Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArtificial Intelligence

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So artificial intelligence has its limits?

Science writer Allison Whitten explains.

Thus it turns out. Science writer Allison Whitten explains: Artificial intelligence algorithms cannot keep growing at their current pace. Algorithms like deep neural networks — which are loosely inspired by the brain, with multiple layers of artificial neurons linked to each other via numerical values called weights — get bigger every year. But these days, hardware improvements are no longer keeping pace with the enormous amount of memory and processing capacity required to run these massive algorithms. Soon, the size of AI algorithms may hit a wall. Allison Whitten, “New Chip Expands the Possibilities for AI” at Quanta (November 10, 2022) Funny that never happens with humans. Humans never hit a wall in that way. Whether it’s Albert Einstein or Read More ›

Summer meadow blow balls landscape painting

Could AI ever pass the Van Gogh test?

Van Gogh was crazy but he was talented and AI can be neither

The Van Gogh Test for sheer creativity? Thursday night at COSM presented a live, in-person interview with Federico Faggin, the Italian physicist and computer engineer who co-won the prestigious Kyoto prize in 1997 for helping develop the Intel 4004 chip. Faggin was interviewed by technology reporter Maria Teresa Cometto, who asked him to regale the audience with tales about helping to design early microchips. Eventually Faggin recounted a time when he was “studying neuroscience and biology, trying to understand how the brain works,” and came upon a startling realization: And at one point I asked myself, “But wait a second, I mean these books, all this talk about electrical signals, biochemical signals, but when I taste some chocolate, I mean Read More ›

Panel on AI at COSM 2022

Experts at COSM Debate Whether Chatbot was Sentient

Turned out quite pleasant. Google fired him in 2022 - but what really happened there?

Last Thursday morning at COSM, a panel of experts debated whether truly sentient artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially exist — and even whether it already does. Robert J. Marks, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Baylor University, opened by criticizing the Turing test, as a measure of whether we’ve produced genuine AI. Developed by the famous English mathematician and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, the test holds that if we can’t distinguish a machine’s conversational discourse from that of a real human, then it must exhibit humanlike intelligence. Marks maintains that this is the wrong test for detecting true AI. In his view, the Turing test fails because it “looks at a book and tries to judge Read More ›


Peter Thiel’s Take on What Has Really Happened With AI

The trouble is, who is AI really benefiting?

Peter Thiel is a classic in people you should know about but possibly don’t. He helped get PayPal and LinkedIn started and he tries to think about where new tech is taking us. He spoke at COSM 2022 on that topic and he mentions a book that should set us thinking: The high-level question I want to ask today is, basically, how should we think about AI? Should we think of it as intelligent, conscious, or merely evil? The book that I think is interesting is that of Wang Huning, who’s the number four guy in the entire communist government [of China]. He’s sort of the professor and theorist of Xi Jinping thought. And he wrote this book [about his Read More ›

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futuristic earth map technology abstract background

So After Big Tech’s Play Worlds Are Played Out… Where Are We?

Computer technician Erik J. Larson asks, What have we learned that will help us?

Computer scientist and entrepreneur Erik J. Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence: Why Computers Can’t Think the Way We Do (2021), asks us to look at life in the aftermath of the big new world that computers are supposed to create: But the “bureau of statistics” mindset is now a problem. It dominates thinking everywhere, not just in technology businesses aiming for sticky ads and more captive users. Nearly every institution one can point to today, from government to science, media, medicine, insurance, and many others, embraces a centralized, data-capture model requiring massive computing resources and actively downplaying human ingenuity in favor of number crunching and prediction. More troubling perhaps, is the way this has shaped the zeitgeist. Read More ›

Peter Thiel via videoconference at COSM 2022

Peter Thiel: The Multiverse Is a “Gateway Drug”

It’s a gateway drug to other crazy ideas, like the belief we live in a simulation

BELLEVUE, WA — Speaking to tech leaders and investors at COSM 2022 in the Seattle area, entrepreneur Peter Thiel provocatively asked “why do so many people in Silicon Valley believe in the simulation hypothesis that the entire universe, the cosmos, is just a computer simulation? Why do they believe something as crazy as this?” Actually, noted Thiel, the belief that our world is a simulation has now faded somewhat: I think probably the peak belief in the simulation hypothesis was maybe something like a decade ago, maybe circa 2012 to 2015, and it has probably faded some. We’ll still have Gen Z people say that things are a glitch in the simulation or there’s still some sort of passive reference Read More ›

Hipster breakfast at home

Tech bubble? Our Progress Towards Value to Users Has Slowed…

We should be wary of glowing forecasts when newer technologies don’t offer anywhere near as large benefits

Today’s new technologies, from virtual reality to nuclear fusion have recently received record investments from venture capitalists, but their revenues are not growing as fast as technologies of past decades. Startup losses are unprecedented — far larger than in past decades. Share prices and private valuations have also been collapsing in 2022. Optimists mostly focus on the good news and ignore these facts. They believe that the heavy funding for these new technologies is a good measure of potential and thus any criticism is unjustified. Here is their typical argument: Paul Krugman and other “experts” criticized the Internet, personal computers, and other technologies in their early years. But these technologies succeeded. Therefore, criticisms of the new technologies are unfounded — Read More ›

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Two Computer Doomsday Scenarios: How Likely Are They?

One features a computer superintelligence beyond human comprehension and the other features a computer that destroys the world for an algorithmic reward

In an open-access paper last year at the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, a research group concluded that a computer superintelligence, if developed, could not be contained. It would be a HAL 9000 that couldn’t just be turned off. Science writer David Nield explains: The catch is that controlling a super-intelligence far beyond human comprehension would require a simulation of that super-intelligence which we can analyze (and control). But if we’re unable to comprehend it, it’s impossible to create such a simulation. Rules such as ‘cause no harm to humans’ can’t be set if we don’t understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the new paper. Once a computer Read More ›

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Marks: AI Looks Very Intelligent — While Following Set Rules

In an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Non-Computable You, Larry Nobles reads Robert J. Marks’s account of evolving AI “swarm intelligence” for Dweebs vs. Bullies (transcript also)

In Podcast 211, Larry Nobles reads an excerpt from Chapter Two of Robert J. Marks’s Non-Computable You: What You Do That Artificial Intelligence Never Will (Discovery Institute Press, 2022). The book is now available in audiobook form as well as Kindle format and, of course, paperback. Chapter Two addresses the question, “Can AI be creative?” Pablo Picasso didn’t think so. He is reported to have said, “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” Nobles reads Dr. Marks’s account of how he and a colleague got a “swarm” of little programs (Dweebs) to evolve a solution to a problem that required a good deal of creativity on his and colleague Ben Thompson’s part — but not on the part Read More ›

newton cradle

AI, It Turns Out, Is Not Currently a Very Good Physicist

A physicist takes issue with a research paper’s claims which inspired an IFL headline, “An AI May Have Just Invented ‘Alternative’ Physics”

Physicist Tom Hartsfield, commenting on a new paper, takes issue with its claim that “Without any prior knowledge of the underlying physics, our algorithm discovers the intrinsic dimension of the observed dynamics and identifies candidate sets of state variables.” That doesn’t seem to have happened. The problem set for the computer was a classical mechanics one: For a pendulum hanging on another pendulum, compute the number of variables needed for a solution: This problem requires two variables — the angle of each pendulum to the vertical — or four variables if a Cartesian (xy) coordinate system is used. If both pendulum bobs are hung from springs instead of rigid rods, the two variable spring lengths are added to get six Read More ›

Teenage boy doing homework using computer sitting by desk in room alone

What Does AI in Education Mean for Critical Thinking Skills?

Students, as reported at Motherboard, are increasingly using GPT-3 and other text-generator programs to write essays for them

The COVID pandemic pushed a lot of school coursework to the internet, with an increased reliance on true/false and multiple-choice tests that can be taken online and graded quickly and conveniently. Not surprisingly, once questions went online, so did answers, with several companies posting (for a fee) solutions for students who would rather Google answers than watch Zoomed lectures. To fit into a true/false or multiple-choice format, the questions are generally little more than a recitation of definitions, facts, and calculations. Here, for example, are three statistics questions I found at a question/answer site: Question: True or false: A group of subjects selected from the group of all subjects under study is called a sample. Answer: True Question: You are Read More ›

Intelligence artificielle

John Lennox: Transhumanism Versus Traditional Humans

In the second part of his bonus feature for Science Uprising, Oxford mathematician Lennox compares transhumanism with traditional claims to transcend humanity

In the second part of Oxford mathematician John Lennox’s bonus interview for the Science Uprising series, “John Lennox on the Transhumanist Claim AI Will Turn Humans into Gods” (October 17, 2022), Lennox talks about claims that we will merge with computers (artificial intelligence) to achieve immortality. How plausible is that? Lennox is the author of 2084:: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020). A partial transcript and notes for the second half follow (the first half is here): The AI concept of transhumanism? (13:45) John Lennox: The origin of the word “transhumanism,” interestingly enough, is not secular at all. It wasn’t first used by a scientist but it was used in a translation of one of the books of Read More ›

robot army
Military artificial intelligence arms race to produce an AI enabled army with autonomous robot soldiers and weapon systems, conceptual illustration

Robots, Drones, and Modern Warfare

Robots might not take over the world like the sci-fi movies depict, but AI in modern warfare threatens much destruction

You might remember the blockbuster movie I, Robot (2004) starring Will Smith, who plays a tough-minded homicide detective named Del Spooner in Chicago in the year 2035. Humanoid robots serve humanity and have become incorporated into society. Still, ever since a robot saved Del at the expense of a little girl, he hates them and thinks they will eventually overrun the world. I, Robot imagines a society in which AI could physically overtake humanity. The technology we’ve created for our own use ends up using us, unto our own destruction. Movies like I, Robot, Terminator, and others envision sentient, human-like robots that threaten to jeopardize the meaning of being human. But is that the real danger of AI, or does Read More ›

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How Would an AI Chatbot Handle the Complexities of Oral Language?

University of Toronto linguist Joseph Wilson unpacks some of the differences between the way we speak and the way we write

Joseph Wilson, a linguist and journalist who has done considerable work with oral languages (languages not yet written down), offers some thoughts on claims that chatbots like Blake Lemoine’s LaMDA, really speak like human persons. He offers a sharp distinction between oral language and the written language that chatbots are trained on: But this excludes all unwritten forms of communication: sign language, oral histories, body language, tone of voice, and the broader cultural context in which people find themselves speaking. In other words, it leaves out much of the interesting stuff that makes nuanced communication between people possible. Joseph Wilson, “Why AI Will Never Fully Capture Human Language” at Sapiens (October 12, 2022) We really don’t know how old spoken Read More ›

Künstliche Intelligenz Konzept

Oxford’s John Lennox Busts the “Computer Takeover” Myth

AI is here to stay, he says, but in addition to doing a great deal of good, it raises vast problems we must address

Earlier this month, we looked at claims that robots are going to scarf up everyone’s jobs. That was a bonus feature in the Science Uprising series. In another bonus interview, “John Lennox on the Transhumanist Claim AI Will Turn Humans into Gods” (October 17, 2022), Oxford mathematician Lennox talks about claims that 1) computers are taking over and that 2) we will merge with them (transhumanism). Lennox is the author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020). This is the first of two parts, where he talks mainly about narrow AI but then gets into the topic of artificial general intelligence (AGI). A partial transcript and notes follow: John Lennox: The typical AI system consists of a Read More ›

AI-generated digital art of a wooden board

AI Art Is Not “AI-Generated Art.” It is Engineer-Generated Art

The computers aren’t taking over the art world. The engineers are. Just the way engineers have taken over the music world with modern electronic music

Creativity is a mysterious thing. Our world economy is powered by creativity, yet despite the best efforts of our best engineers, creativity has not been captured by a machine. Until recently. With the new school of AI things have changed. We now have GPT-3 that can digress at length about any topic you give it. Even more remarkable, we have the likes of Dall-E, Midjourney, and Stable Diffusion. These phenomenal AI algorithms have scaled the peak of human creativity. AI can now create art that has never been seen before: The new artistic AI has become so successful the image social networks have become flooded with their artwork. Some communities have even banned the AI art. But the AI art Read More ›

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Hawaiʻi’s Indefinite COVID Lockdown: How Would an AI Rule?

The governor of Hawaiʻi claimed that legislation supported his right to extend draconian COVID lockdown rules indefinitely. Here’s a test for an AI law program

Some people say artificial intelligence (AI) systems can become more intelligent, more intellectually capable, than humankind. After all, they say the AI “AlphaZero has taught itself chess from scratch in just a few hours and then went on to beat the world’s previous best chess-playing computer program.” AI already reads x-rays, drives cars, orders meals by phone, diagnoses skin cancer, and predicts the next movie hit. Some say AI will soon do legal analysis and make judicial decisions more accurately and fairly than humans can. Using a recent true case, let’s overview what it takes to write AI software that would analyze a statute. First, as in an appellate court brief, let’s set up the real life problem and the Read More ›

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closeup of old handwriting; vintage paper background

Shakespeare vs. AI: Who Wins?

AI fails to do justice to the full range and depth of human language

I’ve written a fair bit in the last month on the development of AI art tools, but what about language? AI, as you’re probably aware, is not only able to mimic artistic styles. Its developers also want it to generate words, and to all appearances, they are succeeding. If visual artists are in trouble, how are journalists, novelists, and academics implicated in the AI revolution? I have a background in English, literature, and creative writing, so naturally, this AI issue hits a bit closer to home. Suppose an AI program could compose a short story with the prose quality and cohesive style of Ernest Hemingway. Could AI eventually produce news content, thus substituting the human reporter or journalist? As it Read More ›

painting of human eye
“Fluorite” - oil painting. Conceptual abstract picture of the eye. Oil painting in colorful colors. Conceptual abstract closeup of an oil painting and palette knife on canvas.

Human Artists and their AI Copycats

What will happen to actual artists if AI can mimic their styles?

Imagine you’re walking through a world-class art museum, and you come across Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” (Let’s assume someone hasn’t already thrown tomato soup on it.) The painting isn’t a replication. It’s not a copy of a copy of a copy. It’s the original canvas and paint, the direct object created by the artist himself, shaped by age, visited by thousands of admirers—it’s “vintage.” You stand there admiring the work of a past genius, and get a sense of its beauty and meaning in a whole new way. There’s something unique in witnessing “the real thing.” Why do people travel worldwide to look at Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” when they can see a digital recreation through a Google search? Or why Read More ›

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What Happens When You Feed a Translation Program Utter Nonsense?

Indiana University cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter had a lifelong acquaintance with and admiration for the Swedish language and with the help of Swedish friends, became conversant with it. That led him in turn to try an experiment on machine translation programs such as Google Translate and DeepL. At Inference Review, he tells us, “although — or perhaps because — these programs have improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, I greatly enjoy discovering and poking fun at their many unpredictable weaknesses.” Thus the author of author of Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979) constructed a paragraph of pure nonsense in made-up Swedish, something like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” which plays around similarly with English: All mimsy were the borogoves, And Read More ›