Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# ArchiveArticles

## Could the World Above the Level of the Particle Be Superposed?

It’s been done with molecules. After that, there are barriers

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicistBruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: We were introduced to the quantum eraser experiment, which showed that what happens at the level of individual particles depends on whether you choose to measure it or not and to non-locality, the Cheshire Cat’s science of being in no one particular place at any time. Particles can do that even if we can’t. But wait: Is it possible that things larger than particles can in fact do that…

## A Critical Look at the Myth of “Deep Learning”

“Deep learning” is as misnamed a computational technique as exists.

I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, and here. “Deep learning” is as misnamed a computational technique as exists. The actual technique refers to multi-layered neural networks, and, true enough, those multi-layers can do a lot of significant computational work. But the phrase “deep learning” suggests that the machine is doing something profound and beyond the capacity of humans. That’s far from the case. The Wikipedia article on deep learning is instructive in this regard. Consider the following image used there to illustrate deep learning: Note the rendition of the elephant at the top and compare it with the image of the elephant as we experience it at the bottom. The image at the bottom is rich,…

## China: Snitching on Those Who Recall Non-Approved History

The Communist Party of China wants its centennial to proceed this year without memory of the millions dead in the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and Tiananmen Square

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell, 1984 The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed on July 23, 1921, so is gearing up for the hundredth anniversary of its founding with the theme “Forever Following the Party.” In preparation, the Cyberspace Administration of China has launched a hotline for citizens to report online statements that contradict the Party’s official version of its history. A translation of the announcement from the Central Network Information Office Reporting Center is available on former American diplomat David Cowhig’s blog: One part of the announcement reads: In order to avoid misleading the public with false statements, maintain a clear cyberspace and create a good atmosphere…

## Artificial Intelligence Understands by Not Understanding

The secret to writing a program for a sympathetic chatbot is surprisingly simple…

I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my two earlier posts, here and here. With natural language processing, Larson amusingly retells the story of Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program, in which the program, acting as a Rogerian therapist, simply mirrors back to the human what the human says. Carl Rogers, the psychologist, advocated a “non-directive” form of therapy where, rather than tell the patient what to do, the therapist reflected back what the patient was saying, as a way of getting the patient to solve one’s own problems. Much like Eugene Goostman, whom I’ve already mentioned in this series, ELIZA is a cheat, though to its inventor Weizenbaum’s credit, he recognized from the get-go that it was a cheat.…

## IS the Moon There If No One Looks? Or Is There No “There” There?

Elementary particles do not need to be in a particular place until they are observed and then that's where they are

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicist Bruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: We were introduced to the quantum eraser experiment, which showed that what happens at the level of individual particles depends on whether you choose to measure or not. This segment looks at non-locality, the science of being in no one particular place. Elementary particles can do that too: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-130-Bruce-Gordon.mp3 This portion begins at 12:36 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Bruce Gordon: So another…

## Automated Driving and Other Failures of AI

How would autonomous cars manage in an environment where eye contact with other drivers is important?

Yesterday I posted a review here of philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. There’s a lot more I would like to say. Here are some additional notes, to which I will add in a couple of future posts. Three of the failures of Big Tech that I listed earlier (Eugene Goostman, Tay, and the image analyzer that Google lobotomized so that it could no longer detect gorillas, even mistakenly) were obvious frauds and/or blunders. Goostman was a fraud out of the box. Tay a blunder that might be fixed in the sense that its racist language could be mitigated through some appropriate machine learning. And the Google image analyzer — well that was just pathetic: either retire the image…

## Why China Is Making a Bold Gamble With Digital Currency

“Controllable anonymity” means that all transactions between individuals are visible to the People’s Bank and trackable by the Chinese government

Last week, China announced the national rollout of the electronic yuan, a plan in the works since 2014. The e-CNY* or Digital Currency Electronics Payment (DCEP) was piloted last year in four major Chinese cities: The digital yuan resides in cyberspace, available on the owner’s mobile phone — or on a card for the less tech-savvy — and spending it doesn’t strictly require an online connection. It appears on a screen with a silhouette of Mao Zedong, looking just like the paper money. In tests in recent months, more than 100,000 people in China have downloaded a mobile-phone app from the central bank enabling them to spend small government handouts of digital cash with merchants, including Chinese outlets of Starbucks…

## In Quantum Physics, “Reality” Really Is What We Choose To Observe

Physicist Bruce Gordon argues that idealist philosophy is the best way to make sense of the puzzling world of quantum physics

In last week’s podcast,,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed idealist philosopher of science and physicist Bruce Gordon on how the quantum physics that underlies our universe makes much more sense if we have a non-materialist view of reality. Even then, it challenges our conventional view of how nature “must” work: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-130-Bruce-Gordon.mp3 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Michael Egnor: When I was in college, I was a biochemistry major and I took some courses in quantum mechanics. It was noted in the course that when you look at the most fundamental properties of subatomic particles, matter seems to disappear. That the reality of the subatomic particles is that they’re mathematical concepts. It utterly fascinated me…

## Artificial Intelligence: Unseating the Inevitability Narrative

World-class chess, Go, and Jeopardy-playing programs are impressive, but they prove nothing about whether computers can be made to achieve AGI

Back in 1998, I moderated a discussion at which Ray Kurzweil gave listeners a preview of his then forthcoming book The Age of Spiritual Machines, in which he described how machines were poised to match and then exceed human cognition, a theme he doubled down on in subsequent books (such as The Singularity Is Near and How to Create a Mind). For Kurzweil, it is inevitable that machines will match and then exceed us: Moore’s Law guarantees that machines will attain the needed computational power to simulate our brains, after which the challenge will be for us to keep pace with machines..  Kurzweil’s respondents at the discussion were John Searle, Thomas Ray, and Michael Denton, and they were all to varying degrees critical of his strong…

## AI’s Future: Combining RPA With AI to Augment Knowledge Workers

The work machines can’t do is usually the rewarding part, both personally and financially

Counterterrorism requires analysts to work through millions of Twitter and Facebook messages, YouTube videos, and websites in multiple languages, far too much work for humans. But a combination of AI (artificial intelligence) and RPA (robotic process automation) can help humans do this work, leaving humans in charge of the most complex and important decisions. AI systems can crawl through documents in any language, automatically translating them, extracting names of people and organizations, and doing sentiment analysis of conversations to identify key text to be considered later by humans. This text can be automatically organized into proper bins using RPA, enabling a data processing and analytics pipeline that can handle large amounts of content at speeds never possible in the past.…

## Why the Global Shortage in Computer Chips Matters to You

What? A global shortage in chips? Delays? Higher costs? Whatever happened to Moore’s Law?

Read on. Moore’s Law only holds when chip supply isn’t an issue. Just now, the microchips that make every electronic device work are in short supply. The COVID-19 pandemic and unexpectedly cold weather in Texas temporarily closed chip factories. As news of the shortage spread, “panic buying” cleaned out inventory. Several other factors drive a continuing shortage as well: ● The switch to 5G phones is increasing chip demand, leading to delays: Even the mighty Apple, a $2tn company and the world’s biggest buyer of semiconductors spending$58bn annually, was forced to delay the launch of the much-hyped iPhone 12 by two months last year due to the shortage. Mark Sweney, “Global shortage in computer chips ‘reaches crisis point’” at…

## Do Not Be Fooled: The “Self-Driving” Car Doesn’t Drive Itself

Over-reliance on technology that is not intended to be used without human attention can be deadly

Two people died in a car crash in a Tesla on Sunday morning. While many details are yet to be confirmed, the investigators have confirmed that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of impact. Additionally, the resulting fire required more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish because the batteries continued to reignite. Here at Mind Matters, we want to reiterate to our readers that even though Tesla’s driver assistance system is officially named “Full Self-Driving”, no one should take that to mean that the car can drive itself. We have been fully documenting the problematic nature of Tesla’s self-driving claims for many years. Recently, the hype coming from Tesla has been so problematic that many other outlets have begun…

## How Materialism Proves Unbounded Scientific Ignorance

There is an infinite number of things that are true that we cannot prove scientifically and never will

Science is based on a glut of laws from physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other areas. The assumption of scientific materialism, as I understand it, is that science has explained or will explain everything. The final conclusion of scientific materialism, also known as scientism, is nicely captured in a question chemist Peter Atkins asked philosopher William Lane Craig in a debate: “Do you deny that science can account for everything?” Scientism’s assumption that science can establish everything is self-refuting. Careful analysis shows that there is an infinite number of things that are true that we cannot prove scientifically and never will. Stephen Hawking saw the tip of the iceberg of this truth when he said, “Up to now, most people have…

## Why the Universe Itself Can’t Be the Most Fundamental Thing

Atheist biology professor Jerry Coyne is mistaken in dismissing my observation that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as any other scientific theory

Jerry Coyne has posted in reply to my observation that God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary methods of science. That is to say, all proofs of God’s existence are scientific theories in the sense that they have the same logical structure as any other scientific theory that proposes explanations for the natural world. Scientific theories are inductive in that they depend upon evidence in the natural world to reach a conclusion. Thus demonstrations of God’s existence, for example Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, are scientific theories in the sense that Newton’s Law of Gravitation, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution are scientific theories. Scientific theories can demonstrate the existence of things outside of nature…

## SETI Director Warns: Those Aliens Could Be Malevolent

Harvard astronomer agrees: We’ve sent a lot of signals in recent years; they may have got them. But now what?

As the Mars Rover Perseverance bumps around looking for fossil bacteria and such, many students of possible ET life are becoming surprisingly cautious about what it might mean: “We have no reason to believe that technological advancement and altruism or morality are somehow linked,” SETI researcher Andrew Siemion told Inverse. “There probably are malevolent civilizations elsewhere in the universe so that’s certainly something that we should consider as we continue to explore the universe.” Siemion, who’s the director of the Berkeley SETI Research Center and principal of the alien-hunting Breakthrough Listen project, is invoking a tension at the heart of any project searching for alien life. Successfully finding it would change the world — but there’s also no guarantee humanity…

## Sci-fi Saturday: New NBC X-files Clone “Debris” Feels Disjointed

Perhaps that’s intentional, though many critics aren’t getting it yet

Debris by J. H. Wyman (TV series, 2021, 13 episodes): “Two agents from two different continents, and two different mindsets, must work together to investigate why.” Debris, J. H. Wyman’s third major foray into science fiction (Fringe, and Almost Human being the others), seems to be getting a cool reception from critics and viewers alike. But maybe it needs time to coalesce. However, time and a forgiving audience are in short supply these days in the crowded entertainment landscape. The show’s premise is that an alien spacecraft has broken up in our solar system and crashed to earth, creating the “Debris” of the title. Of course, these artifacts cause strange “advanced technology” effects (not magic) and our government agents must…

## Spiders May Not Know It But They Are Making Music

An MIT researcher has developed an algorithm that translates the delicate vibrations of spider webs into music

One of the presentations at the American Chemical Society’s Spring 2021 meeting featured an algorithm that makes music from the analysis of spiders’ webs: “The spider lives in an environment of vibrating strings,” says Markus Buehler, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, who is presenting the work. “They don’t see very well, so they sense their world through vibrations, which have different frequencies.” Such vibrations occur, for example, when the spider stretches a silk strand during construction, or when the wind or a trapped fly moves the web. Buehler, who has long been interested in music, wondered if he could extract rhythms and melodies of non-human origin from natural materials, such as spider webs. “Webs could be a new source for…

## Why Did a Prominent Science Writer Come To Doubt the AI Takeover?

John Horgan’s endorsement of Erik J. Larson’s new book critiquing AI claims stems from considerable experience covering the industry for science publications

At first, science writer John Horgan (pictured), author of a number of books including The End of Science (1996), accepted the conventional AI story: When I started writing about science decades ago, artificial intelligence seemed ascendant. IEEE Spectrum, the technology magazine for which I worked, produced a special issue on how AI would transform the world. I edited an article in which computer scientist Frederick Hayes-Roth predicted that AI would soon replace experts in law, medicine, finance and other professions. John Horgan, “Will Artificial Intelligence Ever Live Up to Its Hype?” at Scientific American (December 4, 2020) But that year, 1984, ushered in an AI winter, in which innovation stalled and funding dried up. By 1998, problems like non-recurrent engineering…

## A Physicist and Philosopher Examines Panpsychism

Idealism says everything is an idea in the mind of God. Panpsychism says everything participates in consciousness (thus is not just an idea)

In last week’s podcast,” our guest host, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, interviewed philosopher of science Bruce Gordon on “Idealism and the Nature of Reality.” Idealism is the view that “something mental (the mind, spirit, reason, will) is the ultimate foundation of all reality, or even exhaustive of reality” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. As Gordon noted in the earlier portion of this podcast, idealism is actually a practical philosophy. It originated with Plato (c. 424–347 BC) but the modern form, which he himself holds, is that of George Berkeley (1685–1753). In Berkeley’s view everything that exists is an idea in the mind of God. Thus, Dr. Egnor asked him what he thinks of panpsychism, the view that everything in the universe…

## No AI Overlords?: What Is Larson Arguing and Why Does It Matter?

Information theorist William Dembski explains, computers can’t do some things by their very nature

Yesterday, we were looking at the significance of AI researcher Erik J. Larson’s new book, The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do, contrasting it with claims that AI will merge with or replace us. Some such claims are made by industry insiders like Ray Kurzweil. But more often we hear them from science celebs like the late Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, who, on these topics, are more known than knowledgeable. So why does Larson think they are wrong? He offers two arguments. First, as information theorist William Dembski explains, is that there are some kinds of thinking that, by their nature, computers don’t do: With regard to inference, he shows that a form…