Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# Monthly Archive September 2022

## Surprise Finding About Human Hearing

It turns out, many cells send information to the brain, not just a few

Hearing loss may not be as certain as we think: For the past 100 years, we have believed that each sensory cell has its own “optimal frequency” (a measure of the number of sound waves per second). The hair cell responds most strongly to this frequency. This idea means that a sensory cell with an optimal frequency of 1000 Hz would respond much less strongly to sounds with a frequency slightly lower or higher. It has also been assumed that all parts of the cochlea work in the same way. Now, however, a research team has discovered that this is not the case for sensory cells that process sound with frequencies under 1000 Hz, considered to be low-frequency sound. The…

## Is Dilbert part of a much bigger Cancel?

Humor consists largely in identifying the difference between our aspirations and our achievements

People who love workplace comedy might be surprised to learn that Dilbert has been Canceled by many U.S. newspapers, whose editor are morally outraged Comedy is one of the great casualties of wokeness. Comedians now have to navigate an ever expanding list of taboo subjects and forbidden targets. Superstar comedians like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais stand accused of ‘punching down’ for mocking woke absurdities. Beloved characters in The Simpsons and even the knowingly offensive Family Guy have been altered following the charge of ‘cultural appropriation’. Meanwhile, many TV sketch shows and satirical programmes seem to have given up on telling jokes entirely, swapping humour for sermonising and ‘clapter’ comedy. So, is comedy doomed? Or is there hope outside of…

## The Courts: May Social Media Censor Speech and Ban Users?

Two federal appeals courts came down on opposite sides. Hear the story

May Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube censor your posts and ban you from using their social media platforms? May a state government require large social media platforms to allow users and posts to present lawful information, ideas, and viewpoints with which the platforms disagree? Florida and Texas both enacted laws to restrict platforms from censoring and banning users whose content the platforms disliked. Two different federal appeals courts in 2022 ruled on whether these two states’ laws were constitutional — and came out on opposite sides. The following three scenarios frame the key issues. Scenario A: Commercial Ground Transportation A fellow boards a private company-owned, regularly scheduled commercial bus bound for Berkeley, California, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming in big letters: Save…

## Why should we believe that the human mind is immortal?

Philosopher Moreland: Think of the soul like a chest of drawers and think of the mind and the spirit like two drawers in the chest of drawers

Philosopher J. P. Moreland offers some thoughts at Closer to Truth (September 14, 2022) J.P. Moreland: (1:49) Think of the soul like a chest of drawers and think of the mind and the spirit like two drawers in the chest of drawers. I am a soul I’m an immaterial substance. Within me are different faculties, different ranges of powers or abilities. My mind is a faculty of the soul. My spirit is a different faculty of the soul. Now, you can’t separate my mind from my soul like you can [separate] the legs of a table and put them in different places. So the legs of a table would be called “separable parts.” They can be separated from the whole…

## Big Tech Censors Worldwide — Yet It Isn’t a Government

Censorship has gone private and is thus much harder to detect and address

Do we even know what Big Tech censors or why? Sometimes its choices matters as in the COVID-19 controversies: One warm weekend in October of 2020, three impeccably credentialed epidemiologists—Jayanta Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff, of Stanford, Oxford, and Harvard Universities respectively—gathered with a few journalists, writers, and economists at an estate in the Berkshires where the American Institute for Economic Research had brought together critics of lockdowns and other COVID-related government restrictions. On Sunday morning shortly before the guests departed, the scientists encapsulated their views—that lockdowns do more harm than good, and that resources should be devoted to protecting the vulnerable rather than shutting society down—in a joint communique dubbed the “Great Barrington Declaration,” after the town in…

## Why AI Could (But May Not) Predict School Shootings

There is no solution that is not run through natural intelligence, computer science prof Robert J. Marks explains

In recent weeks, WBC director Robert J. Marks has done a number of interviews for his new book, Non-Computable You: What You Do That Artificial Intelligence Never Will (Discovery Institute Press, 2022). At The Cat’s Roundtable, he was asked by host John Catsimatidis about the hype around AI and whether AI could, for example, predict school shootings. https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/09/Mind-Matters-205-Robert-J-Marks.mp3 Robert J. Marks: It’ll continue doing great and exciting things, but there’s a lot of hype associated with it. People think, “Well, is the Terminator going to come alive? Are we ever going to face a scenario like we see in The Matrix?” And the answer is, “No. There are certain brick walls, which artificial intelligence will never go through,” and we…

## What Difference Has the CHIPS Act Made to the U.S. and Taiwan?

We need to first look at the broader picture of what the CHIPS Act is intended to do

## Reality Check: Can Bionic Hands Really Compete With Nature?

A geographer born without a left forearm offers an honest assessment of the “bionic hand” arms race

The author of a recent article in IEEE Spectrum was born without a left forearm so she can talk about the tech reality of prostheses from the front lines: Today, the people who design prostheses tend to be well-intentioned engineers rather than amputees themselves. The fleshy stumps of the world act as repositories for these designers’ dreams of a high-tech, superhuman future. I know this because throughout my life I have been fitted with some of the most cutting-edge prosthetic devices on the market. After being born missing my left forearm, I was one of the first cohorts of infants in the United States to be fitted with a myoelectric prosthetic hand, an electronic device controlled by the wearer’s muscles…

## Can Panpsychism Save Naturalism From Itself?

Panpsychism can be seen as an effort to save naturalism by acknowledging the reality of the mind while insisting that the mind is wholly natural

This article is an excerpt of one that originally appeared in Salvo 61 (Summer 2022), under the title “Everything is Conscious? Panpsychism goes mainstream.” Panpsychism — the view that all of the universe participates in consciousness, which is most fully developed in humans — has been gaining popularity in science in recent years. Does that sound unbelievable? Is not science committed wholly to materialism and nothing but materialism? Will consciousness not soon be “explained” by an accidental glitch in brain wiring that natural selection retained? Science doesn’t seem nearly as committed to that view just now. A 2018 article at Quartz by Olivia Goldhill was titled “The idea that everything from spoons to stones is conscious is gaining academic credibility.”…

## Modern Bitcoin’s Surprising Lesson About Ancient Scripture

It turns out there’s a striking parallel between the historical record of scripture and the blockchain ledger

This article was published in The Stream (September 13, 2022) and is republished with permission. Can we trust the authenticity of the New Testament scriptures? Trust is foundational in the acceptance of scripture. There’s an interesting lesson to learn from a very modern system of trust: money. Even Bitcoin, believe it or not. An Exchange of Trust We’ll start with old-fashioned familiar money. Why is a twenty dollar bill worth $20? It’s just a small sheet of paper, after all. The answer is trust. We trust the piece of paper has value because its worth is backed by the United States government. We also trust that Walmart will give us$20 worth of Doritos if we give them a twenty…

## Webb Telescope Builders “Are Questioning Previous Science”

In an interview at Futurism, Webb astronomer Garth Illingworth shares how the new findings are shaking up what we think we know about the universe

Futurism’s Maggie Harrison recently interviewed UC Santa Cruz astronomer Garth Illingworth, one of the developers of the James Webb Space Telescope. His observations put the astronomers’ astonishment at the unexpected new findings of very old, developed galaxies in perspective: And I would just say, you know, when I was sitting there watching the first images, I was just blown away by their beauty and the character there, the information. But one of the things I was thinking afterwards was: in that hour, I saw, like, six sets of data. I have to say, that’s more data than I’ve ever seen from anything in any sort of reasonable time period in my whole life. Scientists are going to be working on…

## News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 6

China has found evidence for an ancient ocean on Mars and an international research teams reports that the number of dried-up lakes is higher than thought

Noting the passing earlier this month of Frank Drake, author of the famous Drake Equation, planetary geoscientist David Rothery notes, we know a great deal more promising information about the search for life today than we did in 1961 when he first formulated the equation: “We are learning more about exoplanets every year, and are entering an era when measuring their atmospheric composition to reveal evidence of life is becoming increasingly feasible. Within the next decade or two, we can hope for a much more soundly based estimate of the fraction of Earth-like planets where life gets started.” – The Conversation, September 5, 2022. We also know about potentially habitable moons now (for example, Enceladus, whose image is featured above).…

## Oh, Not This Again: “AI Will Rise Up and Destroy Mankind”

The advances of AI raise a number of issues, yes. But the intelligences behind these advances are not artificial at all

A new paper from researchers at Oxford University and Google’s Deepmind prophesies that “the threat of AI is greater than previously believed. It’s so great, in fact, that artificial intelligence is likely to one day rise up and annihilate humankind … Cohen says the conditions the researchers identified show that the possibility of a threatening conclusion is stronger than in any previous publication.” (MSN, September 15, 2022) How? Why? The research paper predicted life on Earth turning into a zero-sum game between humans and the super-advanced machinery. Michael K. Cohen, a co-author of the study, spoke about their paper during an interview. In a world with infinite resources, I would be extremely uncertain about what would happen. In a world…

## The MacGuffin: Big Fuss About Nothing Is Not Good Science Fiction

A MacGuffin creates a lot of action but doesn’t in any way advance the plot

As with Time Travel, the MacGuffin plot risk comes in a variety of flavors. People bicker about the term, but Alfred Hitchcock (1863–1942) summarized the gist of it: A MacGuffin is “the thing the characters on the screen worry about but the audience don’t care.” The MacGuffin creates a lot of action but doesn’t in any way advance the plot. The action is not the problem. If the item contributes to the plot in a significant way — the One Ring from Lord of the Rings or the Dragon Balls from the Dragon Ball Series, for example — then it isn’t a MacGuffin. But if the item is inert and chased mainly because the characters want it, then it is…

## Bacterial Growth Patterns Can Spell Out Our Inmost Thoughts

Crazy? No. Researchers reduced them to an alphabet and you can test it for yourself

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have created an encoder/decoder using bacterial growth patterns. Because such growth patterns tend to be regular, they can be reduced to an encoding scheme they call “emorfi”: The encoding is not one-to-one, as the final simulated pattern corresponding to each letter is not exactly the same every time. However, the researchers discovered that a machine learning program could learn to distinguish between them to recognize the letter intended. Ken Kingery, Duke University, “An AI message decoder based on bacterial growth patterns” at Phys.org (September 23, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription. Go here to see how it works and test it yourself. We tried it with “Bacterial growth patterns can spell out your…