Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryNatural Intelligence

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Astonishing Windup Robots Still Work, Centuries Later

New science discoveries prompted our ancestors to ask, how much can we make them do?

Eighteenth-century Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721–1790) is remembered today for his workshop's “humanoid automata” or robots, the Draftsman, the Musician, and the Writer.

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Why AI Can’t Win Wars As If Wars Were Chess Games

Is Vladimir Putin right? Will whoever leads in AI rule the world? It’s not so simple

Whichever country becomes a leader in the sphere of AI and IA will do well. But whichever countries end up following, mindlessly, the advice of these tools will do so at their own great peril.

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Does Social Ability Distinguish Human Intelligence from That of Apes?

Not altogether, of course, but it plays a bigger role than we sometimes assume

In Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny, professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Michael Tomasello tries to understand, from his two decades of research, what makes humans unique. He says that it is not intelligence as such but social intelligence, our “ultra social ability”: One of our most important studies was a huge study we did with over 100 human children and over 100 chimpanzees. We gave them a big battery of tests – a big IQ test if you will. It covered understanding of space, causality, quantities, as well as social learning, communication, reading the intentions of others. We found that 2-year-old children – before they can read or do anything mathematical – look just like the apes on physical Read More ›

Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.
Ancient symbols texture, Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.

The Origin of Language Remains Obscure

One problem is that information is not measured in science in a way that relates to matter and energy.

Human language is much more than a system of signals. And two recent articles in Inference Review provide insight into some of its ongoing puzzles in the huge unmapped territory of the interaction between the mind and the brain.

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Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) in bloom

Researchers: Yes, Plants Have Nervous Systems Too

Not only that but, like mammals, they use glutamate to speed transmission

Nature is so full of information whose origin we cannot really account for under currently acceptable hypotheses but nothing prevents us from using it to our advantage in the meantime.

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Study: Cats Do Recognize Their Names

They recognize them as signals but not as abstractions

It’s a sobering fact that the war on human exceptionalism makes nonsense of our ability to understand animals. If we start with the fact that a cat cannot understand abstractions like “my name” because he is not a reasoning creature, we can intuit that most cats can learn human sounds that make a difference to them anyway.

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STEM Education 8: Help Create Creativity

Creativity diminishes with age, in part because we dig ourselves into ruts that limit our field of view.

An aging STEM nerd digs more and deeper ruts and creative thinking becomes more and more difficult. For this reason, I remain tolerant of graduate students with new and seemingly wacky ideas.

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Colorful bluestreak cleaner wrasse on black background.
A bluestreak cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, on a black background. This small colorful fish can be found on coral reefs Africa, Red Sea and Polynesia

Did a fish just show self-awareness?

What if the whole question is founded on a mistake about the nature of the mirror test?

Overall, it’s a curious outcome for the mirror test. Those who felt reassured by close kinship with chimpanzees reacted quite differently when offered close kinship with fish.

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Silhouette of a female as training her dog - website banner

The Real Reason Why Only Human Beings Speak

Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly

In his discussion of why only humans have language, science writer Tom Siegfried gets a lot right, but he misses the crucial reason.

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Researchers Identify a New Form of Brain Communication

Mouse studies find brain waves that can bypass synapses and gaps, even communicate with severed nerves

Such surprising new findings show that comparisons between a human brain and a computer greatly underestimate the complexity of the brain.

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Conceptual illustration of neuron cells with glowing link knots in abstract dark space, high resolution 3D illustration

Even the axons in our nerve cells are “smart PCs”

Your brain is not a computer, it is billions of them

Contrary to expectations, researchers say, far-flung regions (thousands of cell body widths from their nucleus) can even make independent decisions.

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3D technology background with code over male head
3D render of a technology background with code over male head

The Brain Exceeds the Most Powerful Computers in Efficiency

Human thinking takes vastly less computational effort to arrive at the same conclusions.
All of the tasks that AI accomplishes require a certain amount of memory, computational power, and time. We have a good enough understanding of the human brain to measure the same quantities used for the same tasks. Thus, we can measure the difference between what minds and machines require to solve the same problem. Read More ›
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It Takes a Smart Robot to Mimic a Reptile

When researchers built a robot to sprawl like a prehistoric reptile, they were in for a surprise
Orobates’ skeleton was “exquisitely preserved,” which created an excellent opportunity for researchers in paleontology to try to figure out how the lizard-like animal moved. And reverse engineering its movements can tell us a lot about how it lived. Read More ›
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.
Amoebae move and feed by using pseudopods, which are bulges of cytoplasm formed by the coordinated action of actin microfilaments pushing out the plasma membrane that surrounds the cell.

Is an Amoeba Smarter Than Your Computer?

Hype aside, the microbe’s math skills ace the Traveling Salesman problem and may help with cybersecurity
When we hear hype about machines that will soon out-think people, we might put it in perspective by recalling that we still struggle to build a machine that can out-think amoebas looking for crumbs. Read More ›
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Afraid man in tinfoil helmet watches TV, paranoia concept. UFO, conspiracy theory, brain theft protection, phobia

3: With Mind-Reading AI, You Will Never Have Secrets Again!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Did you read about the flap they had to cut out of a volunteer’s skull?

The Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s second largest circulation daily. A headline from the webpage screams: No more secrets! New mind-reading machine can translate your thoughts and display them as text INSTANTLY! Not a lot of nuance there. The story continues on a tidal wave of hyperbole, • Researchers say they have developed a machine that can translate our thoughts •  The astonishing machine will analyse what you are thinking and display it as text ending with a charitable hope: •  Scientists hope that the machine can be used by people who are unable to speak The reality is that AI can read your mind for a few words repeated often if you have a flap cut out of your skull and Read More ›