Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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Quantum Randomness Gives Nature Free Will

Whether or not quantum randomness explains how our brains work, it may help us create unbreakable encryption codes

When I was boy, my father explained free will and predestination to me: I dig a fence post hole. · Did I create the hole because of my own free will? · Or was the hole already there and I simply removed the dirt? If true, the hole was predestined. The question cannot be answered by examining the evidence. In philosophy terms, it is “empirically unanswerable.” That is the sort of stuff that philosophers debate. Religious people might point to scripture to support one conclusion over the other.1 In physics, however, quantum randomness offers a definitive answer to the question of predestination vs. free will—for subatomic particles. In the world of classical physics (Isaac Newton’s physics), it can be argued Read More ›

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Stephen Hawking and the AI Apocalypse

Can doomsday headlines, chasing fame, stand in for deep knowledge of a subject?
One thing a celebrity pundit can usually count on is an audience of media professionals who haven’t considered the problems carefully either and don’t want to. It is much easier and more profitable to market Doomsday than Levin’s Law. As always, the fact that laws governing the universe will eventually triumph is true but not news.   Read More ›
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Dogs Are Not as Intelligent as Seals?

That doesn't sound right to you? Putting aside the hoopla around IQ tests for furries and flipperies, there is a serious science question about what “intelligence” really is
Dog lovers may be surprised (and displeased!) by a recent study of animal intelligence that dismisses the intelligence of dogs, compared to that of marine mammals Read More ›
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McDonald’s, Meet McPathogens

What happens when the drive to automate everything meets the Law of Unintended Consequences?
I have a wager with a good friend that the self-order touch screen kiosks at McDonald’s will not last. The kiosks not only take longer to use, but are annoying. The idea of the kiosk may sound good on paper, but is a hassle in practice. And besides… Read More ›
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AI and the Future of Murder

If I kill you but upload your mind into an android, did I murder you or just modify you?
The sci-fi TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013– ) tackled this question in an episode titled “Self Control”.  Scientist Holden Radcliffe has an android assistant appropriately named Aida (Artificial Intelligence Digital Assistant). Together, they build a virtual world that people could be plugged into and uploaded into, called The Framework. Read More ›
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Who Does the Concept of “Intellectual Property” Really Benefit?

Was traditional copyright law meant to protect algorithms that decide people’s financial fate?
The title question is more complicated than we might at first suppose. The short answer is, not necessarily the starving artist, says Samir Chopra, a Brooklyn College philosophy professor and co-author with Laurence F. White of A Legal Theory for Autonomous Artificial Agents. Read More ›
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Quantity vs Quality: Can AI Help Scientists Produce Better Papers?

What happens when scientists simply can't read all their peers' papers and still find time for original research?
Quantity is definitely a solved problem. STM, the “voice of scholarly publishing” estimated in 2015 that roughly 2.5 million science papers are published each year. Some are, admittedly, in predatory or fake journals. But over 2800 journals are assumed to be genuine. Read More ›
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Has Neuroscience Disproved Thinking?

A philosopher argues that Nobel Prize-winning research shows that the theory of mind is just another illusion, useful for survival and success
We've all seen this sort of argument before in many other guises. It is commonly called “reductionism.” The reductionist claims that, because an object can be construed as made up of parts, the object is just the parts. It is like saying that because an article like this one is constructed from letters of the alphabet, the article is only rows of letters. Read More ›
Robert J. Marks with Michael Medved
Robert J. Marks on Great Minds with Michael Medved

Robert J. Marks Talks Computers with Michael Medved

Computers can magnify what we do, he says, and that's the real threat
Recently, Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, sat down with radio host and author Michael Medved to help sort through the confusion about what artificial intelligence can and can’t do, now and in the future. Read More ›
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Can Plants Be as Smart as Animals?

Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain
None of the plants' extensive "social life" requires reason, emotion, value systems, mind, consciousness, or a sense of self. It requires only that the plant, like an animal, seek to continue its highly organized existence. But plants' ability to process information for that purpose gives pause for thought.   Read More ›
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AI Winter Is Coming

Roughly every decade since the late 1960s has experienced a promising wave of AI that later crashed on real-world problems, leading to collapses in research funding.
Nearly all of AI’s recent gains have been realized due to massive increases in data and computing power that enable old algorithms to suddenly become useful. For example, researchers first conceived neural networks—the core idea powering much machine learning and AI’s notable advances—in the late 1950s. The worries of an impending winter arise because we’re approaching the limits of what massive data combined with hordes of computers can do. Read More ›
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Does Democracy Demand a War on Twitterbots?

A key concern is that citizens could be induced to vote for a demagogue by Twitterbots spreading fake news.
Underlying much of the angst about the political impact of bots is a basic premise: Most of us need help thinking for ourselves and protection from the many bad influences that we are not able to recognize, the way our betters can. Read More ›
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Human Consciousness May Not Be Computable

One model of consciousness would mean that conscious computers are a physical impossibility
As long as computers simply get faster and use more memory, there is no reason to worry about a self-aware Skynet. Read More ›
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Can the Air Force Create Thinking Planes?

Smart drones? They are working on general artificial intelligence (GAI)
Eric Holloway: The likely way this will turn out is they'll realize human-in-the-loop is unavoidable for any useful system, so it'll spin off into something like the existing field of human computation. Read More ›
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Do Quasars Provide Evidence for Free Will?

Possibly. They certainly rule out experimenter interference.
The universe would seem much neater if everything were determined. One result is that objections to randomness and to free will have become more sophisticated. But have they succeeded? Read More ›
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Is AI Creating the Conditions for Marxist Revolution?

An analyst looks at the conditions then and now
Last summer, we noted Karl Marx’s eerie AI prediction; he felt that capitalism would fall when machines replaced human labor. While today’s market economy doesn’t seem in a hurry to fulfill either prediction, some see artificial intelligence as enabling a comeback of his theories. Read More ›
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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 ›