Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryHuman exceptionalism

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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 ›

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The face of a businessman and a robot opposite each other look into the eyes. Modern technologies, robot versus human, artificial intelligence, neural networks. 3D render, 3D illustration.

One Thing We Can Know About Computers: They Are Not Creative

Computer engineer Robert J. Marks explains that to David Krieger at the Power Hour

Recently, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks was a featured guest on David Krieger’s The Power Hour (KCXL in Liberty, Missouri, and KTRW in Spokane, Washington, September 22, 2022). Despite a short-lived religion based on the idea: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/09/Mind-Matters-205-Robert-J-Marks.mp3 Robert J. Marks: In fact, there are entire religions which are based on artificial intelligence. One of the most incredible ones is a guy named Anthony Levandowski, who founded an AI church. In the AI church, here’s some examples. We are told that someday we will be able to be uploaded to a computer, and we can be reborn into an eternal life of silicon. And so that’s kind of copying from the Christian church about immortal life. That’s the way Read More ›

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rhodesian ridgeback

Human Exceptionalism is a Central Theme for Novelist Dean Koontz

Bestselling author Dean Koontz talks fiction, human exceptionalism, and transhumanism with Wesley J. Smith in new podcast episode (Part II)

In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at Dean Koontz’s remarks on the purpose of art and the unique role of the novelist in today’s “everything is political” environment. But that’s not all he and Smith discussed on the Humanize Podcast on September 12th. Both had a lot to say about human exceptionalism, authoritarianism, and also…dogs! Koontz spoke about his love for the pups at the end of the episode, but first, discussed how the “animal rights” movement has gone wrong, and how a materialistic worldview can lead to despair.   Smith commented how human exceptionalism is a central theme in Koontz’s novels and asked the reason, to which Koontz responded, “There’s no civilization if we don’t recognize Read More ›

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Close up flying small lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros) hunting night moths insect pest catching in darkness via ultrasound echolocation. Dark background detail wildlife animal portrait.

There Really Is a “Batman” and He Isn’t in the Comics

Daniel Kish lost both eyes to cancer as a baby. With nothing to lose, he discovered human echolocation

Perhaps one should not really say that Daniel Kish “discovered” human echolocation. Yet, having no other options as a blind infant cancer survivor, he discovered early on — and began to publicize — a sense that few sighted persons would even think of: He calls his method FlashSonar or SonarVision. He elaborated for the BBC: Do people need to be blind to do it? Not necessarily: In 2021, a small study led by researchers at Durham University showed that blind and sighted people alike could learn to effectively use flash sonar in just 10 weeks, amounting to something like 40 to 60 hours of total training. By the end of it, some of them were even better at specific tests Read More ›

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Woman in bedroom terrified by big spider crawling over her bed

Should Spider Dreaming Really Give Us “Ethical Pause”?

The incidental discovery of REM sleep in spiders is morphing into vast claims that we have “urgent and inexorable ethical obligations” to them and other life forms

Anyone familiar with the current “animal consciousness” scene might have seen this one coming. At The Scientist, we learned earlier this month that animals dream, according to researcher David M. Peña-Guzmán. Recently, it was spiders that were found to dream. Therefore, it is now implied, human and animal consciousness do not differ very much: In When Animals Dream, I argue that the mere fact that animals dream poses a formidable challenge to that bastion of traditionalism that is the human-animal divide, raising provocative ethical questions about the status of animals as moral subjects toward whom we have urgent and inexorable ethical obligations. This fact also frustrates the common view that only humans are “cognitively free” because only we can liberate Read More ›

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Oak tree

Yes, Plants May Be Conscious Too, Says Researcher

Paco Calvo has authored many papers in respected journals; his view is another instance of panpsychism overtaking materialism in science

At one time, claims for animal consciousness and/or intelligence focused on, say, chimpanzees and dolphins, where the animals were enough like humans that what is meant by intelligence or consciousness was clear. Maybe not clear enough for a philosopher but clear enough for practical purposes. The octopus’s intelligence came as a bit of a surprise because it is an invertebrate. But these comparisons with mammals and birds showed that we were still talking about the same thing. We are now told in science publications that bees feel and think and that spiders dream. As science edges slowly toward panpsychism (all life forms participate in consciousness), we even learn — in science journals — that viruses are intelligent and cells are Read More ›

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Peek-a-boo bee close up

What Does It Mean To Say Bees “Feel and Think”?

The New Scientist reviewer is unsure that we are ready for such a radical message. Unsure? At one time, it would have been branded “NOT science!”

Behavioral ecologist Lars Chittka’s book, The Mind of a Bee (Princeton University Press, 2022), is a fascinating detailed description of bee behavior that will cure us of believing that the insect world is devoid of intelligence or sensation. Indeed, in a 2018 essay with Catherine Wilson, Chittka offers many research findings in a shorter format. It’s only in Chapter 11, toward the book’s end, that he makes a controversial claim: From the very start, early in evolution, nervous systems were inseparable from movable bodies with sensors, and developed in order to integrate perception and action. The challenges of survival and self-replication (reproduction) that a moving organism faces are most efficiently met when brain and body are intimately connected, enabling the Read More ›

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Three friendly happy playing dogs in summer park. German shepherd, american staffordshire terrier and french bulldog holding one stick. Different dog breeds have fun together.

Claim: We’ve Shown That Dogs Can Form “Abstract Concepts”

It’s a good idea to be skeptical when any such claim is followed up with the assertion that humans “aren’t that cognitively unique after all.”

University of Buffalo researchers reported recently on a study of three pet dogs known to them that they had taught to “ponder their past”: Dogs are capable of learning the instruction “do that again,” and can flexibly access memories of their own recent actions—cognitive abilities they were not known to possess, according to the results of a recent University at Buffalo study. “We found that dogs could be trained to repeat specific actions on cue, and then take what they’d learned and apply it to actions they had never been asked to repeat,” says Allison Scagel, Ph.D., the study’s corresponding author, who was a UB graduate student in the Department of Psychology at the time of the research. “Our findings Read More ›

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Organoids in petri dish .  Few distributed on growing medium. 3d illustration rendering

Lab-Grown Brains Are Closer Now. Should They Have Rights?

A new neuroscience research area raises as much concern as excitement: growing mini “human brains” in a lab. The excitement is the prospect of better understanding and treatment of dementia, autism, and motor neuron disease (ALS). The concern is that they will become sentient, capable of feeling. Then what? Starting in 2008, researchers learned that they could coax human stem cells to self-organize into “brainlike structures with electrically active neurons.” Although the cell clusters behave, to some extent, like human embryos, they are not human embryos but skin cells from an adult. That limits the ethical conflict in that the research does not depend on the abortion industry. But ethical issues crop up anyway as groups of cells become more Read More ›

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image on the wall of the cave painted by an ancient man. ancient world history. era, era.

Why Is Neanderthal Art Considered Controversial?

It makes sense that whenever humans started to wonder about life, we started to create art that helps us think about it.

Science writer Michael Marshall, author of The Genesis Quest (2020), tells us that many paleontologists resist the idea that early humans called Neanderthals created any artworks. They prefer to attributed all such works to groups that arrived on the scene later. The trouble is, the dates are often hard to determine and the reasoning is sometimes circular. As Marshall puts it, “People had assumed that they could tell the age of cave paintings by the style in which it was depicted,” says [Alistair] Pike. Ever since the first prehistoric art was found in the late 1800s, there has been a sense that art should evolve linearly: the oldest pieces should be extremely simple and abstract, with later ones becoming more Read More ›

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Joyful little girl smelling self made croissants with mom

The Nose Really Does Know, It Turns Out…

But we usually don’t notice. Our sense of smell may have declined in recent millennia but it is sharper than we think

Anthropologist Sarah Ives reflects on the experiences of people whose sense of smell fell victim to COVID-19: Melissa, a New York–based podcaster, realized how crucial scent is for safety when she lost her sense of smell. “I kept burning stuff on the stove,” she says. “I’ve sent rotten turkey to school with my kid. I have thought, What if I end up dying because I can’t smell something dangerous, like knowing whether you are going to burn the house down? I’ve literally almost done it three times. There are flames, and I’m just sitting in the other room.” Sarah Ives, “What the Anthropology of Smell Reveals About Humanity” at Sapiens (June 30, 2022) Anosmia, the loss of a sense of Read More ›

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Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers, Modern Telecommunications, Artificial Intelligence, Supercomputer Technology Concept.3d rendering,conceptual image.

Engineer: Failing To See His AI Program as a Person Is “Bigotry”

It’s not different, Lemoine implies, from the historical injustice of denying civil rights to human groups

Earlier this month, just in time for the release of Robert J. Marks’s book Non-Computable You, the story broke that, after investigation, Google dismissed a software engineer’s claim that the LaMDA AI chatbot really talked to him. Engineer Blake Lemoine, currently on leave, is now accusing Google of “bigotry” against the program. He has also accused Wired of misrepresenting the story. Wired reported that he had found an attorney for LaMDA but he claims that LaMDA itself asked him to find an attorney. He went on to say, I think every person is entitled to representation. And I’d like to highlight something. The entire argument that goes, “It sounds like a person but it’s not a real person” has been Read More ›