Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryNatural Intelligence

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Boy with glasses looking through blue fence

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
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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Plasma Ball

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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Neurons cells concept
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 ›
Afraid man in tinfoil helmet watches TV
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 ›

Chess game business strategy concept
Chess game business strategy concept

Can Big Data Beat the Humans Who Compile It?

A computer pioneer bets no: Human intelligence augmented by artificial intelligence will always beat artificial intelligence alone. Is he right?
The bottom line is that Brooks’ Bet and his IA>AI inequality principle is a good reality check in the face of fears and hype about what AI will do in the future. Read More ›
The truck runs on the highway.
The truck runs on the highway with speed. 3d render and illustration.

8: AI Just Needs a Bigger Truck!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Can we create superintelligent computers just by adding more computing power?
Some think computers could greatly exceed human intelligence if only we added more computing power. That reminds me of an old story… Read More ›
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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.  

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