Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryInformation Theory

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Is Your Mind Bigger Than the Universe? Well, Look At It This Way…

Surprisingly, there is a way to measure the mind that shows it IS bigger than the universe — information

Imagine you’re sitting at home, relaxing in your favorite easy chair. Go on, kick your legs up. Feel your limbs releasing the stress of the day, starting from the extremities, and progressing up your core to your head. Now, let your mind expand. Let go of what is holding your mind down. Feel it become free, outside of everything around it. Let the feeling continue until your mind is bigger than the universe. Now consider the question: if your mind is bigger than the universe, can it be within the universe? If a ball is bigger than a bag, can it be contained by the bag? Of course not. If the mind is bigger than the universe, then it must Read More ›

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William Dembski: When Is Transhumanism a Form of Technobigotry?

In his further essays in the current series, he explains why AI cannot avoid collapse without the input of novel information from humans

Recently, design theorist William Dembski wrote a long essay on artificial general intelligence at his site, billdembski.com, The article is also available as a series of shorter pieces at Evolution News. Last week, we offered some highlights here. Here are highlights from two segments published since then: First, is Dembski being too hard on transhumanist inventor Ray Kurzweil? He wonders about that but then in “Artificial General Intelligence: Machines vs. Organisms,” he says, Kurzweil is a technophile in that he regards building and inventing technology, and above all machines, as the greatest thing humans do. But he’s also a technobigot in that he regards people of the past, who operated with minimal technology, as vastly inferior and less intelligent than Read More ›

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How Life Differs From Matter: It Intentionally Uses Information

Astrophysicist Adam Frank asks an interestng question at Big Think: Does biology move more information per second than technology? Life, he says, is fundamentally different from matter and energy in that it intentionally uses information: … what makes life special — what makes it different from all the other physical systems — is its ability to use information. Stars, for example, can be described in terms of information but it doesn’t make much sense to think of them as using that information. By “use,” I mean deliberately storing, copying, transferring, and processing information toward some end. Adam Frank, “Biology or technology: Which moves more information per second?” Big Think, January 19, 2024 That’s part of what makes the origin of Read More ›

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What Is Google’s Real Business?

Bill Dembski is best known to many of us as an information theorist but recently he has been looking at the question of what big tech companies are doing with our information. That includes a look at the search engines we use to find information. He notes, Google advertises itself as in the business of search. But it is not, except as by-product of its main business. To make its search work, Google has to ingest the entire web, or at least as much of it as it can access. Any information it can access, it can consume. Google is an information feeder. Its incentive is not to help users find the creators of content but to be a one-stop Read More ›

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Can Money Be Pure Information? Merely a Trusted Idea?

A group of pragmatic Pacific Islanders put that concept to the test centuries ago

The villagers of the island of Yap developed a unique currency system that has worked for centuries that provides insight into the way in which money is, first and foremost, a collective idea, not a thing. Yap is one of the Yap Islands, part of the Federated States of Micronesia. For many centuries, Yapese had been in the habit of traveling to another island, Palau, some hundreds of miles distant, where they milled huge limestone chunks into discs with a hole in the centre. Originally, the stones (rai) may have been ceremonial objects or ornaments of value. But at some point, a decision was made to use them as a form of currency. The currency, isolated from others, operates in Read More ›

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Directed Goals in Living and Evolving Systems

Nearly every action that an organism does is for something.

Teleology is the technical term for goal-directedness, especially when describing living systems. Teleology has been problematic in the sciences because of the amount of hand-waving that teleology has historically allowed. From the outside, it is difficult to tell if something happened because it was intended or if it just happened to be beneficial. Determining the precise goal can be problematic, even if an action is goal-directed. It is easy to construct a story about why an organism does an action, but how do we ascertain whether this story is true? When are attributions of teleology science, and when does it degenerate to mere invention? Additionally, the lack of ability to measure goal-directedness has often placed teleology in the realm of storytelling instead of science. Read More ›

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Can Information Be Separated From Intelligence? Part 3

Theoretical biologist Barbieri’s practical dilemma is that a popular, dominant idea like “life is just chemistry” need not be proved, only insisted on
Fundamentally, Barbieri wants a new information-friendly paradigm without dispensing with the old no-information one. But no one can ride two horses at once. Read More ›
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Can Information Be Separated From Intelligence? Part 2

Theoretical biologist Marcello Barbieri envisions life’s origin in terms that only make sense if we assume life is the work of an intelligent agent
Although Barbieri depicts the origin of life as the production of “artefacts,” he certainly does not see himself as an intelligent design theorist. Read More ›
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Can Information Be Separated From Intelligence? Part 1

Theoretical biologist Marcello Barbieri finds that many biologists see information in life forms — biological information — as something that “does not really belong to science.”

In 2016, University of Ferrara theoretical biologist Marcello Barbieri wrote a rather interesting open access paper on a key philosophical conflict in biology: Is life only chemistry or is it chemistry plus information? In it, he says that many biologists see information in life forms — biological information — as something that “does not really belong to science.” How did they get there from here? Author of Code Biology: A New Science of Life (Springer, 2015), Barbieri offers a history, a critique, and a proposed solution. In this three-part series, I will look at all three elements. First, the history. Molecular biology understands genes as transferring linear sequences of information to proteins that carry out instructions. That’s information as it Read More ›

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The Role of Information Theory in Medicine

Jay Richards interviews Matt Scholz, Founder & CEO of Oisín Biotechnologies about the challenges and promises of the information theory of biotech

Jay Richards interviews Matt Scholz, Founder & CEO of Oisín Biotechnologies about the challenges and promises of the information theory of biotech. Besides the regulatory environment, Scholz believes that one of the biggest impediments to breakthroughs in medicine is the ability to empower the patient. Strangely, the one person who has no say in healthcare is the patient who ought to be “the arbiter of what goes into their body and not just be subject to the whims of the system.” Matthew Scholz is Immusoft’s founder and served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer from 2009 through 2017. Immusoft’s inflection point as a company came when Matthew conceived how a research system developed by Nobel Laureate and former President of Read More ›

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Minecraft: A World of Information

The world's bestselling video game captures the insight that information is created and consumed by human minds

What if I told you intelligent design theory is responsible for the most successful computer game of all time? This game is Minecraft. It has sold over 238 million copies, the highest selling game of all time.  What makes the game even more extraordinary is it was created entirely by one man, Markus Persson, over a weekend, who then later sold the game to Microsoft for $2.5 billion dollars. Hard to make this sort of thing up. How does Minecraft work? You can think of Minecraft like a computer game form of Legos, the popular building block toy, with added monsters.  You are dropped into an algorithmically generated world where you have to discover resources, find food, and build structures to survive the Read More ›

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Why We Should Not Trust Chatbots As Sources of Information

A linguist and an information theorist say that chatbots lack any awareness of the information they provide — and that matters

Linguist Emily M. Bender and information theorist Chirag Shah, both of the University of Washington, have a message for those who think that the chatbot they are talking to is morphing into a real person: No. Not only that but there are good reasons to be very cautious about trusting chatbots as sources of information, all the more so because they sound so natural and friendly. First, decades of science fiction, the authors point out, have taught us to expect computer scientists to develop a machine like that: However, we must not mistake a convenient plot device — a means to ensure that characters always have the information the writer needs them to have — for a roadmap to how Read More ›

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Science Isn’t Even Possible Apart From Non-Material Consciousness

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder tries hard to argue against that conclusion but things do not go well…

A couple of days ago, we were looking at the way theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder grapples with the way quantum mechanics has undermined materialism. Whether and how we choose to measure something has a big impact, which makes consciousness very difficult to just explain away. Here is her most helpful video on the topic (all the more helpful, one might say, because she is so clearly unhappy with the outcome!): “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022) Nobelist Eugene Wigner (1902–1995) was one of the physicists who explored the problem. Hossenfelder points to his famous “Wigner’s friend experiment.” (3:01). Here is an illustration from a different source: Essentially, as Wigner pointed out in 1961, a basic building block of Read More ›


Is Information the Future of Medicine and Biology?

University of Washington’s Georg Seelig wants to “design molecules” and “write genetic information”

At a Thursday afternoon panel at COSM 2022, pioneers in biology had a chance to talk to the public about the code that is written into our genomes. First up was Georg Seelig, a Swiss synthetic biologist and researcher at the Paul Allen School of Computer Science at the University of Washington (UW). He described his bioengineering research as aiming to learn “to read and write the language of the genome,” which is a “sort of a code” written in a “language.” Popular wisdom might hold that we have fully deciphered this language — and Seelig acknowledges that “over the last few decades, we’ve really learned a lot about the syntax of this language.” But he explains there’s still much Read More ›

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Bacterial Growth Patterns Can Spell Out Our Inmost Thoughts

Crazy? No. Researchers reduced them to an alphabet and you can test it for yourself

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have created an encoder/decoder using bacterial growth patterns. Because such growth patterns tend to be regular, they can be reduced to an encoding scheme they call “emorfi”: The encoding is not one-to-one, as the final simulated pattern corresponding to each letter is not exactly the same every time. However, the researchers discovered that a machine learning program could learn to distinguish between them to recognize the letter intended. Ken Kingery, Duke University, “An AI message decoder based on bacterial growth patterns” at Phys.org (September 23, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription. Go here to see how it works and test it yourself. We tried it with “Bacterial growth patterns can spell out your Read More ›

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Is Information Physical? It Depends On What You Mean by Physical…

Information makes things happen but, curiously, it erases its own history

University of Pittsburgh physics prof David Snoke has thought a lot about the relationship between information and physical reality. For example, why does a zip drive full of critical information — that will cause many changes when people read it — weigh only as much as an empty one? Here’s an excerpt from a lecture he gave (podcast) in 2015 on whether information is physical. Although the talk was intended for a group of scientists, it is lay-friendly and enjoyable: People say, “Well, information is not a real thing,” or “It’s only between humans” or something like that. That’s not the way physicists typically talk. So I want to connect you to some of the work that’s been done over Read More ›

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The Battle Over the Human Mind Split Two Great Thinkers

Charles Darwin opted for a materialist model; his co-theorist Alfred Russel Wallace insisted that the mind was not just the brain

Charles Darwin (1809–1882) and Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–2013) share the credit, technically, for the theory of evolution by natural selection but Darwin became the icon. One reason they parted ways was that Wallace did not agree with Darwin that the human mind was simply an organ that evolved naturally, like any other. There had to be something more to it. Philosopher Neil Thomas explains: In his older years Wallace came to reject natural selection as an explanation for the unfurling of all human and even animal life. By then he had transitioned towards the espousal of a form of natural theology; but his initial and gravest misgiving in the 1860s was focused four-square on the mystery of how the human Read More ›

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Economist Faces Painful Truths About COVID-19 Information Dump

Jeffrey A. Tucker admits he was wrong to think that just giving people more information would reduce panic — or that Big Tech was a force for human freedom

Economist Jeffrey A. Tucker, president of the Brownstone Institute, shares some thoughts about what he learned about the spread and management of information from the response to COVID-19. Two things he learned are especially worth noting. At one time, Tucker, who describes himself as a “Victorian Whig” (an old-fashioned liberal), believed that merely giving people access to more accurate information would improve our response to crises. He had good reason to believe that: Historically, dictators like Stalin, Hitler, or Xi have restricted access to information in order to keep the public easy to control. So what happened when, in the Western world, the internet opened the dam? The speed and abundance of information actually amplified error. At the height of Read More ›

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Gambling: WHY the House Always Wins in the Long Run…

The casinos are not cheating. They rely on the Law of Large Numbers, part of the mathematical structure underlying our universe

In this week’s podcast, “The house always wins in the long run” (June 2, 2022), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews mathematician, computer scientist, and engineer Salvador Cordova on a subject on which he has strong views: gambling. Marks tells us, “I teach a graduate course on probability and stochastic processes. There I teach the stupidity of casino gambling. In statistics, there’s a theorem called the Law of Large Numbers. It teaches that you can’t win in the long run at casino games. Period. The law of large numbers is a mathematical truth. It’s a law as serious as the law of gravity. It’s why casinos always get rich and the gambler always gets poor. There is a Read More ›

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Information Theory: Evolution as the Transfer of Information

Information follows different rules from matter and energy, which might change the way we see evolution

One reason that the theory of evolution is controversial is the claim that sheer randomness produces information. That is, randomly generated events are somehow selected for survival and continuing complex development (Darwinian evolution). The theory is understandably popular because, if correct, it would answer a great many questions. The problem is, we do not see randomly generated events producing complex mechanisms in the life around us. We are asked, however, to believe that this modern synthesis (MS) is true over the grand sweep of evolutionary time. Over the years, it has become evident that evolution happens in a number of ways. including horizontal gene transfer between unrelated species, epigenetic inheritance of genes that changed during our parents’ lifetimes, and convergent Read More ›