex, pre-specified DNA sequences we find in biology before the heat death of the universe. His argument sounds persuasive because both English sentences and DNA sequences are made up of symbols. Both can be randomly modified anywhere, and by cumulative selection, they can plausibly adapt to the environment in reasonably short order. Writers in English can learn to pen best-selling novels through trial and error and audience feedback.…

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Handsome bearded African man touches the touchscreen in his new high-tech electric vehicle while while talking by phone and smiling. Self driving vehicle concept

New York Times Documentary Takes on Musk’s “Self-Driving” Claims

In an era where Big Media tend to just play along with Big Tech hype and vaporware, a Season 2 film homes in for a closer look

The New York Times has a new TV show through FX Networks, called The New York Times Presents, a series of standalone documentaries presented by journalists from the paper. Mind Matters News readers will likely take a special interest in the first documentary of Season 2 because it deals with the technology of self-driving cars at Tesla and we have been talking about these issues for years. The film, titled Elon Musk’s Crash Course, follows the development of Tesla Motors and its claims about full self-driving vehicles. On the whole, while the I can commend the documentary as one of the first large-scale media efforts to take the issues with Tesla self-driving cars seriously, overall it emphasizes the wrong issues.…

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multiracial group with black african American Caucasian and Asian hands holding each other wrist in tolerance unity love and anti racism concept

Prof: We Shouldn’t Necessarily Value Humans Over Other Animals

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo argues that humans are not always rational and that some animals display mental qualities so we aren’t exceptional

New York University environmentalism prof Jeff Sebo, co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (2018), sees human exceptionalism (the idea that there is something unique about human beings) as a danger to humans and other life forms. He does not think that we should necessarily prioritize humans over animals: Most humans take this idea of human exceptionalism for granted. And it makes sense that we do, since we benefit from the notion that we matter more than other animals. But this statement is still worth critically assessing. Can we really justify the idea that some lives carry more ethical weight than others in general, and that human lives carry more ethical weight than nonhuman lives in particular? And even if so, does it…

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Young woman sitting on the floor, lights candles, enjoy meditation, do yoga exercise at home. Mental health, self care, No stress, healthy habit, mindfulness lifestyle, anxiety relief concept

Study: Eight-week Mindfulness Courses Do Not Change the Brain

Earlier studies may have been hampered by a small, self-selected, particularly needy participant base and by the fact that any intervention can succeed at first

In recent years, as mindfulness meditation began to catch on, research, including this open-access paper, claimed that eight weeks of mindfulness could change the structure of the brain. The neuroplasticity on which such studies relied is real enough. But a just-released study has found no evidence that eight-week courses like “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” make so radical a difference: In new research, a team from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by Richard J. Davidson, found no evidence of structural brain changes with short-term mindfulness training. Published May 20 in Science Advances, the team’s study is the largest and most rigorously controlled to date. In two novel trials, over 200 healthy participants with no meditation experience…

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The UFO shines on a man standing on the mountain

Pentagon aims to reduce “stigma” around reporting UFOs

The UAPs (formerly UFOs) could be undocumented weather phenomena, returned space junk, or advanced surveillance craft that hostile powers are not telling the United States about. Or…

From Futurism, we hear that government officials are clashing over how much of their accumulated UFO (now called UAP) information they should share with Congress and the public: In interviews with Politico, government officials — who, unsurprisingly, spoke on condition of anonymity — said that there are those within the Pentagon who are “protecting very interesting information” from being released to the public, even as others within and outside the Defense Department are trying to bring daylight to this subject of increasing interest. “They fetishize their secret society,” one intelligence official told Politico in interviews ahead of tomorrow’s House Intelligence Committee hearings on unidentified aerial phenomenon (UAPs, which is the military’s rebranding of what were previously known as UFOs), the…

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Senior man wearing t-rex dinosaur mask withdraw money from bank cash machine with debit card - Surreal image of half human and animal - Absurd and crazy concept of ATM advertise

Could the Dinosaurs Have Had a Now-Lost Civilization?

Geoscientist Dirk Schultze-Makuch asks us to be sure why we believe it couldn’t be true. Not as simple as it first appears…

That’s just crazy talk, right? Geoscientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, author of The Cosmic Zoo (2017), asks us to think again before dismissing it: Let’s imagine for a moment that some civilization went extinct millions of years before hominids even appeared. Although there isn’t a precise definition of “civilization,” we usually associate it with a species capable of altering its physical environment on a regional or even planetary scale. How would we know, millions of years later, that they had been here? All evidence of their technological achievements is almost certain to have disappeared long ago, as persuasively shown by Alan Weisman in his 2007 book, The World Without Us. Cities and large constructions like dams would quickly crumble and return to…

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Magic Forest at Night under Fullmoon with Fireflies VR360

Firefly: What Worked, What Didn’t… and WHY Was It Cancelled?

When all is said and done, Firefly is one of those classic series that any sci-fi fan should watch

When everything is said and done, Firefly is an excellent series. So the question remains; why was it cancelled? Many opinions have been aired in the entertainment media. In my view, three major reasons stand out. Number 1: The Friday night death slot. That;s what they call it when a show targeted at a younger audience runs in that slot because that audience was usually not at home on Friday nights. So, when the show aired, there was nobody to watch it. Number 2: Bad marketing. It’s said that the promos advertised the series as more or less a zany comedy. While Firefly does have moments of levity, it is more of an action-adventure series. There are plenty of serious…

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3D human brain

Even Neurons Have Rich Clubs and Poor Clubs

Both — doing different jobs — are essential to the brain’s functioning

New York University School of Medicine neuroscientist György Buzsáki offers a long essay at Scientific American, explaining how he came to adopt an “inside-out,” rather than an “outside-in” perspective on how the brain works. The brain, in his view, is primarily preoccupied with self-organization and it incorporates outside information in order to help with that project. Along the way, he entertainingly describes two different types of neurons and what they do: Most neurons are only weakly connected to others, whereas a smaller subset retains robust links. The strongly connected minority is always on the alert. It fires rapidly, shares information readily within its own group, and stubbornly resists any modifications to the neurons’ circuitry. Because of the multitude of connections…

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A trio of woolly mammoths trudges over snow covered hills.  Behind them, mountains with snow covered peaks rise above dark green forests of fir trees. 3D Rendering

Did Small Brains Doom the Mammoth and the Giant Armadillo?

A recent study showed that survivors had brains that were 53% larger, which was perhaps useful in avoiding predators

A recent study of mammal extinctions during and after the Ice Age found that the large mammals (megafauna) that went extinct during the period of 115,000 years ago through 500 years ago (the Late Quaternary) had smaller brains in relation to body mass than those that survived: The researchers explain that the last Ice Age was characterized by the widespread extinction of large and giant animals on all continents on earth (except Antarctica). Among these were, in America, giant ground sloths weighing 4 tons, a giant armadillo weighing a ton, and mastodons; in Australia the marsupial diprotodon weighing a ton, giant kangaroos, and a marsupial ‘lion’; and in Eurasia giant deer, woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, and giant elephants weighing up to…

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algae biofuel tube in biotech laboratory, Photobioreactor in lab algae fuel biofuel industry

Researchers Fuel a Microprocessor Using Power From Seaweed

When they photosynthesize, algae produce a current that can be captured and used to power a small device

It may seem odd that algae (seaweed) can power an electronic device. Cambridge researchers recently powered a microprocessor continuously for over a year using a common type of blue-green algae (Synechocystis), providing them with light and water. They suggest that algae might be able to provide power to small devices. Here’s how it works: Some advantages of algae, according to the researchers: ● Because algae use light as their energy source to produce a tiny electrical current, they don’t “run down,” like batteries. ● Systems for using algae to produce current can be made from “common, inexpensive and largely recyclable materials” according to the researchers, Paulo Bombelli et al., who developed the test device. Its main use is seen to…

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Social but not social

Will AI Overtake Humans? Only If We Let It

We are getting too cozy with dependence on high tech to ease the burden of thinking for ourselves

This story originally appeared at Newsmax. (May 19, 2022) As I reported last year, there’s been a lot of talk about a Singularity in the last decade. That’s the point when machine intelligence (AI) exceeds human intelligence and begins to rule humanity and eventually the entire universe. It’s a scary proposition to be sure, but we can rest easy on that front, because it’s not going to happen. The futurists assume there’s a bridge between narrow applications of AI and the general intelligence humans possess. But no such bridge exists. As Erik J. Larson explains in his book The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, we’re not even on the right road to such a bridge. You can also take George Gilder’s word for it. One…

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nerve cells

New Learning Model for Brain Overturns 70 Years of Theory

The new model, if confirmed, could change the way algorithms are developed

According to new research, when learning takes place, it’s not just the synapses (by which neurons send signals to each other) but the whole communication structure (the dendrites) of the neuron that changes. The researchers compare the synapses to leaves and the dendrites to a tree. This, if it replicates, is a radical revision from nearly a century ago. For the last 70 years a core hypothesis of neuroscience has been that brain learning occurs by modifying the strength of the synapses, following the relative firing activity of their connecting neurons. This hypothesis has been the basis for machine and deep learning algorithms which increasingly affect almost all aspects of our lives. But after seven decades, this long-lasting hypothesis has…

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Social media censorship, political war between US president banning social networks. Tiny person on the laptop keyboard looking at the forbidden sign on the screen. Internet communication risk concept

New U.S. Disinformation Board on Hold Amid Flak From Both Sides

Most current controversies are not clear divisions between True and Untrue or Right and Wrong. Government would merely reinforce the Establishment

If you’d blinked, you’d have missed it: The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday paused a new and controversial board’s work on disinformation and accepted the resignation of its leader, capping weeks of concerns about impinging on free speech rights and at times frenzied conspiracy theories about the board itself… The Disinformation Governance Board’s director, Nina Jankowicz, wrote Wednesday that the board’s future was “uncertain,” according to a resignation letter obtained by The Associated Press. Nomaan Merchant and Amanda Seitz, “New ‘disinformation’ board paused amid free speech questions” at Associated Press (May 18, 2022) A recommendation as to whether the Board should continue will be offered, we are told, within 75 days. The Washington Post knows who to blame: “How…

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Two cats hide under the blanket. Outside, the winter snow. The concept of home comfort, security, warmth

Why Cats Can Remember Other Cats’ Names

University of Kyoto scientists found that they can indeed remember, provided they live in the same household

In a study of 48 cats living in private homes and pet cafés, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan determined that they can recognize the names humans give to them if they live in the same household: The scientists showed pet cats living in homes and felines living in “cat cafés” photos of cats they resided with to determine their reactions. The cats were then played an audio recording of their owners, or a researcher, calling out a name — either the name of the familiar cat in the photo or a fake name. Researchers discovered that pet cats spent more time looking at the image when the audio incorrectly identified a familiar cat than when the correct name was…

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Business crisis manager stopping falling dominos from collapsing

Who Opposes Musk’s Proposed Twitter Takeover Deal?

Four groups to watch are Twitter employees, left-wing action coalitions, legacy media, and the European Union

First, the state of play: Elon Musk’s foray into buying Twitter remains on hold amid disputes about how much of Twitter is dominated by bot accounts. Musk believes that 20% of the accounts are spam. Spam bots on Twitter are automated accounts that can take actions like real humans, such as sending out tweets, following other users, as well as liking and retweeting other users’ posts. Such accounts can be programmed to try and drive traffic to a product or service as part of a commercial endeavor or spread content as part of a social or political influence operation. Tom Ozimek, “Musk Says Twitter Deal on Hold Over Spam Bots” at Epoch Times (May 13, 2022) That’s something Musk says…

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scuba diving octopus lembeh strait indonesia underwater

Can Largely Rearranged Genomes Explain Why Octopuses Are Smart?

Even compared to each other, the genomes of three cephalopods studied had been broken up and extensively reorganized

Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish are among the smartest invertebrates, rivalling mammals for complex behavior that can include delaying gratification, having good memories (even in old age), and getting emotional about pain. Yet they are related to life forms like the nautilus which displays few such qualities. Looking to solve the mystery, researchers began to examine the genomes of the two-spot octopus, the Boston Market squid, and the Hawaiian bobtail squid. And that’s where they discovered something interesting. Squid genomes were arranged differently from those of similar life forms.: Compared to genomes from some of their mollusk kin, the coleoid cephalopods’ genomes are very divergent, says [Oleg] Simakov. “You have this mosaic of chromosomes, where ancestral chromosomes were broken up and…