Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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Has Science Shown That Consciousness Is Only an Illusion?

Using clever analogies, Philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that consciousness is all smoke and mirrors
British philosopher Papineau recommends taking Dennett’s theories “with a pinch of salt.” American essayist David Bentley Hart is less charitable: “Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness” Read More ›
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Will the Free Market Help or Hurt Us in an AI-Empowered World?

We may need new institutions, such as insurance against job obsolescence
If humans are free to experiment with new institutions, I believe we will find an excellent solution. However, there is a great danger that those who benefit from the status quo will use their influence to prevent the adoption of new institutions. Read More ›
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Does AI Art Spell the End of the Artist’s Way of Life?

An AI-produced painting sold at auction for $432,500. But is it a trend or just a novelty?
Rather than announce that human artists are now doomed, software engineer Ben Dixon interviewed a number of them and came away with a rather different picture, that “AI-generated art will improve, but artistic creativity will remain a human discipline.” Read More ›
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A pile of photographic memories with a pancake photo

How Can Consciousness Be a Material Thing?

Maybe it can’t. But materialist philosophers face starkly limited choices in how to view consciousness
In analytical philosopher Galen Strawson’s opinion, our childhood memories of pancakes on Saturday, for example, are—and must be—"wholly physical." Read More ›
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Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Expose a Key Problem

Most moderators are not skilled and have only a few seconds to decide on a post
Censorship is part of the larger question of whether social media are the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or unregulated private klatsches. Or something else altogether? Read More ›
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Your Phone Knows Everything Now

And in a world where no data is anonymous, yours may be sold to the highest bidder
Your location can be a useful guide to your buying habits, whether or not you want to buy anything or think anyone has any business snooping on you to find out. Read More ›
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Research Showing That Fake News Easily Fools Us Collapses

A recent paper claiming that low-quality news (“fake news”) spreads as quickly on social media as accurate news has been retracted by its authors.
A team from the Shanghai Institute of Technology sought to study whether accuracy made any difference to whether a post goes viral on social media. They cited a concern about “the digital misinformation that threatens our democracy.” Read More ›
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.

Is an Amoeba Smarter Than Your Computer?

Hype aside, the microbe’s math skills ace the Traveling Salesman problem and may help with cybersecurity
When we hear hype about machines that will soon out-think people, we might put it in perspective by recalling that we still struggle to build a machine that can out-think amoebas looking for crumbs. Read More ›
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It’s 2019: Begin the AI Hype Cycle Again!

Media seemingly can’t help portraying today’s high-tech world as a remake of I, Robot (2004), starring you and me.
I have a problem with the possible outcomes when people who don’t know the difference between technology fact and fiction make important decisions based on information from journalists who write as if every computer is a potential personality like HAL from Space Odyssey 2001. Read More ›
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Consciousness Studies Is a “Bizarre” Field of Science

The question of whether machines can be conscious is bound up with attempts to study immaterial things while denying their existence
The person who is trying to build consciousness into a machine has only a human model so he is trying to build a little human into the machine. He cannot do so but he can try to make himself and others believe that he has done it. Read More ›
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Researchers: Deep Learning Vision Is Very Different from Human Vision

Mistaking a teapot shape for a golf ball, due to surface features, is one striking example from a recent open-access paper
The networks did “a poor job of identifying such items as a butterfly, an airplane and a banana,” according to the researchers. The explanation they propose is that “Humans see the entire object, while the artificial intelligence networks identify fragments of the object.” Read More ›
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AI: Think About Ethics Before Trouble Arises

A machine learning specialist reflects on Micah 6:8 as a guide to developing ethics for the rapidly growing profession
To love mercy sometimes means to give up efficiency. It could mean losing a few points of model accuracy by refusing to take into account features that invade privacy or are proxies for race, leading to discriminatory model behavior. But that’s OK. The merciful are willing to give up some of their rights and advantages so they can help others.   Read More ›
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Will artificial intelligence design artificial super-intelligence?

And then turn us all into super-geniuses, as some AI researchers hope? No, and here's why not
Because Moore's law is an exponential law, the numbers multiply rapidly and we could hit the physical limit rather suddenly. Current indications are that Moore’s law’s speed has already slowed or even ceased to be a true description of the IT industry today. Read More ›
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Can an Algorithm Be Racist?

No, the machine has no opinion. It processes vast tracts of data. And, as a result, the troubling hidden roots of some data are exposed
It’s tempting to assume that a villain lurks behind such a scene when the exact opposite is the problem: A system dominated by machines is all calculations, not thoughts, intentions, or choices. If the input is wrong, so is the output. Read More ›
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How Can Information Theory Help the Economy Grow?

New information is the true source of new wealth; everyone wins when we learn how to produce it more efficiently
What gives humans the ability to increase in prosperity, according to Eric Holloway, is our ability to “read” from Plato’s Library of new ideas, thus providing an ever-growing supply of side information that powers the economy. Read More ›
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camera record on crane in production on studio and light to stage for entertainment industry

1: IBM’s Watson Is NOT Our New Computer Overlord

AI help, not hype: It won at Jeopardy (with specially chosen “softball” questions) but is not the hoped-for aid to cancer specialists
One problem that has dogged Watson has nothing to do with AI or medicine. The journalism around the introduction of projects like Watson is long on the Gee Whiz! An Electronic Brain! It Won at Jeopardy! And it is short on systematic inquiry as to outcomes versus goals. Read More ›
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2: AI Can Write Novels and Screenplays Better than the Pros!

AI help, not hype: Software can automatically generate word sequences based on material fed in from existing scripts. But with what result?

“AI rites reel gud!” Seriously, the idea is not new. Back in the 1940s, George Orwell (1903–1950) thought that a machine could write popular novels so long as no creative thinking was involved. Thus, in his 1984 police state world, one of the central characters has a job minding a machine that mass produces them. In the 1960s, some film experiments were done along these lines, using Westerns (cowboy stories). At the time, there were masses of formula-based film material to work with in this popular genre. But what does the product look and sound like? In 2016, Ars Technica was proud to sponsor “the first AI-written sci-fi script:” As explained in The Guardian, a recurrent neural network “was fed the Read More ›

Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes
Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes

In One Sense, Consciousness IS an Illusion…

We have no knowledge of the processes of our consciousness, only of the objects of its attention, whether they are physical, emotional, or abstract
When we think, we think about reality, not about the neurological processes by which we connect to reality. It is by keeping this understanding clearly in mind that we escape the solipsism that bedevils modern neuroscience. Read More ›
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Afraid man in tinfoil helmet watches TV, paranoia concept. UFO, conspiracy theory, brain theft protection, phobia

3: With Mind-Reading AI, You Will Never Have Secrets Again!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Did you read about the flap they had to cut out of a volunteer’s skull?

The Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s second largest circulation daily. A headline from the webpage screams: No more secrets! New mind-reading machine can translate your thoughts and display them as text INSTANTLY! Not a lot of nuance there. The story continues on a tidal wave of hyperbole, • Researchers say they have developed a machine that can translate our thoughts •  The astonishing machine will analyse what you are thinking and display it as text ending with a charitable hope: •  Scientists hope that the machine can be used by people who are unable to speak The reality is that AI can read your mind for a few words repeated often if you have a flap cut out of your skull and Read More ›

Chess game business strategy concept
Chess game business strategy concept

Can Big Data Beat the Humans Who Compile It?

A computer pioneer bets no: Human intelligence augmented by artificial intelligence will always beat artificial intelligence alone. Is he right?
The bottom line is that Brooks’ Bet and his IA>AI inequality principle is a good reality check in the face of fears and hype about what AI will do in the future. Read More ›