Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# Monthly Archive July 2022

## Pioneer Environmentalist: Cyborgs Will Rule the Planet

In one of his last pieces, James Lovelock, famous for the Gaia Hypotheses argues that half-human/half-machines will be vastly superior to humans

It might seem odd that a pioneer figure in the environment awareness movement would embrace part-human/part-machine cyborgs. But in 2019, James Lovelock (1919–2022) — one of the originators of the Gaia Hypothesis (that the whole planet can be thought of as a single organism) — wrote that cyborgs would inherit the Earth in the “coming age of hyperintelligence.” Nautilus draws attention to his thoughts on the topic, in recognition of his death on July 26 at 103. In an essay adapted from Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence (2019), Lovelock writes, Our reign as sole understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to an end. We should not be afraid of this. The revolution that has just begun may be…

## Mathematics Can Prove the Existence of God

Atheist biologist Jerry Coyne finds that difficult to believe but it’s really a matter of logic

In a recent post, atheist biologist Jerry Coyne takes issue with a commenter who asserts that God exists in the same sort of way mathematics exists. Here’s the analogy the commenter offered, as quoted by Coyne: Think of numbers for example, or mathematical equations, these are metaphysical things, that have not been created, however were discovered. The number 7 was the number 7 before anything at all came into existence. This is also true concerning the nature of God. He is not some material being that has come into existence, he is like a number that has always existed, (and by the way nobody will deny this logic with the number, however when someone mentions God a problem occurs). Jerry…

## Exoplanets: Life Forms Made One Third of Earth’s Minerals

Researchers hope detection of such minerals on exoplanets can narrow the search for life

Recent work on how minerals form may help determine which planets are more likely to be habitable or inhabited. One-third of minerals — chemical solids whose atoms are highly ordered — are created directly or indirectly by life forms, says Carnegie geologist Robert Hazen: “One third of Earth’s minerals could not have formed without biology — shells and bones and teeth, or microbes, for example, or the vital indirect role of biology, such as by creating an oxygen-rich atmosphere that led to 2,000 minerals that wouldn’t have formed otherwise.” Carnegie Institution for Science, “Crushed, zapped, boiled, baked and more: Nature used 57 recipes to create Earth’s 10,500-plus ‘mineral kinds’” at ScienceDaily Both papers, here and here, require a fee or…

## NASA Finds Spots on the Moon With San Francisco Temperatures

No, this news is NOT from the “Strange News” tabloid at the checkout counter; it really happened and it is good news for proposed moon bases

Talk about a “fairy godmother” find: NASA-funded scientists have discovered shaded locations within pits on the Moon that always hover around a comfortable 63 F (about 17 C) using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modeling. The pits, and caves to which they may lead, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas at the Moon’s surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (about minus 173 C) at night. Lunar exploration is part of NASA’s goal to explore and understand the unknown in space, to inspire and benefit humanity. Bill Steigerwald, “NASA’s LRO Finds Lunar Pits Harbor Comfortable Temperatures” at NASA…

## Marvel Universe: Being All Powerful, It Turns Out, Is Very Boring

The Mirror Dimension in Multiverse of Madness dispenses with sharp intellectual conflict, opting for unexplained power plays instead

Last time, we talked abut the absurdity of the way the conflict between Wanda Maximoff and Dr. Strange is set up. That’s the conflict which leads us to the attack on the ultimate fortress of the Sorcerer Supreme, Kamar-Taj. Considering what we’ve been told, the temple and its defenses are lackluster, to say the least. Wanda breaks through them with ease but there is a more fundamental problem with the struggle as a whole: The writers appear to lack a proper of the understanding of how the magical characters in the Marvel Universe operate. Marvel’s original genius in developing superheroes included giving every character different strengths and weaknesses. The game is somewhat like Rock–Paper–Scissors where Superhero A can beat Superhero…

## The Role Mainstream News Media Really Play in Our Society Today

Why, exactly, traditional news media are increasingly out of touch with the public

Yesterday, we looked at why politicians can now get away with ignoring news media: The mainstream media are much less influential than they used to be. One reason is that news consumers use the internet to create their own channels. Once-mighty media are reduced to competing with their own readers for mind space and relevance now. The highlighted politicians were Republicans. But their Democrat opponents are surely in the same position. Whether their base turns out to vote for them in sufficient numbers or not, traditional news media are much less likely to influence the decision than in the past. So, if traditional mainstream news media are not as directly influential as they used to be, what role do they…

## Six Brain Regions Control Language — But We’re Not Sure How

We’re learning more about human language but it remains, in its way, mysterious

Neuroscientist Saima Malik-Moraleda told The Scientist, recently that six main regions of the brain respond to language tasks but not to, say, math tasks. Using fMRI data, a recent comprehensive survey — of which she is a co-author — examined two native speakers of each of 45 languages while the speaker was performing either a linguistic or non-linguistic specific task. From the interview, SM-M: But the variability that we saw across languages was lower than the variability that we see across participants, meaning that the language network seems to be incredibly stable and similar across languages. One of the questions that cognitive neuroscientists who particularly study language wonder is: “Why do we have six areas? What does each area do?”…

With AI tools, your posts or the time of day you apply for a loan might matter. Is that fair to you? Did you even know?

## If AI Is Like Fire, Let’s Not Get Left With Its Ashes

In a new book, Georgetown University researchers examine what can go right and wrong with adapting our culture to artificial intelligence

Ben Buchanan and Andrew Imbrie, Georgetown University researchers on loan to the U.S. government, think that the invention of artificial intelligence is like the invention of fire. It can bring great benefits — but comes with unavoidable great risks that are equally a consequence of its power to help us. They are honest about AI’s failures, left unattended. As authors of The New Fire: War, Peace, and Democracy in the Age of AI (MIT Press, 2022), they offer some examples from everyday life that certainly give pause for thought: Despite its extraordinary power, AI is far from perfect. Bias insidiously sneaks into AI systems, especially when they learn from data sets of human decisions. The real-world consequences can be severe.…

## Why Politicians Are Learning to Ignore News Media

Successful politicians now think they can get away with ignoring mainstream media. Could they be onto something?

A recent development — politicians ignoring media — has set journalists buzzing: This past weekend, Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom are up for reelection this fall, headlined the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Sunshine Summit. Other high-profile Florida Republicans were also in attendance at the Hardrock Hotel & Casino event, which this year tried something new: after seven years of being open to the press, “it limited which media could attend, giving inside-the-room access to right-wing outlets that give the governor positive coverage,” Politico reports, adding that traditional GOP figures were “largely replaced by the conservative social media influencers with massive followings who have recently moved to Florida and become some of DeSantis’ most…

## Woodpeckers: There Are Advantages to Having a Small Brain

Woodpeckers absorb 1200 to 1400 g shock driving their beaks into wood — but a shock absorbing skull doesn’t explain the absence of damage

How do woodpeckers absorb a remarkable amount of shock to the head — 1200 to 1400 g — for each hit on a tree? A football player might absorb 120 g — without damaging their brains? The answers could help minimize brain damage in humans and suggested explanations include a surplus of tau proteins (2017), an unusual bone in the tongue, and head movements that minimize brain damage. A new research team challenges such explanations saying that their data show that woodpecker heads” act more like stiff hammers” and that “any shock absorbance would hinder the woodpeckers’ pecking abilities.” But then what about the bird’s brain? While the deceleration shock with each peck exceeds the known threshold for a concussion…

## Fossil Scientists Ask, Could a Neanderthal Meditate?

A paleoneurology research team suggests they couldn’t. But how can the researchers be sure?

Paleoneurology — the study of the evolution of the brain — is the study of fossil brains of extinct life forms. The brain, as it happens, is “wetware” which doesn’t fossilize so paleoneurologists actually study endocasts (natural or virtual casts) of the interiors of skulls. They try to infer behavior, including language and technical competence from the casts. More ambitiously, neuroscientist Emiliano Bruner and psychologist Roberto Colom hope to probe the mind of Neanderthal man, who ranged across Eurasia from about 400,000 years ago through 40,000 years ago but now survives only in small percentages of the genome of the much larger modern human population. From detailed studies, Bruner and Colom conclude: This work proposes evolutionary changes in attention associated…

## Lawmakers to Google Maps: Leave Crisis Pregnancy Centers Alone!

Seventeen state attorneys’ general have warned Google not to alter map search results in response to abortion activists’ demands

Global Affairs President Nick Clegg has revealed that Facebook is seeking the guidance of its Oversight Board about removing “false claims”

## Life Beyond Google Search: Try the Other Search Engines

Recently, DuckDuckGo was found to be tracking users sometimes, due to a deal with Microsoft. No matter, there are many search engines now…

Search engine DuckDuckGo — famous for not tracking users — lost some favor recently, after its CEO had to admit that it does sometimes track users: Security researcher Zack Edwards this week revealed that DuckDuckGo’s mobile browsers allow some Microsoft sites to bypass its block on trackers. While the browser blocks Facebook and Google trackers, DuckDuckGo makes an exception for some of Microsoft’s. Edwards found that the browsers allow allows data to be sent to Microsoft’s LinkedIn and Bing domains DuckDuckGo said the exemption was due to a search agreement with Microsoft. Thomas Macaulay, “DuckDuckGo faces widespread backlash over tracking deal with Microsoft” at The NextWebMay 26, 2022 DuckDuckGo’s CEO Gabriel Weinberg pointed out to disappointed users that the company…

## Trust in Science? Fraud Now Claimed re Key Alzheimer Paper

Autism and COVID-19 research have also been marred by misrepresentation, raising issues about what “trust in science” should mean

[This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times (July 26, 2022) where it appeared under the title “Scientists Are Destroying Our Trust in Science.”] A just-published exposé in the journal Science claims that a seminal study on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease may contain falsified data. The 2006 report concluded that Alzheimer’s is caused by a buildup of a certain type of plaque in the brain—a finding that has guided research into cures for Alzheimer’s ever since. But now, critics claim that the original authors “appeared to have composed figures by piecing together parts of photos from different experiments” calling their conclusions into significant question. If true, this is a scientific scandal of the worst order. As the Science article…

## Claim: We’ve Shown That Dogs Can Form “Abstract Concepts”

It’s a good idea to be skeptical when any such claim is followed up with the assertion that humans “aren’t that cognitively unique after all.”

University of Buffalo researchers reported recently on a study of three pet dogs known to them that they had taught to “ponder their past”: Dogs are capable of learning the instruction “do that again,” and can flexibly access memories of their own recent actions—cognitive abilities they were not known to possess, according to the results of a recent University at Buffalo study. “We found that dogs could be trained to repeat specific actions on cue, and then take what they’d learned and apply it to actions they had never been asked to repeat,” says Allison Scagel, Ph.D., the study’s corresponding author, who was a UB graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the time of the research. “Our findings…

## Can a Computer Write Your novel? Well, What Do You Want To Say?

These tools are sure to become a staple in the hot and time-sensitive market for boutique formula fiction

## Social Media Can Literally Kill. It Killed Cheslie Chryst

Chryst’s suicide — and Constant Wu’s thwarted attempt — spotlight the toxic cyberbullying that is intrinsic to Big Tech’s formula for success