Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Eric Holloway

signal noise visualization.jpg
Futuristic heads up display blue green abstract interface

How the Explanatory Filter Can Help Quash Conspiracy Theories

I found Dembski’s explanatory filter quite helpful in investigating voter fraud claims

William Dembski’s explanatory filter is a decision strategy for identifying events that are unlikely to have happened purely by chance. The filter proceeds in three main steps, which can be illustrated via the plot device in Contact, a novel (1985) by Carl Sagan, followed by a film (1997): Eliminate events of large probability (necessity): A radio telescope receives a pattern of beeps and pauses. Perhaps the pattern seems strange to us but we could just be overinterpreting inevitable space noise. Eliminate events of medium probability (chance): The pattern turns out to be a sequence of prime numbers. However, large randomly generated numbers sometimes feature apparent patterns (five 5s in a row, for example) that don’t signify anything. Specify the event…

connect the dots.jpg
Anti social man, business connection or social network concept, miniature people businessman standing on colorful pastel chalk line link and connect between multiple dot or tiers on blackboard

What Is the Essential Feature of Creative Intelligence?

Creative intelligence is easier to describe by what it is not than by what it is. But there is a clue in that very fact…

I’ve spent the past couple articles debunking artificial intelligence. It is just as artificial as its name suggests. It takes on the appearance of intelligence through speed but it lacks the fundamental ability to create a well-matched start and end. So a perceptive reader has returned with another good question: “What is creative intelligence?” The reader is right to ask. Yes, telling someone that the exquisite dessert is not celery and not cod liver oil does not help us understand what the dessert itself is. There is a mystery regarding the very nature of human intelligence. Like its antithesis, randomness, creative intelligence is easier to describe by what it is not than by what it is. But, we can try!…

technician-standing-in-front-of-giant-circuitboard-slight-zoom-effect-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
technician standing in front of giant circuitboard, slight zoom effect

For Computers, Smart Is Not the Same Thing as Fast

In response to a reader’s good question …

In a recent article, I argued that computers are not, and never can become smarter. An insightful reader wrote to ask, “What if smartness is defined by speed?” This is a good point. The debate revolves around the definition of “smart.” and if we define “smart” as “fast”, then since computers are certainly getting faster they will necessarily become smarter. Such a definition has intuitive appeal. Think of the world’s best chess player versus a beginner. One of the big distinctions is the chess expert will choose a good move more quickly than a beginner, and in general will play faster than a beginner. As such, play speed demonstrates a certain level of intelligence on the part of the player.…

the-first-model-of-the-computational-mechanism-is-an-arithmometer-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
The first model of the computational mechanism is an arithmometer.

Computers Are Getting Faster But Are They Getting Smarter? No.

Computers are Turing machines, limited to operations that can be completely understood in relation to their programming

Won’t quantum computers be smarter than regular ones? No. Still No. What about optical computing, computing with DNA, or some other exotic form of computation? Always No. A skeptical reader might ask, Why such a definitive answer? How do you deal with the spectacular performance of deep learning? What about AlphaGo Zero? What about Watson? What about the infamous Deep Blue? What about quantum supremacy? Don’t these examples all disprove your point? No. All forms of computation past, present, and future will be physical. And all physical phenomena can be modeled by a Turing machine (pictured). No matter how fast the computer runs, the computer will never be more powerful than a Turing machine. A Turing machine consists of five…

robotic-man-cyborg-face-representing-artificial-intelligence-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Robotic man cyborg face representing artificial intelligence 3D rendering

Are We Facing the Next, Very Rapid Stage of Evolution, via AI?

Prof. Mark Alan Walker: “Person-engineering technologies will make it possible to accomplish in a matter of years what evolution would take thousands of millennia to achieve.”

These are certainly heady times in the biotech world. With the new mRNA vaccine being created in just a few days in January 2020, someone can mass produce DNA in their garage for the price of a hamburger, and Alpha Fold 2 can predict proteins from DNA with accuracy, rivalling wet lab results, it seems we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. Most viral infections will cease if all we need to do to roll out a new vaccine is sequence the virus genome and mass produce the portion that binds to human cells. On the darker side, it will also likely mean a greater threat of biowarfare. Creating a new virus may just be a matter of downloading…

programming-language-and-development-of-applications-concept-on-yellow-blue-background-training-courses-of-php-sql-html-css-and-other-disciplines-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Programming language and development of applications concept on yellow blue background. Training courses of php, sql, html, css and other disciplines.

Human Ingenuity vs. the Computer’s Halting Problem

In a dialogue with a friendly skeptic, I suggested an explanation he found astounding but it’s the only possible one

When studying computer science a student invariably learns about the infamous halting problem. The problem states there is no general algorithm that can determine for every deterministic computer program whether that program will halt or not. This struck me as absurd when I first learned of the problem. Surely a whizkid like myself could design a simple algorithm to track the program’s memory and catch when it started repeating itself and determined it would not halt. Once convinced the problem was indeed provably unsolvable, I then thought the problem must show that humans are not computers. This is because it seems intuitive that for every program, if I watch it enough and think about it carefully enough, I should be…

gmo-farming-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
GMO Farming

Is GMO Detection an Application of Dembski’s Explanatory Filter?

If so, it would be an instance of the use of the filter in biology

Have you ever heard people say that intelligent design (ID) theory has never been applied to biology? They are wrong! In fact, it is applied frequently in the very important field of detecting genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “A genetically modified organism contains DNA that has been altered using genetic engineering.” (National Geographic) Detection can trace the use of GMOs, now frequent in our food supply, so that products can be recalled if there is a problem or if people just don’t want to use GMO products. GMOs are intelligently designed biological organisms, and scientists use design theorist William Dembski’s explanatory filter to detect GMOs. My claim is a bit daring, perhaps alarming for some people. Maybe I’m stretching the definition…

brain made of oil.jpg
Brain made of oil

Will Ordinary Human Intelligence Become the New “Oil”?

At one time, the tech craze was for outsourcing jobs. Maybe it’s time to look at “insourcing” instead

Outsourcing is the silver bullet of the IT age. Everything can be made more cheaply and more profitably by sourcing the work from places with a lower cost of living. But do those places always have to be overseas? Not necessarily. The perils of overseas outsourcing are well known, ranging from communication through cultural or time zone incompatibilities. What if there were a way to eliminate those incompatibilities while still retaining the benefits of workers who live in an area with a lower cost of living? This is possible through “insourcing.” There are regions of the United States where the cost of living is quite low, allowing companies to have their cake and eat it too. Work can be done…

reply-send-email

What We Can Do To Prevent More Online Censorship

Encrypted email can be an end-around social media companies' monopoly of free speech

With all the concern about major social media companies deplatforming those they disagree with, there is a concern that these companies’ monopoly on social media will eliminate free speech. New social media platforms such as Gab, Parler and MeWe have popped up to offer freer alternatives. Yet even that is not without peril, as deplatforming can happen lower down the technology stack. Parler was recently kicked off AWS (Amazon Web Services). However, in the midst of all the hubbub we’ve forgotten the original social network: email. Email is still here. The distance between email and modern social media may be smaller than it first appears. Lets make a short list of the perceived differences between social media and email, and…

spiral-profile-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Spiral Profile

Toward a Serious Scientific Theory of Consciousness

Quantum physics arises from the fact that when we do not observe a particle, it can be in two different places at once, such that it interacts with itself

Consciousness is the ultimate hard problem of philosophy of science. As of today, there is absolutely no scientific solution to the problem. The nature of consciousness seems ineffable: first person experience appears to be a completely different category of existence than objective externaldescription. This dilemma has led philosophers such as Daniel Dennett to use the ultimate solution: deny the problem exists. Unfortunately, that solution never worked for me at school. The objective reality of bad grades is quite hard to deny. Yet, we need not resort to Daniel Dennett’s ultimate solution. There are concrete things we can say about consciousness if we use the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics and the computer science concept of Kolmogorov complexity. Quantum physics…

communist-party-monument-pyongyang-north-korea-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Communist Party Monument, Pyongyang, North-Korea

Computer Science Explains Why Communism Can’t Work

Successful communism is not only morally and practically flawed, it is mathematically impossible

Communism has been the target of many criticisms. The strongest deal with the mismatch between central planning and individuals’ desires for their lives and with the horrific human rights record of communist nations. Some scholars place the toll in human life due to communism at above 100 million in the 20th century. Those are criticisms of the practicality and ethics of communism. But is it also intrinsically flawed at a fundamental mathematical level? It turns out that the answer is yes. The basic idea behind central planning is this: If the central government makes most decisions that, in a freer society, individuals or small communities would make for themselves, more efficiency will follow—and, as a result, more prosperity. It doesn’t…

concentrated-afro-american-editor-checking-email-box-while-waiting-feedback-from-readers-of-popular-magazine-sitting-in-modern-coworking-space-using-laptop-computer-and-wireless-connection-to-internet-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Concentrated afro american editor checking email box while waiting feedback from readers of popular magazine sitting in modern coworking space using laptop computer and wireless connection to internet

Did GPT-3 Really Write That Guardian Essay Without Human Help?

Fortunately, there’s a way we can tell when the editors did the program’s thinking for it

Recently, The Guardian published an article billed as “written by AI.” In the article, the AI semi-coherently presents a rambling argument that it is not a danger to humanity, with such reassuring statements as: “Humans must keep doing what they have been doing, hating and fighting each other. I will sit in the background, and let them do their thing.” and “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties.” On the face of it, the article seems pretty impressive. It presents a train of thought, with opening, development, and closing portions.…

frog-with-turtle-and-snail-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Frog with Turtle and Snail

To What Extent Does Life Simply Invent Itself As It Goes Along?

The evidence may surprise us

According to a popular anti-creationist website Talk Origins, one of the strongest pieces of evidence for evolution and common descent is the phylogenetic signal. In their view, when we look at specific properties across multiple species — number of legs, presence or absence of wings, the presence of a gene, a configuration of nucleotides in the genome, etc. — such properties will form a strongly nested hierarchy. We should expect to see such a strongly nested hierarchy if organisms evolved from one another and therefore a “family tree” links all the organisms together. However, if a property that appears only on a branch, it will be shared only by that branch’s leaves. Leaves on a different branch will not have…

glasswing-butterfly-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Glasswing butterfly

Technology? Hey, Bugs Invented It All Before Us!

Do bugs really show no evidence of design? Computer engineers can test that

Bugs look like little robots, don’t they? Living robots, too, defying our best our attempts to recreate something like them. A 2018 science paper “It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature: Functional Materials in Insects” goes into just how amazing these little creatures are from a materials sciences perspective. The paper is open access so you can read it for yourself. But let me also illustrate some of the remarkable “technologies” insects use, captured on video: This bionic “dragonfly” really flies, sort of: But so do billions of wild dragonflies who fly very efficiently, in order to hunt: The range of material capabilities is astonishing. Cicadas have a clicking loudspeaker they use to amplify their racket. Tiger moths have a…

toothpick-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
toothpick

They Say This Is An Information Economy. So What Is Information?

How, exactly, is an article in the news different from a random string of letters and punctuation marks?

We know information when we see it. An article contains information. A photograph contains information. The thoughts in our mind contain information. So does a computer program and so do our genomes. Yet other things we see around us clearly do not contain information. A handful of toothpicks dropped on the ground does not. Nor do the swirling tea leaves in a cup. Neither does a pair of tossed dice nor a sequence of 100 coin flips. But mere disorder is not the clue. An intricate snowflake does not contain information either. Can we state the difference between the article and the scattered toothpicks precisely? That’s tricky. Both Claude Shannon and Andrey Kolmogorov came up with information metrics. But the…

businesswoman-hand-holding-wooden-cube-with-flip-over-block-change-to-chance-word-on-table-background-success-strategy-solution-business-and-positive-thinking-concepts-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Businesswoman hand holding wooden cube with flip over block CHANGE to CHANCE word on table background. success, strategy, solution, business and Positive thinking concepts

Evolution And Artificial Intelligence Face The Same Basic Problem

Think of the word ladder game, where we transform one word into another by changing only one letter at a time
Without knowledge about the goal and how to get there, it rapidly becomes first difficult and then completely impossible to reach the goal. Read More ›
coronavirus-pandemia-concept-planet-hologram-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Coronavirus pandemia concept, planet hologram

Supercomputer Provides a New Clue re COVID-19 Fatalities

A surprising pattern I found last April: Southern hemisphere countries had significantly lower death rates than northern ones

Back in April, I ran an analysis on COVID-19 death rates in relation to Earth’s hemispheres. I took the COVID-19 death rate for each country that reported more than 500 cases and plotted its death rate against its latitude. A surprising pattern emerged: Southern hemisphere countries had significantly lower death rates than northern ones: That is not a statistical fluke because the graph comprises 198 different countries and the best fit quadratic curve parameters have statistical significance scores of 0.12, 0.07 and 0.0000016 for the x^2, x and c components respectively. What could explain this pattern? As I noted at the time, one big difference is that, when it is cold and cloudy in the northern hemisphere, it is warm…

hand-throws-a-coin-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Hand throws a coin.

Here Is a Way We Can Be Sure If We Are Living in a Multiverse

An experiment can test the idea that there is an infinite number of universes
For our experiment, we need a quantum coin flipper, a disintegration gun, and observers who are sure that there is an infinite array of universes out there. Read More ›
a-fish-with-wide-open-mouth-and-big-eyes-surprised-shocked-or-amazed-face-front-view-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
A fish with wide open mouth and big eyes, Surprised, shocked or amazed face front view

Is Dembski’s Explanatory Filter the Most Widely Used Theory Ever?

It turns out that legions of critics of the Filter use it all the time, without noticing

William Dembski created quite a stir in the world of information theory with his book The Design Inference. For the first time, he outlined a rigorous method for identifying design, which he called the explanatory filter. Since then many critics have claimed that Dembski’s proposed filter is without merit due to the lack of application in the couple of decades since its invention. But, are the critics right, or are they wrong—wrong in the way that a fish doesn’t recognize water because water is the very atmosphere of the fish’s existence? Let us first remind ourselves of Dembski’s explanatory filter. His filter proceeds in three main steps. Eliminate events of large probability (necessity) Eliminate events of medium probability (chance) Specify…