Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Denyse O'Leary

Paper wasp Bastetemon Adobe

Wasps can reason? Science media say yes, researchers no

Media stories explicitly claim that wasps use logical reasoning, which researchers disavow

The media’s monolithic obsession with denying human uniqueness comes at a cost. The remarkable fact that two life forms have the same number of neurons but one displays significantly more complex behavior than the other is drowned out by the volume of misrepresentation. 

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Philosopher Argues, Human Reason Is Inferior to Animal Reactions

Smith offers to resolve the problem of human exceptionality by dethroning reason

He hopes that artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life (a “statistical near-certainty”) will help us “give up the idea of rationality as nature’s last remaining exception.”

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Masque joie et tristesse
Dramatic masks, crying and smiling

If Social Robots Could Cry, They’d Need Plenty of Tissues For This One

The spate of recent failures of social robot firms prompts a question: Are developers listening to markets?

It’s safe to say that most human beings alive today would not want a high level of emotional involvement with a robot.

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Hanging from a heart, graffiti on white wall

Will AI Teach Us to Love Big Brother?

A trend watcher fears that we’ll accept total surveillance if it controls crime and addiction

If China becomes the dominant world power through total control, David Mattin argues, it will erode the Western world’s governing myth that liberal democracy is the best system.

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chinese female worker at manufacturing
chinese worker assembling production at line conveyor in china factory

Does Automation Target Women’s Jobs?

The assumption that women need special protection from robots underestimates their creativity and versatility

A number of studies have come to the conclusion that automation will hit women harder than men. Some proposed fixes assume that women who lose repetitive jobs to robots would be happier as administrators or dependents. That’s not clear.

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Piles of books in a used book store

Can Big Data Game Bestseller Lists?

Intellectual snobbery makes some Bestseller and Top Ten lists an obvious target

The digital era is a golden age for such manipulations because digits on a screen are much easier to fake than feet on the street.

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Does Social Ability Distinguish Human Intelligence from That of Apes?

Not altogether, of course, but it plays a bigger role than we sometimes assume

In Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny, professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Michael Tomasello tries to understand, from his two decades of research, what makes humans unique. He says that it is not intelligence as such but social intelligence, our “ultra social ability”: One of our most important studies was a huge study we did with over 100 human children and over 100 chimpanzees. We gave them a big battery of tests – a big IQ test if you will. It covered understanding of space, causality, quantities, as well as social learning, communication, reading the intentions of others. We found that 2-year-old children – before they can read or do anything mathematical – look just like the apes on physical Read More ›

Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.
Ancient symbols texture, Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.

The Origin of Language Remains Obscure

One problem is that information is not measured in science in a way that relates to matter and energy.

Human language is much more than a system of signals. And two recent articles in Inference Review provide insight into some of its ongoing puzzles in the huge unmapped territory of the interaction between the mind and the brain.

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A cat looking up to the left

Study: Cats Do Recognize Their Names

They recognize them as signals but not as abstractions

It’s a sobering fact that the war on human exceptionalism makes nonsense of our ability to understand animals. If we start with the fact that a cat cannot understand abstractions like “my name” because he is not a reasoning creature, we can intuit that most cats can learn human sounds that make a difference to them anyway.

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Asian smart doctor holding smartphone computer with hand. Surgeon has stethoscopes. concept of medical live in social online.
Asian smart doctor holding smartphone computer with hand. Surgeon has stethoscopes. concept of medical live in social online.

Tech Fail: Man Told He’s Dying via Video Link

The family, who thought that the robotic video cart was just “making a routine visit,” was outraged

The response statement from Kaiser Permanente, acknowledging failure, recognizes the problem, but only in part

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Newspaper clippings used in umbrella design

Who’s Afraid of AI that Can Write the News?

AI now automates formula news in business and sports. How far can it go?

Software programs will not have more or better ideas than the people who designed them. As the audience for news, we must decide whether that level of information is all we need to know.

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Colorful bluestreak cleaner wrasse on black background.
A bluestreak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, on a black background. This small colorful fish can be found on coral reefs Africa, Red Sea and Polynesia

Did a fish just show self-awareness?

What if the whole question is founded on a mistake about the nature of the mirror test?

Overall, it’s a curious outcome for the mirror test. Those who felt reassured by close kinship with chimpanzees reacted quite differently when offered close kinship with fish.

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Hoodie with smoke in front of face

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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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 ›
Children using computer in school

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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Colorful Parrot

Can genes predict which birds can learn to talk?

A recent study disappointed researchers, who really hoped to learn why humans use language
Parrots, it was found, have some unique, parrot-specific genes, whose origin is currently unknown, genes that may help them learn to mimic human sounds as well as bird calls. Read More ›
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Large split flap marquee numbers

Can Big Data Help Make Your Book a Best Seller?

It’s more likely to help you picture your odds more clearly and clarify your goals
What does Barabási’s Big Data tell us that we couldn’t just guess? Well, for one thing, that there is a “universal sales curve” which means that a book’s only chance of making the list is shortly after publication. Read More ›
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1970s television and speakers

Science Confronts Credibility Issues?

Not to worry, prestigious researchers blame them on social media trolls and bots
And another thing: The researchers phoned the Seventies and asked them to please come back. Soon. Seriously, that’s the impression I get from reading a paper in PNAS, stemming from the National Academy of Sciences’ Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium November 2017 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 ›
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 ›