Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryNatural Intelligence

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Colorful Parrot

Can genes predict which birds can learn to talk?

A recent study disappointed researchers, who really hoped to learn why humans use language
Parrots, it was found, have some unique, parrot-specific genes, whose origin is currently unknown, genes that may help them learn to mimic human sounds as well as bird calls. Read More ›
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If Computers Thought Like Fruit Flies, They Could Do More

But even with more sophisticated buzz, there remain "non-computable" things that a computer cannot be programmed to think

Recently, researchers discovered that fruit flies use a filter similar to a computer algorithm to assess the odors that help them find fruit, only the flies’ tools are more sophisticated: When a fly smells an odor, the fly needs to quickly figure out if it has smelled the odor before, to determine if the odor is new and something it should pay attention to,” says Saket Navlakha, an assistant professor in Salk’s Integrative Biology Laboratory. “In computer science, this is an important task called novelty detection. Computers use a Bloom filter for that, Navlakha, an integrative biologist, explains: When a search engine such as Google crawls the Web, it needs to know whether a website it comes across has previously Read More ›

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How is Human Language Different from Animal Signals?

What do we need from language that we cannot get from signals alone?
Language, which is the rule-based use of abstract designators, is essential for abstract thought because only designators can point to things that have no concrete physical existence. Only human beings think abstractly, and language is what makes abstract thought possible. Read More ›
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Potted plants from above

That Plant Is Not a Cyborg

Or a robot. The MIT researcher's underlying idea is a good one but let’s not “plant” mistaken ideas
If plants could move around freely, they would move into the most beneficial lighting arrangement. They compensate for their rootedness by growing in the optimum direction and constantly repositioning their leaves. An MIT researcher has helped out a plant by fitting it with electronic sensors attached to robotic wheels. Read More ›
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Insider's Guidebook from the

Stephen Hawking and the AI Apocalypse

Can doomsday headlines, chasing fame, stand in for deep knowledge of a subject?
One thing a celebrity pundit can usually count on is an audience of media professionals who haven’t considered the problems carefully either and don’t want to. It is much easier and more profitable to market Doomsday than Levin’s Law. As always, the fact that laws governing the universe will eventually triumph is true but not news.   Read More ›
Dog Sleeping after Studying

Dogs Are Not as Intelligent as Seals?

That doesn't sound right to you? Putting aside the hoopla around IQ tests for furries and flipperies, there is a serious science question about what “intelligence” really is
Dog lovers may be surprised (and displeased!) by a recent study of animal intelligence that dismisses the intelligence of dogs, compared to that of marine mammals Read More ›
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Leaves of a maple tree

Can Plants Be as Smart as Animals?

Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain
None of the plants' extensive "social life" requires reason, emotion, value systems, mind, consciousness, or a sense of self. It requires only that the plant, like an animal, seek to continue its highly organized existence. But plants' ability to process information for that purpose gives pause for thought.   Read More ›
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Can the Air Force Create Thinking Planes?

Smart drones? They are working on general artificial intelligence (GAI)
Eric Holloway: The likely way this will turn out is they'll realize human-in-the-loop is unavoidable for any useful system, so it'll spin off into something like the existing field of human computation. Read More ›
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How the KGB Found CIA Agents

An illustration of complex, specified information (CSI) in the world of foreign intelligence agencies
The concept, which has been controversial with respect to the universe as a whole, can be conveniently illustrated on a smaller scale in the events of our time. Consider the case of the phantom Soviet moles. Read More ›
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A green lizard eyeing the camera

Yes, Even Lizards Can Be Smart

If you catch them at the right time. But can we give machines what the lizard has by nature?
What is it that we want machines to be and do under our guidance that these—often seemingly strange—life forms are and do spontaneously? The life forms do those things to stay alive. Does it matter then that machines are not alive? Read More ›
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Crows Can Be as Smart as Apes

But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn't seem to reside in the details of the mechanism
Studying animals' intelligence has taught us many things. But in some ways, it has deepened the mystery of intelligence. Read More ›
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The “superintelligent AI myth”

The problem that even the skeptical Deep Learning researcher left out
I largely agree with what François Chollet said last year as to why there will be no explosion of general artificial intelligence. But when he challenged the fear of an AI-driven “intelligence explosion,” he, perhaps unwittingly, said more than he meant. Read More ›
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Brains are not billions of little computers

Despite the hype. Also, life forms are not machines and neurons are not neural networks
Life forms exist in a dance with their environment (homeostasis) that requires constant adjustment, an adjustment generated by the inner drive to continue in existence. How does the drive come to be there? The analogy between life forms and machines like computers is not particularly convincing, on close examination. Read More ›
Female Cyborg Robot - 3D render of a futuristic robot conveying artificial intelligence, work and production automation in the digital age

Software pioneer says general superhuman artificial intelligence is very unlikely

The concept, he argues, shows a lack of understanding of the nature of intelligence
François Chollet, author of Keras, for the Python deep learning language, cites the No Free Lunch theorem as one of the reasons. Read More ›
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Meet the everyday people behind AI

Not famous, not lone geniuses, usually not even well-paid. Without them, ambitious systems would gather dust.
Although you probably haven’t heard much about the 26-year-old single mother in the hi-tech news, Brenda is one of the intelligences behind artificial intelligence. For $9 a day, Brenda, who lives in the slum district Kibera in Nairobi, along with a thousand co-workers helps code information for self-driving cars for San Francisco-based Samasource (founded 2008). Read More ›
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Human intelligence as a halting oracle

Jonathan Bartlett proposes to model the human mind as a halting oracle.
A common objection to Bartlett’s idea is that humans cannot be halting oracles because we embed any unsolvable math problem as the halting condition for a loop and a human cannot tell us whether the loop will halt or not. This objection misses the fact that there is a range of oracles between plain Turing machines and a complete halting oracle. Read More ›
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Does information theory support design in nature?

William Dembski makes a convincing case, using accepted information theory principles relevant to computer science
Intelligent design theory is sometimes said to lack any practical application. One straightforward application is that, because intelligence can create information and computation cannot, human interaction will improve computational performance. Read More ›
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George Gilder explains what’s wrong with “Google Marxism”

In discussion with Mark Levin, host of Life, Liberty & Levin
Gilder: Marx’s great error, his real mistake, was to imagine that the industrial revolution of the 19th century, all those railways and “dark, satanic mills” and factories and turbine and the beginning of electricity represented the final human achievement in productivity so in the future what would matter is not the creation of wealth but the redistribution of wealth. Read More ›
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Do we just imagine design in nature?

Or is seeing design fundamental to discovering and using nature’s secrets?
Michael Egnor reflects on the way in which the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has so often gone to those who intuit or impose desire or seek the purpose of things. 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 ›