Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArtificial Intelligence

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Ants Use Algorithms Similar to Those of the Internet

Optimization algorithms enable the ant colony to decide how many ants to send to a given food source and when to drastically reduce the number

Researchers are beginning to understand how ant colonies can make complex decisions. It’s best understood, they say, as something like an optimization algorithm: Scientists found that ants and other natural systems use optimization algorithms similar to those used by engineered systems, including the Internet. These algorithms invest incrementally more resources as long as signs are encouraging but pull back quickly at the first sign of trouble. The systems are designed to be robust, allowing for portions to fail without harming the entire system. Understanding how these algorithms work in the real world may help solve engineering problems, whereas engineered systems may offer clues to understanding the behavior of ants, cells, and other natural systems. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, “Deciphering algorithms…

young sample plant growing in test tube , biotechnology research concept

What Biotech Innovations Can Help Us Live Longer, Healthier?

Jay Richards interviews venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, whose firm invests in new tech on current promising new directions

At COSM 2021, business prof Jay Richards interviewed venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, CEO of the Madrona Group, which invests in a wide range of promising software applications: McIlwain chaired a panel on innovations in biotech, “Killing Disease and Living Longer” on November 11, 2021: Matt Mcilwain (Moderator) — Managing Director, Madrona Venture GroupStephen C. Meyer — Director, Center for Science and CultureJim Tour — T.t. and W.f. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Rice UniversityMatthew Scholz — CEO, Oisin Biotechnologies Casey Luskin offers an account of McIlwain’s 2021 panel at “Manipulating molecules: Combining info + nano for better medicine”: Yesterday at COSM 2021, philosopher of science Stephen Meyer, synthetic organic chemist James Tour, and biotech entrepreneur Matthew Scholz looked at how nanotechnology…

cropped shot of robot playing chess on wooden surface

Is AlphaZero Actually Superior to the Human Mind?

Comparing AI and the human mind is completely apples and oranges

The Google-backed AI company DeepMind made headlines in March 2016 when its AlphaGo game AI engine was able to defeat Lee Sedol, one of the top Go players in the world. DeepMind followed up this great achievement with the AlphaZero engine in 2017, which made the remarkable achievement of soundly beating AlphaGo in Go as well as one of the world’s best chess engines in chess. The interesting difference between AlphaGo and AlphaZero is that AlphaGo uses databases of top human games for learning, while AlphaZero only learns by playing against itself. Using the same AI engine to dominate two different games, while also discarding reliance on human games suggests that DeepMind has found an algorithm that is intrinsically superior…


Can Christian Ethics Save Transhumanism?

J. R. Miller looks at the idea that the mission to self-evolve through technology is “the definitive Christian commitment.”

In my recent article detailing the deadly dream of transhumanism (H+), I showed that when human personhood is treated as a contingent property tied to the process of unguided natural selection, there remains no definitive answer to the question, “What does it mean to be human?” With nature as the starting point, morality itself becomes a fluid concept which must evolve as humans use technology to achieve post-humanity. The moral implications are severe. The risk that some people may be harmed, suffer, or die during medical experiments is outweighed by the transhumanist perception of a greater social good that advances the species. But what about Christians who embrace H+? Can the Christian ethic save H+? Some Christians today leverage their…

Friends group having addicted fun using mobile smart phone - Close up of people hands sharing content on social media network with smartphone - Technology concept with millenials online with cellphone

Do Our Minds Really Extend Into Our Smartphones?

An Australian philosopher proposes a startling view — that our minds start to inhabit our environment via our technology

British tech philosopher Tom Chatfield offers a profile of the work of Australian philosopher of mind David Chalmers, who is known for iconic concepts such as the Hard Problem of consciousness and the Philosopher’s Zombie, both pointing to the fact that there is no “easy explain” for human consciousness. Chalmers had started out in math but drifted to the study of consciousness at a propitious time; in the early 1990s, information theory was reinvigorating the field. At a time when some were looking for the consciousness switch in the brain or proclaiming consciousness to be an illusion, Chalmers suggested an alternative “non-reductive” approach to consciousness, a form of panpsychism: … every form of information processing entails an irreducible component constituting…

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Female vocal recording. Young girl with microphone and headphones in recording studio. Recording of vocal, blogger, reading text, voice acting.

Deepfakes Can Replicate Human Voices Now — Maybe Yours

Digitally faked voice tech has already been used to perpetrate a big bank fraud

It’s not just your face that can be convincingly replicated by a deepfake. It’s also your voice — quite easily as journalist Chloe Beltman found: Given the complexities of speech synthesis, it’s quite a shock to find out just how easy it is to order one up. For a basic conversational build, all a customer has to do is record themselves saying a bunch of scripted lines for roughly an hour. And that’s about it. “We extract 10 to 15 minutes of net recordings for a basic build,” says Speech Morphing founder and CEO Fathy Yassa. The hundreds of phrases I record so that Speech Morphing can build my digital voice double seem very random: “Here the explosion of mirth…

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“Slightly” Conscious Computers Could Doom Atheism

That might sound surprising but let’s follow the logic of the “consciousness” claim through to its inevitable conclusion

Recently, Ilya Sutskever, co-founder of OpenAI, proposed that artificial intelligence (AI) may currently be “slightly” conscious. His claim was probably in reference to the GPT-3 AI that can generate text from a prompt. I’ve played with a couple of the linguistic neural networks a bit, and you can try them out here. Some of the output is quirky, which could be mistaken for personality and make the algorithm appear conscious. The algorithm also generates emotional statements, that can generate empathy in a human user of the system. Just as kids make believe their dolls are alive when they develop an emotional bond with their toy, the algorithm text generates empathy in the human user. It can make us feel a…

Projecting The Future

What Is AI Doing To Me? AI’s Manufactured World Lacks Value

The best way to defend ourselves from AI's influence is to return to the abstract ideas of virtue, value, and goodness

During the Christmas season I watched that wonderful classic, “Miracle on 34th Street,” starring Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. About the same time, I had learned of the writings of Samuel Strauss in The Atlantic. I realized that both “Miracle on 34th Street” and Strauss were dealing with issues similar to those we are wrestling with today related to artificial intelligence (AI). Perhaps the most famous lines from “Miracle on 34th Street” are: Susan Walker: I believe, I believe, I believe. Fred Gailey: Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. Kris Kringle: Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day. It’s a frame of mind. The point made is that what is most…

Art director checking the photos on a monitor

How the Digital Age Is Transforming the Entertainment World

Principally by creating many new opportunities that, as Ari Emanuel puts it, are Not Showing at a Theater Near You

Philosopher of technology George Gilder interviews Ari Emanuel, CEO of entertainment and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., about the new decentralized media landscape powered by dramatic advances in technology. Endeavor, which was founded in 1898 and has 6500 employees, represents “talent across entertainment, sports, and fashion, such as actors, directors, writers, athletes, models, musicians, and other artists in various mediums comprising film, television, art, books, and live events.” (Yahoo Finance) A partial transcript of the talk Emanuel gave at COSM 2021 (November 10, 1:00 pm), on navigating the new media landscape, follows: George Gilder: What did you see in the early nineties that led you to leave your comfortable position and then move out and create a new force…

Mirror reflection of pyrite crystal on black background

Fool’s Gold: Even AI Successes Can Be Failures

Large doses of data, math, and computing power do not make a computer intelligent

I recently read this enthusiastic claim by a professional data miner: Twitter is a goldmine of data…. [T]erabytes of data, combined together with complex mathematical models and boisterous computing power, can create insights human beings aren’t capable of producing. The value that big data Analytics provides to a business is intangible and surpassing human capabilities each and every day. Anthony Sistilli, “Twitter Data Mining: A Guide to Big Data Analytics Using Python” at Toptal I was struck by how easily he assumes that large doses of data, math, and computing power make computers smarter than humans. He is hardly alone, but he is badly mistaken. Computer algorithms are really, really good at making mathematical calculations and identifying statistical patterns (what Turing winner Judea Pearl calls “just curve…

Artificial neuron in concept of artificial intelligence. Wall-shaped binary codes make transmission lines of pulses, information in an analogy to a microchip.

Can AI Really Be “Slightly Conscious”? Can Anyone?

It’s rare to see popular media actually call out nonsense re artificial intelligence. Here’s is what it looks like when it happens

On February 9, Ilya Sutskever,co-founder of fake text generator OpenAI, made a claim that was frothy even for Twitter: “it may be that today’s largest neural networks are slightly conscious.” it may be that today’s large neural networks are slightly conscious — Ilya Sutskever (@ilyasut) February 9, 2022 Well, “slightly conscious” is like being “slightly pregnant” or “slightly dead.” While Sutskever didn’t name any specific developments, he was likely referring to huge natural language processing systems like OpenAI’s enormous GPT-3 which can translate, answer questions, fill in missing words, and generate fake news. No thought process is involved. The system approximates vast masses of actual instances of language use. The more stereotyped the language use is, the easier it is…

xray spine
x-ray image of spine

Man With Severed Spinal Cord Walks Again, Thanks to AI Implant

Most of us would have said that Michael Rocatti, whose spinal cord was severed in a motorcycle accident in 2017, would never walk again. But he did.

Rocatti had lost all feeling and motion in his legs after the motorbike crash. But thanks to electrodes implanted in their spines in experimental surgery in Lausanne, Switzerland, he and two other young men (29–41) were able to “to stand, walk, ride a bike and even kick their legs in a swimming pool” again. (Guardian) He is slow and unsteady but he is walking. The implant provides a bridge between the brain and the nerves that are severed from it: When prompted, the device sends activity-specific pulses of electricity to various nerves that were cut off from the central nervous system, allowing the Rocatti and other paralyzed people to send the appropriate stimulation and instructions to their legs. Rocatti and…

ecosystem terrarium with small plants

Philosopher: We Can’t Prove That We Aren’t Living in a Simulation

David Chalmers looks at the issues, step by step, in an excerpt from his new book, Reality+, and rules out proving that it is false

Philosopher David Chalmers, best known for the phrase “Hard Problem of consciousness” and the philosopher’s zombie thought experiment. tells us that we can’t actually prove that we are not living in a simulation: “You might think we have definitive evidence we’re not in a simulation. That’s impossible.” The idea that we live in a simulation is basic to The Matrix films. People use the expressions red-pilled and blue-pilled every day now. The idea also underlies one of the explanations offered for why we don’t see extraterrestrials; according to the Planetarium Hypothesis, we are living in their “planetarium.” It’s not just films and ET lore. Elon Musk has claimed to take seriously that we are aliens’ sims. So does Neil deGrasse Tyson (“Neil…

Cheerful family in a car on a road trip

Driving Technology Needs Public Scrutiny

It is not good enough for safety-related data to be made available to regulators. They must be made available to the public at large

As more and more automation is added to automobiles, the need for public review and scrutiny becomes ever more clear. Unlike other technologies, cars are used on public roads at high velocities, so everyone has an interest in understanding the safety implications of decisions made by car manufacturers. As such, it is important that all safety-related data be made publicly available and subject to public scrutiny. It is not good enough for these things to be made available to regulators. They must be made available to the public at large. To see why, let’s look at the history of Tesla claims about the safety of its Autopilot system. Note that the Autopilot system, despite the confusing name, is not the same thing…

Robot hand making contact with human hand on dark background 3D rendering

Musk Goes All-In on the Tesla Robot

Musk puts all other projects on hold to pursue the dream of eliminating human labor, despite the reality that humans are irreplaceable

In August, during Tesla’s “AI Day” presentations, Musk unveiled the “Tesla Robot.” Or, in reality, a dancing person in a robot costume, along with some made-up specifications about the robot. Many (including the present writer) found this idea for a product line ludicrous, and a mere headline grab. However, in a recent conference call with investors, Elon Musk has doubled down on the Tesla Robot, now named “Optimus,” as being the foundation for the future of the company. In fact, it looks like Tesla has put all of its other development projects on hold in order to work on the robot. The Cybertruck (announced 2019, originally expected in 2021), Semi-truck (announced in 2017, originally expected in 2020), and Roadster 2.0 (announced in 2017,…

Young mechanic repairing the robot in his workshop

AI Should Be Less Perfect, More Human

Authors Angus Fletcher and Erik J. Larson point us toward a more sustainable future working alongside artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is fragile. When faced with the ambiguity of the world, it breaks. And when it breaks, our untenable solution is to erase ambiguity. This means erasing our humanness, which in turn breaks us. That’s the problem Angus Fletcher and Erik J. Larson address in their piece published this week in Wired. AI can malfunction at the mildest hint of data slip, so its architects are doing all they can to dampen ambiguity and volatility. And since the world’s primary source of ambiguity and volatility is humans, we have found ourselves aggressively stifled. We’ve been forced into metric assessments at school, standard flow patterns at work, and regularized sets at hospitals, gyms, and social-media hangouts. In the process, we’ve lost…

Surreal 3d illustration of multiple faces in a wall. Concept of post-human and transhumanism ideas.

Is Transhumanism Really a Form of Liberation?

The central transhumanist doctrine is that the body can be dispensed with. What are the consequences?

Libby Emmons, editor-in-chief at The Post Millennial, Canada’s non-Woke “young” media outlet, offered some unexpected thoughts on transhumanism, the idea that we must take charge of the evolution of our species — sometimes expressed in the idea that we can upload ourselves as digital entities and live forever. Emmons is not sure that transhumanism is really a form of liberation. She acknowledges the value of, for example, prostheses controlled by thoughts alone. But she asks us to consider what full-blown transhumanism entails: With the widespread acceptance of human augmentation, bio-tech, AI, and transgenderism, we are removing agency from the human body, and granting it entirely to the mind. But our humanity lies not in our consciousness, but in the biological…

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Hands shaping brain model

Chalmers and Penrose Clash Over “Conscious Computers”

Philosopher Chalmers thinks computers could be conscious but physicist Penrose says no

Two authors I’ve been reading recently are Roger Penrose and David Chalmers. Penrose is a physics Nobel laureate who has stoked controversy by claiming in The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and The Laws of Physics (1989) that the mind can do things beyond the ability of computers. Chalmers is a philosopher of science who claims in The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1997) that consciousness cannot be reduced to physical processes. Both thinkers are well respected in their fields, even though they articulate positions that imply that the mind’s operation is beyond current science. At the same time, they believe that there is a way to see the mind as part of nature (that is,…

Cyborg head with red eyes, surronded by wires and lights in a futuristic and ciberpunk enviroment

When the Terminator Ran Into Skynet at the Unemployment Office…

In an ID the Future podcast, computer engineering prof Robert J. Marks explores with Casey Luskin the limits of algorithms

In a podcast at ID The Future, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks talked with host Casey Luskin about claims, games, and realities around artificial intelligence: In the course of the fast-paced interview, Marks touches on dystopian AI and the limits of computer algorithms (they can never do anything that is inherently non-computable, Marks argues), and discuss celebrity thinkers and entrepreneurs who’ve weighed in on the promises and perils of AI, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking. Marks calls on Nobel Laureate Roger Penrose to second one of Marks’s central arguments. The occasion for the conversation is Marks’s chapter in the recent Harvest House anthology, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. (2021) Marks…

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Do AI Entities in Virtual Worlds Have Rights?

A professor of game designing argues that they do; Wesley J. Smith disagrees

Pointing to an article at The Conversation, “How to be a god: we might one day create virtual worlds with characters as intelligent as ourselves,” Wesley J. Smith offers, We have enough problems with attaining universal human rights, but activists want animals and “nature” to have human-type rights. Transhumanists and futurists also worry about guaranteeing rights for AI technologies when they attain “consciousness.” The latest example comes in The Conversation from a professor of game designing — who knew that was an academic discipline? — named Richard A. Bartle, at the University of Essex. He believes that “we may one day create virtual worlds with creatures as intelligent as ourselves.” From, “How to Be a God“: “I believe we will…