Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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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A hand stretched out in front

Does “Alien Hand Syndrome” Show That We Don’t Really Have Free Will?

One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it?

Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.

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Circuit board. Electronic computer hardware technology. Motherboard digital chip. Tech science EDA background. Integrated communication processor. Information CPU engineering 3D background
Circuit board. Electronic computer hardware technology. Motherboard digital chip. Tech science EDA background. Integrated communication processor. Information CPU engineering 3D render background

The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part III

No program can discover new mathematical truths outside the limits of its code.

Not only is it valid to ask whether artificial intelligence is impossible but the argument can be pursued on a scientific basis with quantifiable, empirical evidence.

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blue digital binary data on computer screen
blue digital binary data on computer screen. Close-up shallow DOF

The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part II

There is another way to prove a negative besides exhaustively enumerating the possibilities

I am publishing, in three parts and with his permission, an exchange with Querius, who is looking for answers as to whether computers can someday think like people. In the first part, we discussed why human thinking cannot be indefinitely compressed. Here is the second part: Recapping for myself what I said in Part I and mulling it over: “If all symbol strings do have a shorter representation, then so must their shorter representations. Thus, we’d end up concluding that all symbol strings can be represented by nothing, which is incoherent.” Wait, I’m getting lost. “Therefore, we conclude that only some symbol strings have a compressed representation. As a consequence, compression intelligence is only true if the physical effects of Read More ›

Programming code abstract technology background of software deve

The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part I

A program that is intelligent must do more than reproduce human behavior

If an algorithm that reproduces human behavior requires more storage space than exists in the universe, it is a practical impossibility that also demonstrates the logical impossibility of artificial intelligence.

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Creativity Does Not Follow Computational Rules

A philosopher muses on why machines are not creative

He worries about something quite different from the usual robots-are-coming scare: “It is entirely possible that we will come to treat artificially intelligent machines as so vastly superior to us that we will naturally attribute creativity to them. Should that happen, it will not be because machines have outstripped us. It will be because we will have denigrated ourselves.”

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Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools
Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools

Scientism is not a cure for stupidity

But never mind, quite a few science savants have rushed in fearlessly

A science writer tackled a big issue recently: stupidity. Who does he ask? Why, scientists of course. Surprisingly enough, it’s a question few scientists have grappled with, perhaps out of a desire not to wade into a subject that could so easily offend. After all, the field of intelligence studies is rife with controversy. Ross Pomeroy “What is Stupidity?” at Real Clear Science But never mind, quite a few science savants, unafraid to offend, have rushed in: Evolutionary biologist David Krakauer, President of the Santa Fe Institute,told Nautilus, “Stupidity is using a rule where adding more data doesn’t improve your chances of getting [a problem] right. In fact, it makes it more likely you’ll get it wrong.” I won’t contradict Read More ›

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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An array of symbols from the National Archives, Hämeenlinna, Finland

Artificial Intelligence Must Be Possible! Really…?

Many arguments for strong artificial intelligence depend on an ideological commitment to explicit, unproven theories about the universe

Not only is it valid to ask whether artificial intelligence is impossible but the argument can be pursued on a scientific basis with quantifiable, empirical evidence.

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Water droplet on glossy surface of freshness orange and red apple
Apples and oranges in shadows

Why I Doubt That AI Can Match the Human Mind

Computers are exclusively theorem generators, while humans appear to be axiom generators

My primary reason for doubting that AI can match human intelligence is that the difference between mind and machine is a difference of kind, not of quantity. Understanding the distinction will help us exploit the abilities of each to their maximum potential.

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Pinball chute

How Can Mere Products of Nature Have Free Will?

Materialists don’t like the outcome of their philosophy but twisting logic won’t change it

Although most compatibilists have a more or less materialist view of nature, they find it impossible to shake the conviction that free will is real.

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Woman's hands typing on a pastel pink keyboard
Woman's hands typing on a pastel pink keyboard of retro laptop. Work and technology.

Could Your Computer Be Transgender?

A shift in basic philosophy can account for the new dogma that biological sex is a matter of culture and choice
Nominalism is a philosophical dead end that does not reflect underlying reality. But it has permeated our culture. We are told that there are no categories; everything is infinitely plastic. Read More ›
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Yelling and screaming amidst colorful powder in the air

How the Internet Turns Coffee Klatches into Mobs

A philosopher sheds light on how the Covington high school kids became America's Most Hated
The chaos and violence rising in our own country and around the world get much of their fuel from the obscurity and contagion of the internet, which is kerosene sprayed on the sparks tossed up by civilization. If we are to survive this conflagration, we must understand how these fires grow. Read More ›
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Sparkler between two hands

The Creative Spark

An information theory justification for the intrinsic value of human beings
Because creativity is unique to humans and irreducible, all human beings have the ability in principle. The fact that a particular human being’s creativity is not in use or is perhaps unusable at present does not mean that that person does not have the ability. Consequently, all humans have at least latent intrinsic instrumental value. Read More ›
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Hoodie with smoke in front of face

Has Science Shown That Consciousness Is Only an Illusion?

Using clever analogies, Philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that consciousness is all smoke and mirrors
British philosopher Papineau recommends taking Dennett’s theories “with a pinch of salt.” American essayist David Bentley Hart is less charitable: “Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness” Read More ›
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A pile of photographic memories with a pancake photo

How Can Consciousness Be a Material Thing?

Maybe it can’t. But materialist philosophers face starkly limited choices in how to view consciousness
In analytical philosopher Galen Strawson’s opinion, our childhood memories of pancakes on Saturday, for example, are—and must be—"wholly physical." Read More ›
Digital computer brain 3D render floating in right profile view with numerical information background illustrating the concepts of Big Data and artificial intelligence

Consciousness Studies Is a “Bizarre” Field of Science

The question of whether machines can be conscious is bound up with attempts to study immaterial things while denying their existence
The person who is trying to build consciousness into a machine has only a human model so he is trying to build a little human into the machine. He cannot do so but he can try to make himself and others believe that he has done it. Read More ›
Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes
Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes

In One Sense, Consciousness IS an Illusion…

We have no knowledge of the processes of our consciousness, only of the objects of its attention, whether they are physical, emotional, or abstract
When we think, we think about reality, not about the neurological processes by which we connect to reality. It is by keeping this understanding clearly in mind that we escape the solipsism that bedevils modern neuroscience. Read More ›