Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

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Robo Women 3

Erica, Robot Film Star, is Pretty Typical Modern-Day Puppeteering

It may be a good film, to be sure, Jonathan Bartlett stresses, but there is little new AI in there

Yesterday, we looked at Erica the Robot, our #9 technology hype of 2020. While Erica, described as the star of a film, b, to start production in 2021, may be more sophisticated than some, clever animatronics have actually been around for decades (think Muppets… ). So Robert J. Marks and Eric Holloway talked about the question of how much of the Erica puff signifies something really groundbreaking and how much is the usual AI hype. Jonathan Bartlett (pictured) gets back to us with some further thoughts on that very question: The hype around Erica starts with the simple description of her role in the film. Many articles about the film say that Erica was “cast” in the role. However, being…

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Many Robo Women 7

#9: Erica the Robot Stars in a Film. But Really, Does She?

This is just going to be a fancier Muppets movie, Eric Holloway predicts, with a bit more electronics

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks has been interviewing fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the year. Lots of stuff happened and it’s the time of year for fun and entertainment! So here’s #9: Erica the Robot, from Japan, is to star in a film (filming begins in 2021): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #9 starts at about 16:58 A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. A link to the complete transcript follows the Additional Resources. Robert J. Marks: Okay. We are counting down the Dirty Dozen hyped AI stories of 2020, and we’re at #9. In June 2020 in The Hollywood Reporter, we learned of the robot in…

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Dictionary showing the word definition

Jill Biden: Who Should, and Shouldn’t, Be Called “Doctor”?

The controversy around Jill Biden’s title, “Dr.,” could use some clarification from the dictionary

There is a controversy about whether Joe Biden’s wife should be referred to as “Doctor” Jill Biden. Isn’t “Doctor” a title for physicians only?The question is resolved easily by consulting a dictionary. Two of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are: 1.a person skilled or specializing in healing arts especially : one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice 2.a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (such as a PhD) conferred by a university Jill Biden has a doctorate (an EdD) from the University of Delaware. Independent of one’s politics (I’m not a Biden fan), Jill Biden can be accurately referred to as Dr. Jill Biden.…

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Online dating app or site in mobile phone. Finding love and romance from internet with smartphone. Man giving like. Many hologram photos of beautiful woman around cellphone. Stalker looking at profile

Can AI Find You the Love of Your Life?

Faced with a steeply declining birth rate, Japan’s government has decided to try AI matchmaking

Well, outsourcing everything to technology is the thing these days and the Japanese government, faced with a steeply declining birthrate, is giving AI matchmaking a try: Around half of the nation’s 47 prefectures offer matchmaking services and some of them have already introduced AI systems, according to the Cabinet Office. The human-run matchmaking services often use standardized forms to list people’s interests and hobbies, and AI systems can perform more advanced analysis of this data. “We are especially planning to offer subsidies to local governments operating or starting up matchmaking projects that use AI,” the official said. AFP-JIJI, “We have a match! Japan taps AI to boost birth rate slump” at Japan Times (December 7, 2020) Declining birthrate? Japan Times…

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Time concept. Hi-res digitally generated image.

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “Speed of Time” from DUST

A computer nerd writing a pizza delivery program discovers that his work is way more important than he, or anyone, thought

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: “Speed of Time,” 12:19 min by Russ Nickel and William J. Stribling, September 17, 2020: “Johnny Killfire (John Hennigan) must go back in time and team up with his former self (Sean Marquette) to stop the TimeBorgs from getting their hands on an app that breaks the space-time continuum by delivering pizzas into the past…before they were even ordered.” It sounds like an agreeable quarter hour. Imagine what happens when an accomplished ground warrior busts in from another time on a quiet family at the breakfast table… Unfortunately, things go downhill from there, unless the film is intended as a satire on a certain type of science fiction. Pizza delivery rips a…

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360 degree massive black hole panorama, equirectangular projection, environment map. HDRI spherical panorama. Space background with black hole and stars

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “Alone” at DUST

Space engineer Kaya Torres, the only survivor of a black hole, contacts an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company until she dies

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: “Alone” by William Helmuth (December 3, 2020): From the Press Kit: Kaya Torres, an engineer with a sailor’s mouth and a stubborn spirit, barely escapes her research ship when calamity breaks it in half. Now she’s circling a black hole in a pod, with no one coming, no one to help. She’s alone. While figuring out what to do, Kaya starts sending messages to Hammer, a cartographer marooned on a nearby planet. And as their friendship grows, Kaya’s options slowly dwindle, until survival seems hopelessly out of reach… As Torres is “marooned on my lifepod” as the only survivor of the DSV Intrepid, she is able to contact an “interstellar penpal” to…

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Blue Ice covered mountains in south polar ocean. Winter Antarctic landscape. The mount's reflection in the crystal clear water. The cloudy sky over the massive rock glacier. Travel wild nature

Sci-Fi Saturday Film: “The Beacon” at DUST

Especially harrowing is the Arctic encounter where the grieving husband finds out what really happened

From the free DUST sci-fi channel at YouTube: (“The Beacon” by Chris Staehler, 25:10 min) “Mark and Kara Verne are both young shipping pilots struggling to make ends meet. When Kara goes missing months after taking a large interstellar contract, Mark travels to the far reaches of the galaxy in search of his wife.” The story sets up well. A business opportunity suddenly presents itself that will enable the copule to greatly improve their fortunes. When she goes missing, her desperate husband has a hard time finding out what happened. The film is definitely worth seeing, if only for the bureaucrat from hell that Mark confronts about the problem though it strikes a false note when he offers her a…

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set of funny colored stickers with different emotions

Study: The Expression of Human Emotions Is Universal

Most representations in visual arts depend on the universality of human emotion

Most of us wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the expression of human emotions is universal. But today there is a study for everything and 16 “universal human emotional expressions” have been identified: Whether at a birthday party in Brazil, a funeral in Kenya or protests in Hong Kong, humans all use variations of the same facial expressions in similar social contexts, such as smiles, frowns, grimaces and scowls, a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows… Researchers at UC Berkeley and Google used machine-learning technology known as a “deep neural network” to analyze facial expressions in some 6 million video clips uploaded to YouTube from people in 144 countries spanning North, Central and South America, Africa, Europe,…

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White robot woman using digital sphere connection hologram 3D rendering

Robots Really Don’t Explain It All for Us—But They Helpfully Try

And what else can they do? The literature written about their efforts is often a lot of fun!

When computer whiz Rosalind Picard gave a course at MIT in 1997,“Toward Machines That Can Deny Their Maker,” she included some dialogue from a play she had written. As she tells it, The dialogue was inspired, in part, by the 1921 play of Karel Čapek, entitled “R.U.R.,” which stands for Rossum’s Universal Robots. This play is where the word robot originated, from the Czech “robotit,” which means “to drudge.” In R.U.R., humans have figured out the secret to making robots that are emotional and alive. However, the robots can only live for 20 years. Afterward, they expire (die.) Karel Čapek (pictured) invented the concept and maybe even the word, robots: As Picard tells it, “The robots in this dialogue share…

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Extraterrestrial aliens spaceship fly above sunset sea

Could Aliens Be Hiding From Us Until We Are Ready?

An Israeli space expert says they are waiting for us to catch up

Okay, it seems kind of crazy but here on sci-fi Saturday, we have spent a lot of time wondering why we don’t see intelligent aliens even though the universe is big enough and fine-tuned for life. But the “We’re not ready” theory at least gives them some credit for having intelligence. Anyway, for what it is worth, one ex-space boffin says, “Trump was on the verge of revealing [aliens existence], but the aliens in the Galactic Federation are saying, ‘Wait, let people calm down first,’” Eshed, who helmed Israel’s space security program from 1981 to 2010, reportedly said. “They don’t want to start mass hysteria. They want to first make us sane and understanding.” Until that day, aliens have secured…

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Futuristic high speed travel through tube. could illustrate data travel

Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review

A free sort DUST sci-fi film looks at the plight of an astronaut testing the concept

Science fiction can teach us useful science concepts so it is hardly a waste of time. For example, what about “faster than light”? Albert Einstein thought nothing in this universe would travel faster than light (FTL). He might be right or wrong but if we can’t beat the speed of light light, we won’t ever see a lot of possibly interesting things in the universe. It’s just too vast. So science fiction has been trying to beat the speed of light since forever. Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars: My favorite…

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Green Iguana

Sci Fi: An Offer You Better Think About Carefully…

But the civil alien leaves a very nice business card. Do see that.

From DUST at YouTube: Henry, an apparently conventional exec somewhere has been selected to represent his species in what is supposed to be the “biggest trade agreement in the history of the planet.” Hint that we hope isn’t a spoiler: The aliens want our oceans. But the civil alien leaves a very nice business card. Do see that. Yer News editor gives this one 4 out of 5. Mainly because the sound was bad. The studio needs to fix that. Otherwise, it is an excellent look at corporate negotiation in Lizard Land.

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Illustration of an extraterrestrial wearing a spacesuit standing on a mountaintop looking at the blue sky on an alien planet.

Astronomer Bets a Cup of Coffee That We’ll Encounter ET by 2036

Seth Shostak points to the increase in the number of exoplanets identified and the increase in computing power

Seth Shostak, iconic astronomer who directs the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), is so confident that the vast increase in computing power, based on Moore’s Law, will make the difference in detecting signals from alien civilizations that he will bet you a cup of Starbucks coffee that we make contact by 2036. Moore’s Law (1965) originally held that computers would double in power every two years. But today’s pace is actually faster than that. And on the horizon is quantum computing and carbon computing, which would speed things up while reducing energy consumption. So Shostak (pictured) is looking at considerable reinforcements for a systematic search. He stresses that the search for ET is now largely computerized: “We don’t sit in…

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weird ice planet

We Won’t Find ET on Ocean Planets, Researchers Say

We will see few extraterrestrials if a great many promising exoplanets are Waterworlds

Science writer Matt Williams has been writing a series on the question of why, despite the size of our galaxy, we see no other intelligent life forms. It could be, he suggests, that “many planets out there are just too watery!” Williams points out that, although water covers 71% of Earth’s surface, it is only 0.02% of the planet’s mass. If the proportion were much higher, Earth would be an ocean planet because the water would surface. It’s an open question whether an ocean planet would feature highly technologically developed intelligent life forms. Dolphins, for example, are quite intelligent but they do not seek to use any technology. The question of whether a planet could have too much water arose,…

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Theory of Everything concept

Can a Powerful Enough Computer Work Out a Theory of Everything?

Some physicists hope so even if it would put them out of work. But is it possible?

Recently, prominent physicists were asked whether a sufficiently powerful computer could come up with a Theory of Everything, by the sheer power of crunching numbers. As a recent New York Times article by Dennis Overbye shows, physicists were divided and uncertain: “It might be possible, physicists say, but not anytime soon. And there’s no guarantee that we humans will understand the result.” But doubt, in the view of multiverse theorist Max Tegmark, means we are guilty of “carbon chauvinism”—the idea that humans could be smarter than computers. The late Stephen Hawking thought that computers would replace humans and was alarmed by the prospect. According to Overbye, Hawking had been warning that computers would start to replace physicists in particular since…

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Space dust abstract galaxy

Does the Slow Pace of Evolution Mean That ET Life Is Rare?

That’s the contention in a recent paper by astrobiologists at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute

In a new paper, researchers affiliated with Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute use the assumptions we make about the evolution of life on Earth to estimate the likelihood of it happening the same way elsewhere. And the numbers do not look good. As a science writer puts it: There are countless naturally occurring, but extremely lucky ways in which Earth is special, sheltered, protected, and encouraged to have evolved life. And some key moments of emerging life seem much more likely than others, based on what really did happen. Caroline Delbert, “Intelligent Life Really Can’t Exist Anywhere Else” at Popular Mechanics In the paper, the Oxford group concludes, It took approximately 4.5 billion years for a series of evolutionary transitions…

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Blue glowing multidimensional energy sphere isolated on black

New Sky Catalog Reveals Most Likely Sites for Alien Technology

“Exotica” lists phenomena for which conventional natural explanations don’t seem to work well

We’ve been looking at reasons why we don’t see extraterrestrials, even though many scientists are sure they must exist. One enterprising research group has now assembled Exotica, a catalog of strange phenomena in space, which might help us search more efficiently. If extraterrestrials exist and are technologically advanced, they would leave a “technosignature,” which might at first only be seen as astrange phenomenon in space: Breakthrough Listen, the initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, today released an innovative catalog of “Exotica”—a diverse list of objects of potential interest to astronomers searching for technosignatures (indicators of technology developed by extraterrestrial intelligence). The catalog is a collection of over 700 distinct targets intended to include “one of everything”…

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collection of alien planets in front of the Milky Way galaxy, nearby exoplanets

Why Search for Extraterrestrial Life? Why Not Make It Ourselves?

A NASA astrobiologist’s bold suggestion is likely to spark debate

Recently, we have been looking at the question of why we don’t see aliens, with as many as 75 hypotheses offered. But one astrobiologist has a bold suggestion: Why not just seed life on various suitable exoplanets, once we have the means to do it? We need not search for extraterrestrial life if we can learn how to create it ourselves. There are a lot of reasons to think very carefully about doing something like that, as Betül Kaçar (pictured), director of the NASA Astrobiology Consortium MUSE, acknowledges: Rather than regarding the overwhelming majority of planets and moons as failures unworthy of further study, we should instead recognise them for what they are: they’re not empty. In fact, a very…

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Alien arrival on planet Earth, full moon rises above the horizon

Particle Physicist Offers 75 Reasons We Don’t See Aliens

But Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute gives high odds that we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy

Recently, we’ve been looking at Matt Williams’s admirable collection of hypotheses as to why we do not see intelligent extraterrestrials, despite the size of our universe. But particle physicist Stephen Webb collected many more such theses, in a book published in 2002, If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens … WHERE IS EVERYBODY?: Fifty Solutions to the Fermi Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life (2002). A revised edition was published by Springer, a big science publisher, in 2015, offering 75 hypotheses. Webb calls his collection of hypotheses the “Fermi solutions,” in honor of Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954), whose famous question was “Where are They?” “Fermi realized that any civilization with a modest amount of rocket technology and an…

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Ghost of Girl in Dark Foggy Forest

Why Do People Who Believe in Extraterrestrials Dismiss Ghosts?

The talk about extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence—or otherwise—misses the point. There is no evidence

A recent profile in Astronomy focused on Abraham Loeb (pictured) a Harvard astronomer who is convinced that closed minds are a key barrier to our finding extraterrestrials. Statistically, he thinks, they must be out there somewhere: About 25 billion stars, roughly one-quarter of those that reside in the Milky Way, lie in a habitable zone. He rounds that down to an even 10 billion to keep the calculations simple. “And then there are about a trillion galaxies like the Milky Way,” he says, “which means there are about 1022 [10 billion trillion] planets in the observable universe that could potentially host life as we know it.” In other words, searches for extraterrestrial life have barely scratched the surface. “As in…