Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


dachsund dog portrait studio looking up.

Do Any Dogs Go To Heaven? If So, Why?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch was troubled as a child by the Catholic tradition that dogs like his beloved Purzel did not go to heaven

In recent articles, we’ve discussed well-known neuroscientist Christof Koch’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness which, as he acknowledges, takes a panpsychist (everything is conscious to some degree) approach to the mind. He has explained his reasoning at MIT Press Reader: Materialists must see human consciousness as an illusion — but then whose illusion is it? Panpsychism allows humans to have actual consciousness but, he says, “experience may not even be restricted to biological entities but might extend to non-evolved physical systems previously assumed to be mindless — a pleasing and parsimonious conclusion about the makeup of the universe.” His perspective is gaining popularity in science. One, perhaps unexpected, factor that he mentions as shaping his overall approach was youthful…

duck decoy with stuffed and calls

A Physicist’s Defense of Reality, Despite Quantum Physics

He explains why Eddington’s solid table really IS solid, even if, at the highest resolution, it is mostly empty space

In the wake of quantum physics, King’s College philosopher of physics Alexander Franklin is concerned to stress that “everyday reality is not illusory but emergent”: Popular science often tells us that we are radically deceived by the commonplace appearance of everyday objects and that colour and solidity are illusions. For instance, the physicist Sir Arthur Eddington [pictured] distinguished in 1928 between two tables: the familiar table and the scientific table, while the former is solid and coloured, the scientific table “is nearly all empty space”. Eddington then makes the striking claim that “modern physics has by delicate test and remorseless logic assured me that my second scientific table is the only one which is really there”. Alexander Franklin, “Solid objects…

Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

Researchers Can’t Explain: Memories Drift From Neuron to Neuron

Memories are supposed to stay put in the neurons that lay them down. A recent study, published at Nature, shows that they move a lot…

“Scientists are meant to know what’s going on, but in this particular case, we are deeply confused”, a recent article at The Atlantic begins. It’s about the way nervous system cells don’t simply lay down memories and keep them. The memories drift from neuron to neuron, quite contrary to textbook claims and traditional neuroscience assumptions: The relatively simple explanation found in neuroscience textbooks is that specific groups of neurons reliably fire when their owner smells a rose, sees a sunset, or hears a bell. These representations—these patterns of neural firing—presumably stay the same from one moment to the next. But as Schoonover, Fink, and others have found, they sometimes don’t. They change—and to a confusing and unexpected extent. Schoonover, Fink,…

Male robot thinking about something.

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI Is Not an Insurmountable Problem

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI is not an insurmountable problem

Neuroscientist Ryota Kanai, founder and CEO of Tokyo-based startup Araya, aims to “understand the computational basis of consciousness and to create conscious AI.” He isn’t sure, he says, if we want AI to be conscious. But, technically, he doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem: If we can’t figure out why AIs do what they do, why don’t we ask them? We can endow them with metacognition—an introspective ability to report their internal mental states. Such an ability is one of the main functions of consciousness. It is what neuroscientists look for when they test whether humans or animals have conscious awareness. For instance, a basic form of metacognition, confidence, scales with the clarity of conscious experience. When our brain…

Science fiction illustration of a battle cruiser spaceship travelling faster than the speed of light in hyperspace, 3d digitally rendered illustration

What If a Loved One Aged Much Faster Than You? – Sci-fi Saturday

It’s one of the implications of faster-than-light travel

“ARK” at DUST by Nelson Cruz (June 8, 2021, 8:19 min) “Captain Mira Bernhard is finally home after a lengthy mission to the new planet, GAIA – humanity’s last hope. But what’s only been a 5-year trip for her, has been 45-year wait for her husband.” Review: ARK debuted in 2020. Time, we are told, is running out for Earth. The radio announcer, informing the audience of Bernhard’s ship’s arrival, also announces that this will be the final week of broadcasts. We are told that Bernhard’s husband Peter (played by Patrick Gorman) does not know what to expect. But, of course, he really does. And he faces a big decision: Should he just free her (Sheila Cutchlow) to return to…


Could You Be Reconstructed From Your Memories? – Sci-fi Saturday

If you were, would destroying the digitized “you” be murder?

“The Final Moments of Karl Brant” at DUST by Neil Ellice and Matthew Wilson (June 10, 2021 at DUST, 15:46 min) “Set in the near future where experimental technology allows two detectives to bring a murder victim back to life in a digital state in order to question him about his final moments.” Review: This is an “oldie” from 2013, recently uploaded to DUST. Entrepreneur Karl Brant and academic neuroscientist Bennett Ferryman were partners in a promising new high tech venture in which Brant suddenly perishes, leaving Ferryman now the sole owner — and under interrogation down at the local cop shop: “Am I a suspect?” “Not if you give us a good reason why you shouldn’t be.” Not too…

Medical science laboratory. Concept of virus and bacteria research

What Is Gain-of-Function Research and Why Is It Risky?

The Wuhan Institute of Virology and the NIH find themselves in a tough spot

Last time, we talked about the vindication of the lab leak theory, as a growing number of investigative articles have pointed to a lab accident as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now,we turn to the role risky gain-of-function research may have played in the affair. To understand why some in the U.S. government and the NIH want to downplay funding of gain-of-function research, we need to understand what exactly it is. All viruses mutate, some faster than others. Influenza is one of the fastest mutating viruses, followed by HIV. SARS-CoV-2 mutates slower than both viruses, which is why many scientists believe vaccine booster shots will likely be every few years, rather than annually, like the flu. Scientists need to…

3d rendering  of futuristic blue circuit board

Can AI Design AI?: Responding to Google’s Latest Tech

Anything can be intelligence if we set the bar low enough

Could a computer design itself? Could it design a bigger and better computer? A team at Google says yes. According to a recent article at NewScientist, Google has begun using AI to design AI. “Engineers at Google have tasked an artificial intelligence with designing faster and more efficient processors – and then used its chip designs to develop the next generation of specialised computers that run the very same type of AI algorithms,” writes Matthew Sparkes. Sparkes continues by explaining Google’s chip design, and introducing the reader to Google’s Anna Goldie, a member of the team at the front of this effort that tasks computers with making better computers. “It is conceivable,” says Sparkes, “that this new AI-designed chip will be used…

Light bulb

How Patent Law Has Changed for the Worse

Scientific achievement is almost impossible for the little guy anymore

During their conversation about the National Science Foundation, Drs. Robert J. Marks and Paul Werbos took a moment to discuss patent law. Their short rabbit trail ends with a grim analysis of patent law today: it’s now “almost impossible for the little guy” to secure a patent – and expensive. Patent law was considered so important to the nation’s founders that they enshrined it in the Constitution, granting Congress the authority to protect the rights of inventors to their inventions (see: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8). “Granting exclusive rights to the inventor is intended to encourage the investment of time and resources into the development of new and useful discoveries,” explains Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. In 2011, then-President Barack…

Science laboratory research and development concept. microscope with test tubes

Lab Leak Theory Vindicated: What That Means for Fighting COVID-19

What was the U.S. government's role in downplaying the lab leak theory?

Vanity Fair adds to the growing number of investigative articles pointing to a lab accident as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. This article looks at the U.S. government’s role in downplaying that lab leak theory. Behind closed doors, however, national security and public health experts and officials across a range of departments in the executive branch were locked in high-stakes battles over what could and couldn’t be investigated and made public. Katherine Eban, “The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins” at Vanity Fair At a time when the Mainstream Media has sullied its reputation by parroting experts rather than seeking multiple viewpoints and checking sources, several articles stand out as excellent pieces of long-form writing and…

Woman hand using smart phone with lock icon graphic at coffee shop. Technology business concept.

Censoring the Censors? Florida’s Anti-Censorship Law

What exactly does the law do, and why is Big Tech sponsoring a lawsuit to halt it?

Originally published by Dr. Karl Stephan at Engineering Ethics On May 24, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill designed to stop social media firms from censoring free speech. At least that’s what the governor’s website claims it does. Two big-tech industry groups, Netchoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), sued the state of Florida in early June over the legislation, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1. What exactly does the law do, and why are organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google sponsoring a lawsuit to halt it? People of certain political persuasions need not look far for motivations to pass such a law. Following the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 of this year,…

DNA in hand on blue background.
DNA in hand on blue background concept design.

The Coolest Tech on the Planet (Hint: It’s Inside You!)

The intricate design of the living cell has left many materialists stumped

These days, we surround ourselves with technology to stay in touch, to keep ourselves informed, and to manage the challenges of our daily lives. We also recognize in our devices and machines all the hallmarks of design, understanding reflexively that they express the ingenuity of engineers or software developers. Our appreciation for applied intelligence comes as second nature to us — we intuitively recognize the work of other minds. But what happens when we look up from our technology and survey the world of nature? When we look up at the movement of the planets, or into the eyes of our children, or when we peer through a microscope into a living cell? Do we see signs of minds in…

Judge Holding Documents

Big Tech Sues Florida Over New Censorship Law

Facebook, Twitter, and Google are fighting back against a Florida law that seeks to reign them in

Technology trade companies representing Facebook, Twitter, and Google are suing Florida over its new law regulating the editorial and censorship powers of large social media platforms. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 into law on May 24, the first of its kind in the nation to curb the powers of online companies to remove and censor content and users. NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) – technology trade groups that have been vocal about their opposition to the law – filed the lawsuit against Florida the following Thursday in Tallahassee federal court. DeSantis and other supporters of the new law argue that its purpose is to safeguard the First Amendment rights of ordinary Florida citizens…

In the Hospital Sick Man Lying on the Bed, His Visiting Wife Hopefully Sits Beside Him and Prays for His Rapid Recovery. Tragic, Somber and Melancholy Scene.

Is It Safe to Revise the Standard for Legally Recognized Brain Death?

People have a right to not have a controversial concept of death imposed upon them

Originally published on MercatorNet on May 28, 2021 by Nancy Valko I have been writing for many years about the implications of brain death, the lesser known “donation after cardiac/circulatory death”, diagnosed brain death cases like the supposedly “impossible” prolonged survival and maturation of Jahi McMath, and unexpected recoveries like Zack Dunlap’s. Some mothers declared “brain dead” were able to gestate their babies for weeks or months to a successful delivery before their ventilators were removed. Last August, I wrote about the World Brain Death Project and the effort to establish a worldwide consensus on brain death criteria and testing to develop the “minimum clinical standards for determination of brain death” (emphasis added). I also wrote about the current effort “to revise the (US) Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA) to assure a…

Internet law concept

Can a Robot be Arrested and Prosecuted?

An Uber driver is held liable if he runs over someone. But what if a driverless taxi ran over someone?

The title, “Can a Robot Be Arrested? Hold a Patent? Pay Income Taxes?”, is bound to attract clicks and attention. Posted on the IEEE Spectrum site, a podcast transcript by that name reports Steven Cherry’s interview of Ryan Abbott about artificial intelligence and the law. Abbott, a physician, lawyer, and professor, wrote the aptly titled book, The Reasonable Robot: Artificial Intelligence and the Law, published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. To the point: Can a robot be arrested? Technically, an arrest occurs when a person is forcibly but lawfully detained. Of course, one can forcibly detain a robot – we’ve seen that done in many science fiction movies. Abbott was talking specifically about how criminal law should apply to actions taken by artificial intelligence (AI)…

Statue of Saint Anselm and the towers of the Cathedral of Aosta, the Cattedrale di Aosta de Corso Pere-Laurent in Aosta. Aosta Valley. Italy. Europe

Gödel Says God Exists and Proves It

Here is a line-by-line explanation of his proof

Kurt Gödel, an intellectual giant of the 20th century, offered a mathematical proof that God exists. Those who suffer from math anxiety admire what the theorem (shown below) claims to do, but have absolutely no idea what it means. Our goal is to explain, in English, what Gödel’s existence of God proof says. Gödel’s proof shows the existence of God is a necessary truth. The idea behind the truth is not new and dates back to Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Great scientists and philosophers, including Descartes and Leibniz, have reconsidered and refined Anselm’s argument. Gödel appears to be the first, however, to present the argument using mathematical logic. Lexicography In any development of a mathematical theory, there are foundational axioms…

Man sits in a spaceship car and flies to the planet with a sunset in space. Space travel by car, concept. Driver behind the wheel. Interplanetary taxi in space, creative idea

Ford Calls Out Exaggerated Musk Claims in Epic Twitter Troll

Automakers are beginning to respond to Musk with mockery and satire

Elon Musk has long been making strange claims about Tesla’s future plans for vehicles. At Mind Matters News, we have documented extensively his continually-changing claims about Teslas being able to be used as robotaxis. This is especially important to consumers of these products, as Tesla is charging customers $10,000 for future functionality that may never exist. We have largely ignored other claims from Musk as it is sometimes difficult to tell when Musk is being serious or when he is just joking around. This can be problematic, however, since Musk has listed his Twitter account as being a source of official company communications. Not being able to tell if a given message is an official corporate communication or just a funny…

person behind mask

We Are Now Informed: Consciousness Does Not Really Exist

Rubbish. Giving up consciousness as an illusion would be like turning off the master switch. What would the ensuing darkness and powerlessness tell us?
What you think is enabling you to listen with any attention to neuroscientists (your dog, coffee cup, and your toothpaste are not listening to neuroscientists) is something — some of them tell us — we should give up as an illusion. Read More ›
Egg power fear hammer

Is More Coercion — in Principle — an “Extension” of Morality?

Activist Garrett Hardin popularized government coercion to “save the planet” in 1968

Recently, the Communist Party of China has announced permission for the three-child family, possibly because of the demographic ruin that the previous one-child family has occasioned in that country. But the basic idea that government should control everything is not new and it did not originate in China. Let’s go back to the 1960s in the United States. In 1968, Garrett Hardin (1915–2003) made a famous appeal in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine, Science, for good old-fashioned coercion of human beings to stop having so many children: The abstract for his “Tragedy of the Commons” (Science, 1968), a Cool concept at the time, read simply “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental…

A girl with Down syndrome blows bubbles. The daily life of a child with disabilities. Chromosomal genetic disorder in a child.

Richard Dawkins is not just ableist, he’s unscientific

He refuses to see the joy that people with Down Syndrome bring into the world

Originally published on MercatorNet on June 2, 2021 by Ann Farmer Way back when, one of life’s great certainties used to be that no matter how obnoxious, prejudiced, jaundiced or snooty Richard Dawkins, the Grand Poobah of Atheism, was, the accolades would continue to roll in. Alas! Those were the Good Old Days for poor old Richard. Nowadays he is looking more and more like a bewildered T-Rex the day after the Cretaceous extinction event. Earlier this year Richard was cancelled by the American Humanist Association. It revoked his 1996 humanist of the year award because he had expressed scepticism about trans people in one of his recent tweets. It turns out that Richard needed his mouth washed out with soap…