Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryNeuroscience

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Human Consciousness May Not Be Computable

One model of consciousness would mean that conscious computers are a physical impossibility
As long as computers simply get faster and use more memory, there is no reason to worry about a self-aware Skynet. Read More ›
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Yes, the Placebo Effect Is Real, Not a Trick

But the fact that the mind acts on the body troubles materialists. Such facts, they say, require revision
The fact that you may start to get better if you believe you are receiving treatment is one of the best-attested facts in medicine. Despite that, far from being accepted, this "placebo effect" is seen in many quarters as, at best, a “pesky thing” and at worst, a “trick,” if not a “fraud.” Perhaps that is due to a drive to reduce medical science to the purely physical. Read More ›
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Hamlet: Did his perplexing neurotransmitters cause the tragedy?

The neuroscientist working from a mechanical perspective would study the material and efficient causes of Hamlet’s act of revenge.
It is essential to note that the Aristotelian neuroscientist, while delving into the complexities of Shakespeare’s remarkable psychological portrayal of this tortured man, can also study Hamlet’s murder of Claudius in just the same way that the mechanistic neuroscientist can. But he doesn’t lose the plot. Read More ›
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Yes, your brain is a machine—if you choose to see it that way

As a Nobel Prize physicist pointed out, our method of study determines what we learn

Anil Seth, a Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, gave a TED talk recently (linked below) in which he asserted that “the combined activity of many billions of neurons—each one a tiny biological machine—is generating our conscious experience…” So, is your brain really a biological “machine”? Or is that just an analogy, like saying that a restaurant kitchen is a “hive” of activity? If so, how good is the analogy? Why do we select the analogy of a “machine” rather than a different one? It’s an important question, as we will see, because the questions we ask of nature constrain the answers we obtain. A machine is an artifact. It is a human-built assembly of Read More ›

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Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?

If we can be forced to want something, is the will still free?
The materialist interpretation of Reilly’s work is a misunderstanding of what the research actually shows. The stimulations did not evoke complex abstract intentions and acts—the patients didn’t reflexively decide to do integral calculus or donate to Amnesty International. Read More ›
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Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part II

In a word, no. Your brain doesn't "think"; YOU think, using your brain
The brain understands nothing, imagines nothing, sees nothing. It wills nothing. We understand, we imagine, we see, and we will, using our brains. Read More ›
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Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part I

A reply to computational neuroscientist Anil Seth's recent TED talk
His talk is a breathtaking compendium of fallacies on the mind and the brain. We can learn a lot from him—by understanding the errors into which he falls and the way out of those errors. Read More ›
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Do either machines—or brains—really learn?

A further response to Jeffrey Shallit: Actually, brains don’t learn either. Only minds learn.
Learning is an ability of human beings, considered as a whole, to acquire new knowledge, not an ability of human organs considered individually. Read More ›
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Inner peace: Is there software for that?

Tech billionaire funds neuroscience in a search for the secret of contentment
His approach to neuroscience is very different from that of the Dalai Lama, who facilitates neuroscience research to better understand contemplation as a path to inner peace. Chen’s focus is more on developing virtual reality. Read More ›
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Do big brains matter to human intelligence?

We don’t know. Brain research readily dissolves into confusion at that point
We also know very little about the human brain. Take this controversy about why the large human brain evolved... Read More ›
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The brain is not a “meat computer”

Dramatic recoveries from brain injury highlight the difference
The brain looks like a computer only if we analyze it as if it were a computer. Our analysis does not mean that it is a computer, and it does not mean that computation explains the mind or even that computational approaches to neuroscience provide genuinely meaningful insight into neurophysiology. Read More ›
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Boy loses large hunk of brain

And is “doing just fine”
When pundits talk glibly of creating artificial minds or claim that consciousness is an illusion, it might help to remember that few predicted cases like this could exist and few thought that high tech diagnostics would lead to their discovery. Read More ›
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How to hack your unconscious mind

Assuming it exists
Those who tell us that we can learn to use our unconscious mind and those who tell us that it doesn’t exist both claim to speak for science. But this is no ordinary dispute. An ordinary dispute might be something like What killed the dinosaurs? Imagine instead a dispute between scientists who do and scientists who do not believe that dinosaurs have ever existed. Read More ›
Dr. Michael Egnor, M.D.

Neurosurgeon outlines why machines can’t think

The hallmark of human thought is meaning, and the hallmark of computation is indifference to meaning.
A cornerstone of the development of artificial intelligence is the pervasive assumption that machines can, or will, think. Watson, a question-answering computer, beats the best Jeopardy players, and anyone who plays chess has had the humiliation of being beaten by a chess engine. Does this mean that computers can think as well as (or better than) humans think? Read More ›