Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

human head chakra powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn
human head powerful inspiration tree abstract thinking inside your mind watercolor painting illustration hand drawn

Sabine Hossenfelder, Taking on Consciousness, Tackles Panpsychism

She wants to apologize to all carrots who are watching her video — but carrots are not watching and that’s the point

Recently, I’ve been looking ( here and here) at theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder’s argument that quantum mechanics does not show that consciousness is essential for understanding the universe. The topic has become very interesting because of the growth of panpsychism in science — which Hossenfelder references in the video. Panpsychism is the belief that all of nature participates in some way in consciousness but that it is most highly developed in humans. Many prefer it to materialism because the panpsychist does not need to show that human consciousness is some kind of illusion that we evolved to believe in (?). It is part of the normal functioning of the universe even if we don’t understand how it works. To see Read More ›

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3D illustration of Interconnected neurons with electrical pulses.

Science Isn’t Even Possible Apart From Non-Material Consciousness

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder tries hard to argue against that conclusion but things do not go well…

A couple of days ago, we were looking at the way theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder grapples with the way quantum mechanics has undermined materialism. Whether and how we choose to measure something has a big impact, which makers consciousness very difficult to just explain away. Here is her most helpful video on the topic (all the more helpful, one might say, because she is so clearly unhappy with the outcome!): “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022) Nobelist Eugene Wigner (1902–1995) was one of the physicists who explored the problem. Hossenfelder points to his famous “Wigner’s friend experiment.” (3:01). Here is an illustration from a different source: Essentially, as Wigner pointed out in 1961, a basic building block of Read More ›

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Quantum Physics Axed Materialism. Many Hope the World Won’t Know

Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles to explain how quantum mechanics is consistent with materialism

Quantum mechanics, which developed in the early twentieth century, has been a serious blow to materialism. There is no way to make sense of it if immaterial entities like information, observation, or the mind are not real. Theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder struggles against the effects of this fact. In a recent video, she asks, “Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Effects?” (November 19, 2022) She asks, why did some physicists like von Neumann and Wigner think that consciousness is necessary to make sense of quantum mechanics, and can consciousness influence the outcome of a quantum experiment? (0:33) Well, they had good reason. Any effort to exclude consciousness from reality fails. Hossenfelder, a hostile witness, kindly offers an example from the work of Read More ›

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Mouse Cursor Clicking CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA: How Fooling Machines Is Different From Fooling Humans

Automated censorship is intended to protect against a tidal wave of spam but it could certainly have other uses…

Readers of Mind Matters News have likely heard of the iconic Turing test. Computer pioneer Alan Turing famously invented a test to determine whether a program could pass as a human. The gist is, if a program can fool human testers into believing it is a human, then the program is intelligent. Not everyone is convinced. Thing is, it doesn’t take much to fool us humans! Take Eliza , a program of only a few hundred lines, written in the 60s, which fooled many people into believing it was a real human therapist. But what if we flip the Turing test on its head? Instead of a test where a program tries to pass as human, we use a test Read More ›

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Evil robot, glowing lights, shiny metalic parts

So, Can a Computer Really Be Irrational?

Computer prof Robert J. Marks tells Wesley J. Smith: No, and here’s why … from his experience

In a recent episode at Mind Matters News podcasting, “Can a computer be a person?” (November 10, 2022), Robert J. Marks and Wesley J. Smith discussed that in connection with Marks’s new book, Non-Computable You: https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/11/Mind-Matters-212-Robert-Marks.mp3 Some excerpts: Wesley J. Smith: Let me ask the question in a different way. Can an AI ever be irrational? Robert J. Marks: Yes. Irrational in the sense of being irrational from the point of an observer. A classic example, and this happened a number of years ago, was that the Soviets during the Cold War developed a high technology to decide whether the US was being attacked by… I’m sorry, whether the Soviet Union was being attacked by the United States. And so Read More ›

brain like tree
Tree with no leaves shapes like human brain as illustration

Evolution of Human Consciousness SOLVED! — Yet Again, It Seems…

What does the term “evolution” contribute to the discussion of the origin of human consciousness?

At Psychology Today, we read a bold and simple claim about the evolution of consciousness: “A type of information processing called unlimited associative learning (UAL) may be necessary and sufficient for very basic sentience.” The article by University of Toronto psychiatrist Ralph Lewis begins on a very self-assured note: Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. The gradualism of evolution has explained and dissolved life’s mysteries—life’s seemingly irreducible complexity and the illusion that living things possess some sort of mysterious vitalizing essence. So, too, evolution is likely to be key to demystifying the seemingly inexplicable, ethereal nature of consciousness. Ralph Lewis, “Learning May Be the Key to the Evolution of Consciousness” at Psychology Today (November 3, Read More ›

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Summer meadow blow balls landscape painting

Could AI ever pass the Van Gogh test?

Van Gogh was crazy but he was talented and AI can be neither

The Van Gogh Test for sheer creativity? Thursday night at COSM presented a live, in-person interview with Federico Faggin, the Italian physicist and computer engineer who co-won the prestigious Kyoto prize in 1997 for helping develop the Intel 4004 chip. Faggin was interviewed by technology reporter Maria Teresa Cometto, who asked him to regale the audience with tales about helping to design early microchips. Eventually Faggin recounted a time when he was “studying neuroscience and biology, trying to understand how the brain works,” and came upon a startling realization: And at one point I asked myself, “But wait a second, I mean these books, all this talk about electrical signals, biochemical signals, but when I taste some chocolate, I mean Read More ›

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Empty highway surrounded by clouds heading to the light

Life after death receives boost from new research study

The world of Science! certainly isn’t turning out as some have hoped

In recent decades, it has become possible to revive people in various stages of death who, at one time, would have died, leaving no testimony. The news from AWARE II won’t please total materialists at all: The study authors conclude that although studies to date have not been able to absolutely prove the reality or meaning of patients’ experiences and claims of awareness in relation to death, it has been impossible to disclaim them either. They say recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine empirical investigation without prejudice. NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU Langone Health, “Lucid Dying: Patients Recall Death Experiences During CPR” at Cision PR Newswire (November 6, 2022) Why not assume that those people were Read More ›

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Quantum Nuclear Fusion Entanglement, 3d Representation

As Conscious Observers, Do We Help Create Our World?

That’s the big question in quantum mechanics, as science communicator Elizabeth Fernandez explains

Elizabeth Fernandez asks whether there is “something unique” about the fact that we are conscious observers of our world. Interesting question. Inanimate objects don’t “observe” anything. If the inanimate objects are equipment that we have designed and produced, they may record observations for us that our senses could not make on their own. But they are still our observations because we can understand and interpret them. What about a dog’s observations? Along the lines of what he understands, they may be pretty good. He can pick up the scent of a hare with considerable precision and he is likely quite conscious of what that means and what to do abut it. But dog consciousness has its limits. He not only Read More ›

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Illustration eines Eisbergs

Cormac McCarthy Tries To Make Sense of the Unconscious Mind

He offers shafts of light that make the “hard problem of (un)consciousness” feel less forbidding

In a classic piece at Nautilus, novelist Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) — author of, among other novels, All the Pretty Horses (1992) and The Road (2007) — muses on the origin and nature of the unconscious mind. As we might expect from a novelist, it’s not his grand theory that is of much use at all. His grand theory is that “the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal,” which makes no sense. He adds, “All animals have an unconscious. If they didnt they would be plants.” How does he know that pond hydras, for example, have an “unconsciousness” but maple trees don’t? Well, he doesn’t. And yet, he also offers shafts of light that make the “Hard Problem Read More ›

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A  jay in its beak holds an acorn. A colorful Eurasian jay sits on a thick oak branch. Close-up. Autumn. Natural blurred background.  Wild nature.

Researchers: More Intelligent Jays Show More Self-Control

The researchers say that the same relationship holds true for cuttlefish, chimpanzees, and humans

A recent study finds that Eurasian jays can pass a version of the “Marshmallow test” and that the smarter jays had the greatest self-control. The original Marshmallow test tested children to see if they could resist eating one marshmallow if they were offered two later. So enterprising researchers decided to try it on smart birds: To test the self-control of ten Eurasian jays, Garrulus glandarius, researchers designed an experiment inspired by the 1972 Stanford Marshmallow test — in which children were offered a choice between one marshmallow immediately, or two if they waited for a period of time. Instead of marshmallows, the jays were presented with mealworms, bread and cheese. Mealworms are a common favourite; bread and cheese come second Read More ›

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Left and Right Human Brain Anatomy Illustration. 3D rendering

Study: Loss of Half the Brain Doesn’t Mean No Word, Face Contact

Researchers astounded: Contrary to theory, in a recent study, the single remaining brain hemisphere supported both word and face reading functions

Some children have half of their brains removed (hemispherectomy) to control massive seizures that would otherwise destroy the child’s whole brain. Specialists were surprised that the children functioned fairly normally — certainly compared to what would have been expected. A recent study of post-hemispherectomy patients has provided dramatic evidence of rewiring: An unprecedented study of brain plasticity and visual perception found that people who, as children, had undergone surgery removing half of their brain correctly recognized differences between pairs of words or faces more than 80% of the time. Considering the volume of removed brain tissue, the surprising accuracy highlights the brain’s capacity — and its limitations — to rewire itself and adapt to dramatic surgery or traumatic injury. The Read More ›

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types of coffee placed to taste or smell

Designed to Dine, Part 2: How, Exactly, We Compute Flavor

Once a universally enjoyed but scientifically ignored phenomenon, flavor bursts out as an extraordinary event of a biological computer

Since Part 1 of this article was served up, have you experienced food and drink with greater awareness of flavor? Part 1 laid out the elements of flavor, including the smell, taste, texture, and mouth feel of foods and drinks. Smell delivers 80% of what we experience as flavor, coming from the thousands of sensory nerves in our noses detecting individual molecules. From the tongue comes taste sensations of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Flavor is like a dynamic 3-D hologram, a multi-dimensional composition of sensory inputs fluctuating in real-time, all delivered as data to the brain for final processing. Flavor makes eating fun! The Computation of Yummy The complicated and integrated systems of smell, taste, and other Read More ›

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Table filled with snacks and traditional eastern European (Lithuanian) food for a feast celebration.

Designed to Dine: Humans are Computers of Flavor

Food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the sensations — really the brain — of the beholder (and taster)

Whether you’re a professional gourmet, a self-styled “foodie,” or an everyday North American who likes to eat, you probably look forward to celebration dinners. At any feast on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or the Passover Seder, the focal feature is the food. It doesn’t occur to us to ask: How do we sense the flavors of the food? After all, the food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the mouth — and the nose, tongue, eyes, inner ears, and really the brain — of the beholder. Venture to learn how human beings enjoy food, and you’ll discover exquisite evidence of intelligent design. Like so many biological systems, detecting flavor involves specialized hardware components and the corresponding software to Read More ›

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placebo

Placebo: The Power of the Human Mind Confounds Medical Research

Angelman syndrome, which creates a variety of developmental problems, has proven a challenge for researchers on that account

We don’t often hear about researchers crying but when researchers at Ovid Therapeutics heard the test results for their drug, gaboxadol, they couldn’t help it. They were testing the sleep-inducing drug to help with the symptoms of Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder that appears in infancy. It results in a variety of developmental problems such as walking and balance disorders, inability to speak or sleep properly, gastrointestinal issues, and seizures. It affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Notably, those who cope with Angelman smile and laugh a lot and have a normal lifespan. The OVID team had high hopes for gaboxadol in August of this year because even improving the quality of sleep would help sufferers Read More ›

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Künstliche Intelligenz Konzept

Oxford’s John Lennox Busts the “Computer Takeover” Myth

AI is here to stay, he says, but in addition to doing a great deal of good, it raises vast problems we must address

Earlier this month, we looked at claims that robots are going to scarf up everyone’s jobs. That was a bonus feature in the Science Uprising series. In another bonus interview, “John Lennox on the Transhumanist Claim AI Will Turn Humans into Gods” (October 17, 2022), Oxford mathematician Lennox talks about claims that 1) computers are taking over and that 2) we will merge with them (transhumanism). Lennox is the author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020). This is the first of two parts, where he talks mainly about narrow AI but then gets into the topic of artificial general intelligence (AGI). A partial transcript and notes follow: John Lennox: The typical AI system consists of a Read More ›

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colorful abstract iridescent space art swirl background

Is Consciousness a “Controlled Brain Hallucination”? No.

Anil Seth explains away consciousness away using fashionable terms like that. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I know from clinical experience that he is wrong

Philosopher David Chalmers famously divided the problem of understanding how consciousness is related to the brain by distinguishing between the easy and hard problems of consciousness. The easy problem of consciousness is typically faced by working neuroscientists — i.e., what parts of the brain are metabolically active when we’re awake? What kinds of neurons are involved in memory? These problems are “easy” only in the sense that they are tractable. The neuroscience necessary to answer them is challenging but, with enough skill and perseverance, it can be done. The hard problem of consciousness is another matter entirely. It is this: How can first-person subjective experience arise from brain matter? How do we get an ‘I’ from an ‘it’? Compared with Read More ›

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Glowing lightbulb with virtual brain and orange light . Creative new business idea concept.

How Can We Tell a Genius From a Really Smart Person?

Members of Mensa, a club for people with high IQ, think that the difference is exceptional creativity

A few years ago, Claire Cameron, Nautilus’s Social Media & News Editor asked five present or former members of Mensa, an international high-IQ society, founded in 1946. To qualify as members, they had to score above the 98th percentile on an IQ test or another standardized one. Her conversation with Richard Hunter, a retired finance director at a drinks distributor; journalist Jack Williams; Bikram Rana, a director at a business consulting firm; LaRae Bakerink, a business consultant; and clinical hypnotist John Sheehan brings into sharp relief the difference between high intelligence and genius — a fact that the high-IQ scorers were happy to admit. Some snippets from the conversation (participants are identified by their initials): RH: You can have a Read More ›

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Dirty Nonstick Skillet Used to Make a Balsamic Reduction: An unwashed frying pan covered in a sticky glaze

Reductionism as a Dead End in Neuroscience — Captured in an Essay

From the evidence that he presents, Anil Seth could at most show that animal consciousness is more complex than previously thought

University of Sussex professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience Anil K. Seth, during a routine dismissal of René Descartes (1596–1650), assures us, “It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be.” More mysterious than it needs to be? As noted earlier, what makes understanding the human mind necessarily complex is that it is both the entity we are trying to perceive and the tool by which we hope to perceive it. Such a problem is like trying to imagine a five-dimensional box in relation to the real world. Unlike the five-dimensional box, consciousness is part of the life experience of every human being. How would Dr. Seth unravel the problem? In Read More ›

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Group of neanderthal hunting a bison

Smoke and Drink Too Much? Blame Neanderthal Man!

Besides passing on addictive habits, if you believe a study of casts from fossil skulls, our Neanderthal ancestors couldn’t meditate either…

This from a recent DNA analysis study: Around 40% of the Neandertal genome can still be found in present-day non-Africans, and each individual still carries ~2% of Neandertal DNA. Some of the archaic genetic variants may have conferred benefits at some point in our evolutionary past. Today, scientists can use this information to learn more about the impact of these genetic variants on human behaviour and the risk of developing diseases. Using this approach, a new study from an international team led by researchers from the University of Tartu, Charité Berlin and the Amsterdam UMC analysed Neandertal DNA associations with a large variety of more than a hundred brain disorders and traits such as sleep, smoking or alcohol use in Read More ›