Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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Tom Stoppard’s New Play Tackles Consciousness Itself

Consciousness is a hard problem for science, principally because no one quite understands what makes us the subjects of our experiences.
According to one critic, the problem that has preoccupied Stoppard throughout his career is “Are the materialists right, or is there more to man than mere flesh?” Read More ›
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Too Big to Fail Safe?

If artificial intelligence makes disastrous decisions from very complex calculations, will we still understand what went wrong?
A neuroscientist offers an example of the kind of thing that can go wrong, while the AI system is still small and focused enough to be easily understood: Read More ›
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AI Social Media Could Totally Manipulate You

Deep learning specialist: And the scary thing is, the AI needed is not especially advanced
Readers familiar with The Two Towers will recall that that’s precisely what Worm-Tongue did to Theoden King: The king heard nothing but what was conveyed to him from his would-be overlord by Worm-tongue, until someone separated him, rather forcibly, from his "social medium." Read More ›
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How the KGB Found CIA Agents

An illustration of complex, specified information (CSI) in the world of foreign intelligence agencies
The concept, which has been controversial with respect to the universe as a whole, can be conveniently illustrated on a smaller scale in the events of our time. Consider the case of the phantom Soviet moles. Read More ›
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The Death of the Ad Agency Was Widely Publicized

But, like so many industries, advertising turned out to be weathering the digital storm after all
A recent surge in jobs could be temporary. But it’s beginning to look as though the iconic ad culture is adjusting to the digital age. There's a film in that too. Probably a lot of them.   Read More ›
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Yes, Even Lizards Can Be Smart

If you catch them at the right time. But can we give machines what the lizard has by nature?
What is it that we want machines to be and do under our guidance that these—often seemingly strange—life forms are and do spontaneously? The life forms do those things to stay alive. Does it matter then that machines are not alive? Read More ›
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Crows Can Be as Smart as Apes

But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn't seem to reside in the details of the mechanism
Studying animals' intelligence has taught us many things. But in some ways, it has deepened the mystery of intelligence. Read More ›
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Is the Future of Work Relentlessly Urban?

Amazon’s new combined New York and Washington headquarters may provide an unintended test
The idea of two different locations would likely be unworkable apart from the internet. But some wonder if Amazon has grasped all the implications of the internet. Read More ›
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Facial Recognition Aids Persecution of Chinese Christians, Muslims

Western companies still seek business ties with an increasingly authoritarian regime
The crackdown on religion is said to stem from Xi Jinping, who became President in 2012. After he got term limits removed in March 2018, some have begun to privately call him “Emperor Xi.” Read More ›
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Google.com or Google.gov?

A political analyst argues that Google is beginning to mesh with governments whose values are compatible with its own.
Readers who follow the growing controversies over the free flow of information will find much to reflect on in Adams’s long-form discussion of how Google shapes the search for information in the pursuit of its social goals. Read More ›
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Yes, the Placebo Effect Is Real, Not a Trick

But the fact that the mind acts on the body troubles materialists. Such facts, they say, require revision
The fact that you may start to get better if you believe you are receiving treatment is one of the best-attested facts in medicine. Despite that, far from being accepted, this "placebo effect" is seen in many quarters as, at best, a “pesky thing” and at worst, a “trick,” if not a “fraud.” Perhaps that is due to a drive to reduce medical science to the purely physical. Read More ›
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AI, it turns out, can solve any problem

As long as we are not too persnickety about what we consider a solution
The machine that knows what we mean instead of what we say is still in the concept stage. Meanwhile, Deep Mind researcher Victoria Krakovna keeps a running list of ways that generate "a solution that literally satisfies the stated objective but fails to solve the problem according to the human designer’s intent.” Read More ›
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The virtual bride

The answer to relationship problems: Your new spouse is a hologram. So far, only in Japan
While the marriage does not, at present, have legal standing, Gatebox, the company that produces the hologram, has issued more than 3,700 certificates for such "cross-dimension" marriages. Read More ›
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If a Robot Read the News, Would You Notice a Difference?

The Chinese government thinks not. Is this the way of the future?
The robotic news readers of China serve a quite different purpose from the independent news outlets and commentators of the West; the robots help disseminate controlled information rather than finding and developing information. Read More ›
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Panpsychism: You Are Conscious but So Is Your Coffee Mug

Materialists have a solution to the problem of consciousness, and it may startle you
To understand why Scientific American would take panpsychism or the "multiple personality disorder" universe seriously, one needs to begin by grasping how very hard the problem of consciousness is for materialists (naturalists). Put simply, it is easier for many today to stomach the idea that an electron is conscious than the idea that consciousness is not a material entity. Read More ›
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Noted Astronomer Envisions Cyborgs on Mars

Sir Martin Rees thinks of this “post-human evolution” as going beyond Darwin to “secular intelligent design.”
AI apocalypse is certainly in the air. Elon Musk, Henry Kissinger, and the late Stephen Hawking have all predicted an AI doomsday. Industry professionals’ doubt and disparagement don’t seem to register with the media in the same way. Read More ›
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The “superintelligent AI myth”

The problem that even the skeptical Deep Learning researcher left out
I largely agree with what François Chollet said last year as to why there will be no explosion of general artificial intelligence. But when he challenged the fear of an AI-driven “intelligence explosion,” he, perhaps unwittingly, said more than he meant. Read More ›
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Who needs wisdom? We’ve got algorithms!

On a decision about a TV series, the Algorithm offered a narrow view (ratings) while Hollywood offered a “big picture” view. Who was right?
While we are seeing some pushback against the movement to “algorithmicize” everything, few lay out explicitly the limitations as well as the benefits of the algorithms increasingly used to make decisions. Read More ›
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Brains are not billions of little computers

Despite the hype. Also, life forms are not machines and neurons are not neural networks
Life forms exist in a dance with their environment (homeostasis) that requires constant adjustment, an adjustment generated by the inner drive to continue in existence. How does the drive come to be there? The analogy between life forms and machines like computers is not particularly convincing, on close examination. Read More ›
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Can Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, save it from humanity?

Berners-Lee has launched a global campaign for a Magna Carta to “protect people’s rights online from threats such as fake news, prejudice and hate”
Not everyone sees Berners-Lee’s project as realistic. For one thing, acquiring and using masses of personal data without consent is the very basis of the business of the big social media companies, who are more powerful than many nation states. Read More ›