Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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question mark on sticky note

10: Christian Egnor and Atheist Dillahunty Now Take Questions…

For example, “ What is Mr. Egnor’s best evidence of any god that would make me believe?”

In the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), the debaters get questions from the audience. Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to the origin…

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Fair Concept

9. Michael Egnor Explains Why Matt Dillahunty Is Not an Atheist

Not really, anyway, Egnor insists, because he keeps invoking a moral standard that can’t exist if materialist atheism is true

In the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), we find Egnor questioning Dillahunty’s atheism. Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then, turning to the origin of…

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Two chess knights facing away from each other

8. Does Morality Really Exist? If So, Does It Come From God?

Matt Dillahunty now challenges Michael Egnor: There is no way to know whether a moral doctrine represents any reality apart from belief

In the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), the debaters are now talking about where moral precepts come from. Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then,…

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Demolition of hotel collapse following bomb blast explosion

7. Dillahunty Asks 2nd Oldest Question: If God Exists, Why Evil?

In the debate between Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty, the question of raping a baby was bound to arise.

In the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), we have at last got round to the Problem of Evil. Readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). Then,…

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android robot thinking in office

One Day the Door to the Robot’s Shop Opens – Sci-fi Saturday

Roy, the robot, is suddenly confronted by another robot, determined to kill or die

“Roy” at DUST (July 23, 2021, 7:44 min) Roy is a sci-fi drama short film about a robot mechanic holed away in a rundown barn, living in a world of rustic antiques melded with futuristic sensibilities. He is a man forgotten by society and spends his days tinkering at projects. That is until someone opens the door into his shop. Roy is a story about compassion in the face of those affected by violence and despair. It explores the themes of how we relate to strangers and friends around us who have become bitter and jaded by the world. Roy poses this question: how do we face those transformed by violence and angry at the world? Review: This film won…

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Closeup of unrecognizable little girl using smartphone, focus on hands scrolling through internet, copy space

Drawing a Line: When Tech To Keep People Safe Seems Dangerous

A dispute at the Washington Post about tech aimed at detecting child sex abuse highlights some of the issues

Princeton computer scientists Jonathan Mayer and Anunay Kulshrestha thread that needle:: Earlier this month, Apple unveiled a system that would scan iPhone and iPad photos for child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The announcement sparked a civil liberties firestorm, and Apple’s own employees have been expressing alarm. The company insists reservations about the system are rooted in “misunderstandings.” We disagree. We wrote the only peer-reviewed publication on how to build a system like Apple’s — and we concluded the technology was dangerous. We’re not concerned because we misunderstand how Apple’s system works. The problem is, we understand exactly how it works. Opinion by the Editorial Board: Apple’s new child safety tool comes with privacy trade-offs — just like all the others…

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small mushrooms toadstools

Mushrooms Have Minds? Well, If You Doubt Humans Are Exceptional…

… it is a short step to thinking that mushrooms have minds. A Miami University biologist has taken that step

It’s pretty daring to claim that mushrooms have minds. But, in the light of what we have learned about plant communications, we should perhaps pause a moment to at least listen. Miami University biologist Nicholas P. Money, argues: Given the magical reputation of the fungi, claiming that they might be conscious is dangerous territory for a credentialled scientist. But in recent years, a body of remarkable experiments have shown that fungi operate as individuals, engage in decision-making, are capable of learning, and possess short-term memory. These findings highlight the spectacular sensitivity of such ‘simple’ organisms, and situate the human version of the mind within a spectrum of consciousness that might well span the entire natural world. Nicholas P. Money, “The…

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Time is running out concept shows clock that is dissolving away into little particles. Black and white wall clock

A Cruel Experiment Plays With Three Lives: Sci-fi Saturday

Rational thought offers no contest, in this minimalist film, to the will to survive or at least get revenge in death

“2-Bullet Solution” at DUST by Matt Mullins and Chris Naylor (July 26, 2021, 3:32 min) 3 Test Subjects, 2 Bullets, 1 Solution Review: It’s a philosophical dilemma of sorts. Three people, two men and a woman, are experimentally trapped in a chamber slowly filling with a fatal gas. They have two minutes, three guns and two bullets. The survivor will be released. This cast list (presumably in order of appearance) gives a sense of utter minimalism, in that they don’t really have names: Stretch – Caitlin HutsonBeard – Andrew DiBartolomeoEdge – Kosey BaskinVoice – Christina RoseHandler – Matt Baxter Discouragingly, no one discusses options like using the bullets to break a lock. The fight scene (over the bullets) seems unrealistic;…

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sad mixed breed dog posing in a cage in animal shelter

Are Animals Capable of Committing Suicide?

Generally, experts think not. They may, of course, become profoundly depressed and engage in self-harm

At Discover Magazine, Richard Pallardy offers an anecdote: In April 1970, Ric O’Barry visited a dolphin named Kathy at the Miami Seaquarium, where she was languishing in “retirement” after three years as the title character on the television show Flipper. O’Barry, who had captured her from the wild and trained her to perform, remembers thinking that she seemed depressed. She was all alone in a concrete tank — not a good thing for a highly social animal like a dolphin. He claims the former cetacean starlet swam into his arms, sank to the bottom of the tank and refused to resurface, drowning herself. Richard Pallardy, “Do Animals Commit Suicide?” at Discover Magazine (August 10, 2021) There is no lack of…

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Bussiness man Hand press button on panel of printer, printer scanner laser office copy machine supplies start concept.

Science Sleuths Catch Authors Using AI Tool for Plagiarism

Odd phrases like “counterfeit consciousness” instead of “artificial intelligence” began appearing in computer science journals, triggering an investigation

The expression “tortured phrases” likely reminds teachers of student essays. Paradoxically, it takes time to develop a “natural” style. But last April, when that sort of language started appearing in computer science journals, some alert researchers suspected that something more serious than mere awkwardness was at work: The researchers could not understand why researchers would use the terms ‘counterfeit consciousness’, ‘profound neural organization’ and ‘colossal information’ in place of the more widely recognized terms ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘deep neural network’ and ‘big data’. Holly Else, “‘Tortured phrases’ give away fabricated research papers” at Nature But they figured it out. Many computer science papers, especially from China, were partly constructed using automated translation and software that may disguise plagiarism. But the software…

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press and media camera ,video photographer on duty in public new

Media Try But Fail To Learn From Their Romance With Cuomo

Revoking Cuomo’s Emmy, amid facile self-reproach, is hardly a substitute for unpacking the bigger facts of what the recently resigned New York governor did wrong

In a revealing article in Columbia Journalism Review New York City journalist Ross Barkan talks about the many media fails in covering the misdeeds of recently resigned New York State governor Andrew Cuomo. And yet, somehow, Barkan deftly pulls the punches. His omissions tell us a good deal about what is wrong with mainstream media today. Cuomo was brought down by credible sexual assault and intimidation allegations over many years. One reason justice took so long was the media’s infatuation with Cuomo, ignoring on-the-ground realities of all types — some deadly, as we shall see. Barkan gets a lot of stuff right: Cuomo was not nearly as skilled at handling the COVID-19 epidemic as major media painted him: But Cuomo’s…

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Exoplanet

When Sci-Fi Gets Earnest About Colonization — Sci-fi Saturday

Worth seeing but we never get to find out who the characters are fighting or why some treaty could not be arranged

“Ripple Effect” at DUST by [ Hannah Bang at Dust, July 12, 2021, 7:12 min: “In a not so distant future- a coalition of the old earth’s nations have sought and claimed the discovery of a new planet “Gaia” as the human race’s last hope for survival. However, when the human settlements rolled in, what awaited them was neither discovery nor pioneering but colonization and war against the planet’s original inhabitants. With an increasingly militaristic government that demands the settlers’ sacrifice for the good of all, one family is torn apart when the eldest daughter, Ara, questions who the real bad guys are. At a time where mass think seems to be the safest option, Ripple Effect asks us if…

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Dna test in the lab. a laboratory technician with a dispenser in his hands is conducting dna analysis in a sterile laboratory behind glass

China Is Building the World’s Largest Global DNA Database

The government violates the country’s own privacy laws in the name of security and stability

A January 2021 study by a U.K. cybersecurity and privacy watchdog, Comparitech, found that China was the world’s worst offender for “widespread and invasive biometric data collection” out of ninety-six countries studied. The Chinese government aspires to build the world’s largest police-run DNA database. Its Made in China 2025 plan places a priority on building its biotechnology industry, which involves collecting a large number of DNA samples. The way Chinese authorities obtain DNA is often intrusive and without consent. In a previous article, we looked at how U.S. companies’ DNA sequencing and identification technologies end up in Xinjiang despite U.S. sanctions. In this article, we will look at how China is using DNA collection to further its national goals. China’s…

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DNA sequence with colored letters on black background containing mutation

U.S.-Made DNA ID Equipment Is Being Sold to Xinjiang’s Police

Engineering professor Yves Moreau’s research shows that a more serious approach to existing sanctions against such uses is needed

The U.S. leads the world in DNA sequencing technologies. Unfortunately, two U.S. companies’ products are being used in China in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region despite the fact that the U. S. has placed sanctions on such uses. The sanctions were put in place because Chinese authorities surveil and detain Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities without legal precedent and engage in acts that are in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948. The New York Times, for example, obtained ten contracts, along with government procurement documents, showing that Thermo Fisher Scientific’s and Promega’s equipment is being sold to Xinjiang police: The government procurement documents and contracts show that several Chinese companies sold Thermo Fisher equipment worth at least $521,165 to…

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Father And Son Competing In Video Games At Home

Why Did Video Gamers Uncover Fraud More Easily Than Scientists?

Video gamers are subject, a psychologist tells us, to much more rigorous constraints than scientists

In a recent article at The Atlantic, King’s College psychologist Stuart Ritchie, author of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth (2020), has noted a curious fact: Video gamers are much quicker to spot fraud than scientists. The video game fraud he focuses on involved a gamer’s claim that he had finished a round of Minecraft in a little over 19 minutes, a feat he attributed, Ritchie tells us, to “an incredible stretch of good luck.” “Incredible” is the right choice of word here. “Dream,” as the player was known, later admitted — in the face of skepticism — that he had “inadvertently” left some software running that improved his game — thus disqualifying…

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Human brain with an implanted chip.

Can Implanted Computer Chips Cure Depression?

Brain–computer interface (BCI) is promising for paralysis and prosthetics but raises concerns in the treatment of depression

Brain computer interface (BCI) shows promise in treating paralysis or enabling prosthetics to work almost naturally. But BCI for treating depression sounds like hype: Say goodbye to pills, therapy, and all that. With such gloomy prospects, it was only a matter of time scientists realized there must be better ways to treat depression rather than pills. After all, drugs only work because they act on certain brain regions to modulate the concentration of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin or dopamine. Therefore, in the end, the regulation of mood depends on stimulating brain signals in certain parts of the brain — that is, neurons firing — and this can be done more accurately by just zapping the neurons directly with electricity. Diego…

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Live lobster in the aquarium. Product in the supermarket. Close up photo of big lobsters in water tank for sale

Can Crabs Think? Can Lobsters Feel? What We Know Now

In Switzerland, it is now illegal to boil a lobster alive. Are the Swiss right? Is it cruel?

Because crustaceans have shells, we may tend to think of them as like machines. Yet crustaceans, along with octopuses, show some surprising abilities and complexities. Take crabs, for example: A new Swansea University study has revealed how common shore crabs can navigate their way around a complex maze and can even remember the route in order to find food … Spatial learning is quite complicated, so figuring out how it works in crustaceans gives us a better understanding of how widespread this ability, and learning in general, is in the animal kingdom.” The researchers tested 12 crabs over four weeks, placing food at the end of the maze each time. The route to the end of the maze required five…

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Real Python code developing screen. Programing workflow abstract algorithm concept. Lines of Python code visible under magnifying lens.

How Do We Know the Machine Is Right If No One Knows How It Works?

We don’t, and that’s a problem, says Oxford philosopher John Zerilli

Oxford philosopher John Zerilli, author of A Citizen’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence (2021), asks us to consider how machine learning, the most widely used type of AI, might be deciding our lives without our knowing it: There are many reasons not to take job rejections personally, but there’s one in particular you might not consider: you might have been screened out by an algorithm that taught itself to filter candidates by gender, surname or ethnicity – in other words, by factors that have nothing to do with your ability to do the job. Even if you’re unfazed by the spectre of runaway robots enslaving humanity, this little tale shows how the ascendancy of machine learning (ML) comes with risks that…

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Social media concept.

A Sad Truth: Social Media Rewards Us for Acting Badly

Our negativity sells advertising for them while polarizing society

Here’s the dismal report, from the University of Cambridge, about when we are likely to “share” information: Social media posts about the “political outgroup” — criticizing or mocking those on the opposing side of an ideological divide — receive twice as many shares as posts that champion people or organizations from one’s own political tribe. This is according to a study led by University of Cambridge psychologists, who analyzed over 2.7 million Tweets and Facebook posts published by either US media outlets or Members of Congress from across the political spectrum. Researchers also found that each additional word referencing a rival politician or competing worldview (e.g. ‘Biden’ or ‘Liberal’ if coming from a Republican source) increased the odds of a…

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Vintage tin robot toys

Researchers: Humans “Exploit” Machines Without a Sense of Guilt!

Humans, we are told, are so unethical that we take advantage of "benevolent" self-driving cars

In case no one knew this, humans are cruel, greedy, and deceptive. We even take advantage of self-driving cars. Our crimes are revealed in a recent study that scolds humans as “unwilling to cooperate and compromise with machines. They even exploit them.” When you’ve stopped laughing, you might be interested to learn of some intriguing findings from studies of human behavior around self-driving cars (autonomous vehicles) and Prisoner’s Dilemma games. One team of researchers, in a test involving 9 experiments and 2000 participants, tried to determine whether humans would behave as co-operatively with AI systems as we do with fellow humans: The study which is published in the journal iScience found that, upon first encounter, people have the same level…