Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryMedicine and Health

Artificial intelligence concept. Robotic hand is holding human brain. 3D rendered illustration.

Failed Prophecies of the Big “AI Takeover” Come at a Cost

Like IBM Watson in medicine, they don’t just fail; they take time, money, and energy from more promising digital innovations

Surveying the time line of prophecies that AI will take over “soon” is entertaining. At Slate, business studies profs Jeffrey Funk and Gary Smith offer a whirlwind tour starting in the 1950s, with stops along the way at 1970 (“In from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being”) and at 2014: In 2014, Ray Kurzweil predicted that by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence and will have all of the intellectual and emotional capabilities of humans, including “the ability to tell a joke, to be funny, to be romantic, to be loving, to be sexy.” As we move closer to 2029, Kurzweil talks more about 2045. Jeffrey Funk and…

Closeup of hand female caregiver holding oxygen mask with cute child patient in hospital bed or home,little girl putting inhalation,doctor or nurse intensive care,health care,support,help concept

A Short Film Explores the Dreamscape of a Child in a Coma

While her faithful father waits and tries to connect with her…

Last week, five animated short films competed for Oscar gold, with the top prize going to the emotionally charged “If Anything Happens I Love You.” The short is a bold examination of bereavement as two parents grapple with the violent loss of their young daughter. It’s a worthy winner. However, my own pick didn’t make the shortlist. WiNDUP (2020), written and directed by young creative Yibing Jiang, is also a poignant meditation on parenthood and grief — in this case, for a child in a possibly irreversible coma — as well as a technical gem. Jiang’s company, Unity, uses custom-built software to create shorts in “real-time 3D” on standard computers. Doing without certain tools that animators take for granted today,…

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Tiny people betwixt logic board

Why Did a Prominent Science Writer Come To Doubt the AI Takeover?

John Horgan’s endorsement of Erik J. Larson’s new book critiquing AI claims stems from considerable experience covering the industry for science publications

At first, science writer John Horgan (pictured), author of a number of books including The End of Science (1996), accepted the conventional AI story: When I started writing about science decades ago, artificial intelligence seemed ascendant. IEEE Spectrum, the technology magazine for which I worked, produced a special issue on how AI would transform the world. I edited an article in which computer scientist Frederick Hayes-Roth predicted that AI would soon replace experts in law, medicine, finance and other professions. John Horgan, “Will Artificial Intelligence Ever Live Up to Its Hype?” at Scientific American (December 4, 2020) But that year, 1984, ushered in an AI winter, in which innovation stalled and funding dried up. By 1998, problems like non-recurrent engineering…

Group Senior people  legs walking exercise at public park . selective focus - Image

Exercise is Medicine: The Power of Regular Physical Activity

Recent research reveals that exercise is one of our most powerful defenses against illness and disease

The United States spent $3.8 trillion on health care in 2019, before COVID-19. That’s 17.7 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product and nearly $13,000 per person. That’s more than double the average spending in dozens of comparable countries, yet U.S. health care outcomes are near the bottom of any list. We have the highest obesity rates in all age groups and the second highest death rate from heart disease. For life expectancy at birth, the U.S. ranks 34th, behind Chile and Lebanon. We have arguably the best doctors, medicines, and hospitals. Why are so many of us in poor health and why do so many of us die young? We can blame the system or we can blame ourselves. Enter…

Close-up Of A Robot's Hand Holding Stethoscope
Close-up Of A Robot's Hand Holding Stethoscope On Colorful Background`

Doctors Won’t Be Obsolete Anytime Soon

Despite fanfare and positive portrayals in pop culture, artificial intelligence “doctors” are failing to live up to the hype.

A careful analysis of British hospital records found that an annual average of 1,600 adults over the age of 30 had used outpatient child and adolescent psychiatry services and that a comparable number of youths aged 0-19 years old had used outpatient geriatric services. Tongue-firmly-in-cheek, the authors speculated that, “We are not clear why so many adults seem to be availing themselves of pediatric services, but it might be part of an innovative exchange program with pediatric patients attending geriatric services.” They also found that thousands of men used outpatient obstetrics, gynecology, and midwifery services each year, though there were fewer women availing themselves of vasectomies. These were clearly clerical errors made by fallible humans recording patient data. Could computers do…

Afro-american boy hiding in ruined building, escaped from dysfunctional family

Woke Medicine Is Very Bad for Everyone’s Health

The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed

Critical Race Theory and claims about structural racism in American society are infiltrating medical care and education. There is a major effort in medical education today to indoctrinate students and resident physicians into Critical Theory. This is, in my view, a deeply misguided approach.The issues raised by Critical Race Theory are real but I believe that the diagnosis is deeply flawed. The question we face is: how can we protect medical education and practice from this latest iteration of Marxism, and at the same time work to improve deficiencies in education and medical care that Critical Race Theorists correctly point out? It is undeniable that there are structural problems in medicine. Many of these problems impede good medical care, especially…

Eye close up

What if only part — not all — of your brain were transplanted?

You might end up seeing double out of an eye a thousand miles away

Recently, we’ve been discussing the concept of total or partial human brain transplants. What about transplanting an eye and the parts of the visual cortex it needs from one person to another? Which of the two people would be seeing out of that eye? The answer is not simple. As noted earlier, researchers may never succeed in transplanting both an eye and the hemisphere brain parts that the eye needs to function from one human being to another. But let’s assume a science fiction scenario — a thought experiment — in which there is an exchange. Jack gets Mary’s right eye/hemisphere and Mary gets Jack’s right eye/hemisphere. Both parties, who live on different parts of the planet, survive. For simplicity,…

Field of poppies

Does Freezing the Brain’s “Connectome” Offer Hope of Immortality?

Some cryogenics researchers are looking at methods of freezing the brain’s memory apparatus in the hope of reviving it one day and saving it as an artificial intelligence

According to Philip Jaekl, a writer with neuroscience training, the connectome is the “ complete network of neurons and all the connections between them, called synapses.” Taking a leaf from Sebastian Seung’s book, Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, he argues, “You are your connectome.” In that case, Seung’s “you” is very complex. Many types of memory are mediated through the connectome. Jaekl writes, Thus, a key to unlocking the correspondence between the connectome and memory is to elucidate the entire circuitry of the brain. Tracing the wiring at this scale is no easy task when considering the sheer complexity involved. A mere cubic millimetre of brain tissue contains around 50,000 neurons, with an astonishing total…

light at the end of the tunnel

The MD Who Studies Near Death Experiences Is NOT Religious

Greyson was motivated by a desire to understand experiences that materialist approaches have simply not explained satisfactorily

Last week, we talked about psychiatrist Bruce Greyson and his new book, After (2021), discussing near-death experiences (NDEs). The Guardian ran an interview with Greyson the same day, in which he offers some perspectives that may be useful in trying to sort out the issues: ● Modern neuroscience does not have a simple answer that dismisses NDEs. When I ask Greyson why he decided to publish After now, after all these years, he explains that “we had to wait until we had enough knowledge about near-death experiences to be able to understand what was going on,” by which he means not that we know what NDEs are, but that advances in science have allowed us to rule out a heap…

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Anatomy human body model. Part of human body model with organ system.

Are Human Brain Transplants Even Possible?

What would be the outcome if one person received transplants from the brains of others? If it’s not possible, there may be a good reason why not

Earlier this week, I discussed the work of Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who did extensive research on head transplants in animals. The operation sometimes worked, most notably in monkeys. But it has never been done in humans, mostly because head transplantation would mean cutting the spinal cord, which would cause complete and permanent paralysis. The most reasonable perspective on the soul is that it is the active principle of the body — that is, the soul is what the body does. Thus soul follows function. From this perspective, I infer that after a head transplant, I would see with my original eyes, hear with my original ears, etc. If I were able to move my…

Near death experience

Physician Explains Why He Takes Near-Death Experiences Seriously

Near-death experiences don’t fit easily into traditional science categories because they occur — often with life-changing effects — when the brain is damaged or unconscious

Health and science writer Markham Heid recounts a story from psychiatrist Bruce Greyson’s book After (2021) that typifies the near-death experiences (NDEs) that have excited research interest: The truck driver’s story sounded far-fetched. The man claimed that in the middle of his quadruple bypass heart surgery — during which he was fully anesthetized and his eyes were taped shut — he had “come to” and found that he was looking down at his own body and the doctors preparing to operate on it. He described the scene in detail, and he recalled that his surgeon had waved his elbows in the air as if he were mimicking a bird flapping its wings. Later, when asked about his patient’s peculiar account,…

Promising Covid-19 Vaccine concept. Hand of a researcher take a 2019-nCov vaccine vial with wooden alphabet letters

Consultant MD Shows, Amazon Markets COVID-19 Vax Misinformation

As a recent research study showed, while Amazon acts as a censor when it chooses, its basic algorithms would frustrate any real effort to deal with misinformation

Yesterday, we looked at the way Amazon can use its near-monopoly position (83% of the market) to prevent both the publication and distribution of books. It can, as we saw, pick sides in a controversy and tag material that was previously only controversial as “hate speech.” But anyone who thinks that this corporate power is wisely used may wish to consider hospital consultant M.D. Chuck Dinerstein’s comments on the algorithm Amazon uses to decide on the science value of material on the COVID-19 vaccine. Amazon markets information for profit. It does not act, like Twitter and Facebook, primarily as a platform or carrier. It’s algorithms are designed to sell the products. So Amazon keeps track of what you like, what…

Robotic man cyborg face representing artificial intelligence 3D rendering

Are We Facing the Next, Very Rapid Stage of Evolution, via AI?

Prof. Mark Alan Walker: “Person-engineering technologies will make it possible to accomplish in a matter of years what evolution would take thousands of millennia to achieve.”

These are certainly heady times in the biotech world. With the new mRNA vaccine being created in just a few days in January 2020, someone can mass produce DNA in their garage for the price of a hamburger, and Alpha Fold 2 can predict proteins from DNA with accuracy, rivalling wet lab results, it seems we are on the cusp of something extraordinary. Most viral infections will cease if all we need to do to roll out a new vaccine is sequence the virus genome and mass produce the portion that binds to human cells. On the darker side, it will also likely mean a greater threat of biowarfare. Creating a new virus may just be a matter of downloading…

Asian woman is wearing facial mask during virus epidemic

Was the WHO Investigation of COVID-19’s Origin Thwarted by China?

The World Health Organization team was not really allowed to conduct a proper investigation in China

On January 14, 2021, an international team from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Wuhan in Hubei province in China to investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. From the outset, the investigation was plagued with three issues: 1) It ‘s been a year since the outbreak in Wuhan, which makes an investigation into the origins of the outbreak difficult. 2) WHO has catered to the Chinese government since the beginning of the pandemic, and 3) the scientists involved in the investigation had to be approved by Beijing. Two of them had conflicts of interest. When the WHO team arrived, they faced additional barriers to a thorough investigation. They were quarantined for two weeks so they…

Glowing yellow implant inside human head. Uses: medical, alien, future tech where monitoring and transmission of  biotelemetry is involved.

Sci-Fi Saturday: Watch What You Wish For. There IS a Tomorrow!

Carl, a lonely guy, is determined to proceed through the warning and try the Luvsik procedure, to make him fall in love at first sight

“Luvsik” at DUST by Norman Bertolino (February 29, 2021,5:00) “A man has a medical procedure done to experience love for the first time.” This short short starts out with a parody promo video for an off-standard medical treatment. It’s just the sort of promo that should — but alas, often doesn’t — send prospective patients fleeing back to their cars, then the freeway. So we know that, if Carl is unfazed, he is pretty serious about finding love. It’s also a clever way of providing the science basis for the story. No spoilers but Carl, the guy who wants the brain implant to cause him to fall in love at first sight, is told that in every case where the…

girl is flying in her bed

Yes, We Can Communicate With People When They Are Dreaming

At one time, the idea of communicating with people while they were dreaming would have been regarded by most scientists as hokey New Age stuff. But now a research group has done it.

A research group surprised the science world by reporting: “We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication,” said senior author Ken Paller of Northwestern University. “We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers. “Most people might predict that this would not be possible — that people would either wake up when asked a question or fail to answer, and certainly not comprehend a question without misconstruing it.” Cell Press, “Real-time dialogue with a dreaming person is possible” at ScienceDaily (February 18, 2021) The paper is open access. There is no clear science explanation for why we dream. But one restriction on dreams…

Senior Care And Technology

Sophia the Robot Retooled to Help With Senior Care

Hanson Robotics sees a huge opportunity in the COVID lockdowns for a mass robot rollout that substitutes for human companionship

Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics is rolling out Sophia the Robot, to help people cope with loneliness during government-enforced isolation as a response to COVID-19. Brushing aside claims that human contact is preferred, firm’s principals see the lockdowns as creating new opportunities for the robotics industry. Founder and CEO David Hanson says, “Sophia and Hanson robots are unique by being so human-like. That can be so useful during these times where people are terribly lonely and socially isolated”: Social robotics professor Johan Hoorn, whose research has included work with Sophia, said that although the technology is still in relative infancy, the pandemic could accelerate a relationship between humans and robots. “I can infer the pandemic will actually help us get robots…

Closeup of ill blond senior woman sitting at home and taking oxygen from respirator while nurse with protective mask on sitting next to her and holding her hand during corona virus.

Explosive New Information About New York’s Mass COVID Deaths

In a video conference, perhaps accidentally, a health official blurted out the deadly policy and the reasoning behind it

In November, I wrote about the horrendous consequences of the official directive issued March 25, 2020 by senior New York State officials that required nursing homes to admit residents regardless of their COVID-19 status. In fact, the directive prohibited testing residents prior to admission: No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission. [underline in original]. The officials responsible are Governor Andrew Cuomo (pictured), Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Howard Zucker, and Deputy Commissioner Sally Dreslin. Despite public outrage and strong media criticism, their order…

Comb Jellyfish in the dark

Sci-Fi Saturday: We Have Met the Aliens and They Are Comb Jellies

The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined

Or something. Here’s “Seedling” at DUST, an Irish entry by Michael Donnelly V and Stevie Russell (October 22, 2020, 08:14 min) “Amidst a huge storm, a couple experience an encounter with an alien species.” The opening scene, showing a complete failure of technology (electricity, radio, telephone, car) and the resulting emotional collapse of the female lead, is a stark reminder of how dependent we are on technology today. A thousand years ago, no one would have noticed that anything was wrong, apart from a rather violent storm (which some might attribute to witchcraft, others to sin). The alien life form, when it appears, is very well imagined. It is not remotely what we might have expected (although there are life…

Newborn premature baby in the NICU intensive care

Do Babies Really Feel Pain Before They Are Self-Aware?

Michael Egnor discusses the fact that the thalamus, deep in the brain, creates pain. The cortex moderates it. Thus, juveniles may suffer more

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. At the heart of the issue is the conflict between those who believe that all human beings have a right to life and those who believe that children do not have a right to live before they are self-aware. In this segment, Egnor and Wells ask another question: whether a child can…