Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Gallipoli, Canakkale, Turkey; close up of an octopus eye (Octopus vulgaris Cuvier, 1797). Generative AI

Octopus Intelligence Shakes Up Darwin’s Tree

There does not seem to be a Tree of Intelligence, which deepens the mystery of intelligence

(This article was first published in Salvo 64, Spring 2023, as Spineless Wonders.) The octopus presents a conundrum in animal intelligence: A highly intelligent invertebrate. We used to live in tidy world, where vertebrates, with backbones terminating in a brain, were more intelligent than invertebrates, with a variety of nervous system layouts and structures (or, in many cases, little or none thereof). Mammals and birds are, of course, highly favored for intelligence because they are warm-blooded (endothermic), and the brain is a high metabolic area. The traditional “tree of intelligence” makes sense, actually. But then we got to know the octopus. A “Second Genesis” Called by some a “second genesis of intelligence”, the octopus is the hero or perp of Read More ›

A green sprout sprouts from the microprocessor. A symbol of a new startup or business in the IT field of green technologies or biotechnologies. A living beginning in computers and artificial ai

“Emergence”: The College Level Version of “We Don’t Know How”

The word often permits the improbable to be considered probable for the purposes of sounding like science without providing any

For some purposes, emergence is just another word in the dictionary. For example, “caterpillar emergence” (emphasis added) means just that: Caterpillars exiting their eggs. But there is a sneakier way the word is sometimes used in science contexts: It’s a way of pretending we know something we don’t or that something can happen in a certain way — but we have no evidence for that. Consider these examples: “Abiotic emergence of ordered information stored in the form of RNA is an important unresolved problem concerning the origin of life.” – Totani, T. Emergence of life in an inflationary universe. Sci Rep 10, 1671 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-58060-0 When used with respect to origin of life, emergence is intended to convey the idea Read More ›

Ritual circle in the oldest temple of world - Gobeklitepe. October 2019.

Philosophers: Religion, Not Nature, Made Us Human

Victor Kumar and Richmond Campbell argue that many very ancient human types had human minds; religion is the missing ingredient

The philosophers who make this claim are not evangelists. Victor Kumar is director of the Mind and Morality Lab at Boston University and Richmond Campbell is the George Munro professor of philosophy emeritus at Dalhousie University. In an essay at IAI News, adapted from their book, A Better Ape: The Evolution of the Moral Mind and How it Made Us Human (Oxford University Press 2022), they argue that “it was the cultural institution of religion, and its ability to create large tribes, that made us into modern humans.” Sometimes there is a story in titles. The official title of this piece is “Nature didn’t make us human, culture did.” The subtitle is “How religion made us a successful species.” But Read More ›