Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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The concept of opposites, hand choose wood blog with plus and minus on blue background, copy space.

The Human Mind Adds Better Than It Subtracts

Getting control of the tendency might be a key to better decision-making skills, researchers say

When trying to solve a problem, a recent study showed that it is much easier for us to add things than to subtract them: In a new paper featured on the cover of Nature, University of Virginia researchers explain why people rarely look at a situation, object or idea that needs improving — in all kinds of contexts — and think to remove something as a solution. Instead, we almost always add some element, whether it helps or not. Jennifer McManamay/University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, “Why our brains miss opportunities to improve through subtraction” at ScienceDaily The paper is closed access. In a sense, we all know this. When we want to make something look better,…

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Sisters playing with wagon cart on the road outdoors

Artificial Unintelligence

The failure of computer programs to recognize a rudimentary drawing of a wagon reveals the vast differences between artificial and human intelligence

In 1979, when he was just 34 years old, Douglas Hofstadter won a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for his book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which explored how our brains work and how computers might someday mimic human thought. He has spent his life trying to solve this incredibly difficult puzzle. How do humans learn from experience? How do we understand the world we live in? Where do emotions come from? How do we make decisions? Can we write inflexible computer code that will mimic the mysteriously flexible human mind?  Hofstadter has concluded that analogy is “the fuel and fire of thinking.” When humans see, hear, or read something, we can focus on the most salient features, its “skeletal essence.”…

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Anti social man, business connection or social network concept, miniature people businessman standing on colorful pastel chalk line link and connect between multiple dot or tiers on blackboard

What Is the Essential Feature of Creative Intelligence?

Creative intelligence is easier to describe by what it is not than by what it is. But there is a clue in that very fact…

I’ve spent the past couple articles debunking artificial intelligence. It is just as artificial as its name suggests. It takes on the appearance of intelligence through speed but it lacks the fundamental ability to create a well-matched start and end. So a perceptive reader has returned with another good question: “What is creative intelligence?” The reader is right to ask. Yes, telling someone that the exquisite dessert is not celery and not cod liver oil does not help us understand what the dessert itself is. There is a mystery regarding the very nature of human intelligence. Like its antithesis, randomness, creative intelligence is easier to describe by what it is not than by what it is. But, we can try!…

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Cute little boy thinking

Boy Born With 2% of Brain “Does Maths, He Loves Science”

Noah Wall’s story raises intriguing questions about the relationship between the brain and the mind

Well before Noah Wall was born, his odds did not look very good. Scans showed he had developed a cyst which was destroying his brain, along with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Doctors predicted he would likely never talk, walk, or eat on his own. Five times his parents, Michelle (Shelly) and Rob, were pressed to abort him. Shelly recalls, “It wasn’t until around the 12 week scan that they knew something just wasn’t quite right,” Shelly told The Epoch Times in a video interview. “I said, ‘Does the baby have a heartbeat?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s all that matters to us.’” Shelly and Rob were referred to the RVI Hospital in Newcastle, where their baby…

Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.
Shot of Corridor in Working Data Center Full of Rack Servers and Supercomputers with Pink Neon Visualization Projection of Data Transmission Through High Speed Internet.

AI Researcher: Stop Calling Everything “Artificial Intelligence”

It’s not really intelligence, says Berkeley’s Michael Jordan, and we risk misunderstanding what these machines can really do for us

Computer scientist Michael I. Jordan, a leading AI researcher, says today’s artificial intelligence systems aren’t actually intelligent and people should stop talking about them as if they were: They are showing human-level competence in low-level pattern recognition skills, but at the cognitive level they are merely imitating human intelligence, not engaging deeply and creatively, says Michael I. Jordan, a leading researcher in AI and machine learning. Jordan is a professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer science, and the department of statistics, at the University of California, Berkeley. Katy Pretz, “Stop Calling Everything AI, Machine-Learning Pioneer Says” at IEEE Spectrum (March 31, 2031) Their principal role, he says, is to “augment human intelligence, via painstaking analysis of large…

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X-ray.

Why a “Budding” Neuroscientist Is Skeptical of Brain Scans

After reading her perceptive essay about the problems in fMRI imaging in neuroscience, I’m sad that a gifted student has doubts about a career in the field

Kelsey Ichikawa has just published a superb essay about the pitfalls of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain. Ms. Ichikawa (pictured), who describes herself as a ”budding” neuroscientist who graduated last year from Harvard, discusses the snares into which misinterpretation can lead us. fMRI brain scanning is a relatively new technology in which researchers and clinicians use magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain to detect brain activity almost as it happens. The technique is widely used, both for clinical care of patients (neurosurgeons use it to map sensitive parts of the brain prior to surgery) and for research purposes. A major thrust of neuroscience research in the last couple of decades has been the use of fMRI…

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Young blind man with white cane and guide dog sitting in park in city.

The Mystery of Blindsight Helps Us Understand the Mind Better

How can a blind person demonstrate awareness of an object in his visual field — and yet not be conscious of it?

Blindsight is the remarkable ability of some blind people to sense objects that they cannot actually see. It occurs when the blindness is caused by damage to the main part of the brain that processes visual information (the striate cortex). But the eyes themselves are intact. The eyes continue to see (sensation) but nothing is receiving the messages (perception). Or so we would think, except for this: One of the most contentious discussions in philosophy of mind and neuroscience is the nature of perception as opposed to sensation. How can we perceive objects in our environment? On a deeper level, what do we mean by “perception”? In what ways does perception differ from sensation, if at all? The neurobiology of…

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Thought Trails

Why Would a Neuroscientist Choose Panpsychism Over Materialism?

It seems to have come down to a choice between “nothing is conscious” and “everything is conscious”

A really significant change in brain science in recent years has been the gradual acceptance in mainstream science venues of sympathy for panpsychism — the position that everything is conscious to some degree. Leading neuroscientist Christof Koch, for example, explained last month in MIT Reader: But who else, besides myself, has experiences? Because you are so similar to me, I abduce that you do. The same logic applies to other people. Apart from the occasional solitary solipsist this is uncontroversial. But how widespread is consciousness in the cosmos at large? How far consciousness extends its dominion within the tree of life becomes more difficult to abduce as species become more alien to us. One line of argument takes the principles…

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Artificial Intelligence digital Brain future technology on motherboard computer. Binary data. Brain of AI. Futuristic Innovative technology in science concept

How WOULD We Know If an AI Is Conscious?

It might be more complicated than we think. A powerful zombie is still a zombie.

Neuroscientist Joel Frohlich (pictured) asks us to reflect on the “philosophical zombie.” That’s not the zombie of the late nite frites. It’s an entity that behaves outwardly in every respect like you and me but has no inner experience (think Stepford Wives). Philosopher David Chalmers originated the term in 1996, by way of illustrating why consciousness is a Hard Problem. A powerful computer can crunch through many difficult jobs without any inner life or consciousness. But, Frohlich, who is editor in chief of the science communications website Knowing Neurons, asks, what if we weren’t sure? How would we test that? Trying to determine if a powerful AI is conscious means getting past programming that might enable it to generate plausible…

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Evolving Abstract Visualization

Can Mathematics Help Us Understand Consciousness?

Gregory Chaitin asks, what if the universe is information, not matter?

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin, best known for Chaitin’s Unknowable Number, on, among other things, consciousness. What can mathematics contribute to the discussion. Also, what does Chaitin think about panpsychism (everything is conscious”)? The discussion began with reference to David Chalmers’s 1996 book, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, in which Chalmers coined the term “Hard Problem of Consciousness.” The term acknowledged what everyone knew, that human consciousness is a very difficult problem to understand, especially from a materialist perspective.Are there other approaches? Chaitin offers a look at the challenge panpsychism presents to materialism: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-127-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 28:25…

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human brain on technology background represent artificial intelligence and cyber space concept

Why “the Mind Is Just a Computation” Is a Fatally Flawed Idea

Much modern neuroscience can be characterized as a collection of weak metaphors about the mind and brain. This is one of them

The computational theory of mind (CTM) is the theory that the mind is a computation (calculation) done by the brain. That is, the mind works by rule-based manipulation of symbols, which is what a computer does — computation. Thus our mental states are computational states. Several prominent philosophers have held this view, notably Hilary Putnam (1926–2016) and Jerry Fodor (1935–2017) , and more recently Matthias Scheutz, among several others. I believe that the computational model of the mind is fatally flawed. Here are some reasons: The most obvious reason is that all mental states have meaning — that is, they are intentional. Intentionality means that our thoughts are about something — there is always an object to which a thought…

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Chimpanzee with a hand in its mouth

Bonobo Chimpanzees Adopt Orphans, a First for Great Apes

But this story is not what it seems. Let’s cut through some pop science assumptions. The real story is an argument that humans are not just animals

There’s been a stir recently among primate zoologists around two female bonobos who adopted infants from outside their group: During observations at the Luo Scientific Reserve in Wamba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the scientists saw the mother bonobos (Pan paniscus) carrying, grooming, nursing, and sharing food with their adoptees, who were in excellent health and treated well by their new social groups. The team’s analysis of DNA extracted from the infants’ faeces confirmed that the youngsters were genetically unrelated to the groups they lived in. “Bonobo mums open their arms to outsider orphans” at Nature Why do they do it? Various explanations are offered: The researchers suggest, “In both cases, adoptees had no maternal kin-relationship with their adoptive mothers.…

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Eye close up

What if only part — not all — of your brain were transplanted?

You might end up seeing double out of an eye a thousand miles away

Recently, we’ve been discussing the concept of total or partial human brain transplants. What about transplanting an eye and the parts of the visual cortex it needs from one person to another? Which of the two people would be seeing out of that eye? The answer is not simple. As noted earlier, researchers may never succeed in transplanting both an eye and the hemisphere brain parts that the eye needs to function from one human being to another. But let’s assume a science fiction scenario — a thought experiment — in which there is an exchange. Jack gets Mary’s right eye/hemisphere and Mary gets Jack’s right eye/hemisphere. Both parties, who live on different parts of the planet, survive. For simplicity,…

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Field of poppies

Does Freezing the Brain’s “Connectome” Offer Hope of Immortality?

Some cryogenics researchers are looking at methods of freezing the brain’s memory apparatus in the hope of reviving it one day and saving it as an artificial intelligence

According to Philip Jaekl, a writer with neuroscience training, the connectome is the “ complete network of neurons and all the connections between them, called synapses.” Taking a leaf from Sebastian Seung’s book, Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, he argues, “You are your connectome.” In that case, Seung’s “you” is very complex. Many types of memory are mediated through the connectome. Jaekl writes, Thus, a key to unlocking the correspondence between the connectome and memory is to elucidate the entire circuitry of the brain. Tracing the wiring at this scale is no easy task when considering the sheer complexity involved. A mere cubic millimetre of brain tissue contains around 50,000 neurons, with an astonishing total…

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3d rendered medically accurate illustration of the human cell anatomy

A New Theory Links Consciousness to Bioelectricity

Consciousness as a function of bioelectric fields? That’s a remarkable idea because it includes the notion that our individual cells are conscious

Bioelectricity is the electricity produced by living organisms as they go about the business of moving, breathing, digesting, etc. Bioelectric currents differ from electric currents that power machines because they consist of ions (molecules that carry an electric charge) rather than electrons. (Encyclopedia.com). But it is still electricity. So what’s the link with consciousness? Evolutionary biologist and lawyer Tam Hunt argues, Nature seems to have figured out that electric fields, similar to the role they play in human-created machines, can power a wide array of processes essential to life. Perhaps even consciousness itself. A veritable army of neuroscientists and electrophysiologists around the world are developing steadily deeper insights into the degree that electric and magnetic fields—“brainwaves” or “neural oscillations”—seem to…

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light at the end of the tunnel

The MD Who Studies Near Death Experiences Is NOT Religious

Greyson was motivated by a desire to understand experiences that materialist approaches have simply not explained satisfactorily

Last week, we talked about psychiatrist Bruce Greyson and his new book, After (2021), discussing near-death experiences (NDEs). The Guardian ran an interview with Greyson the same day, in which he offers some perspectives that may be useful in trying to sort out the issues: ● Modern neuroscience does not have a simple answer that dismisses NDEs. When I ask Greyson why he decided to publish After now, after all these years, he explains that “we had to wait until we had enough knowledge about near-death experiences to be able to understand what was going on,” by which he means not that we know what NDEs are, but that advances in science have allowed us to rule out a heap…

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Anatomy human body model. Part of human body model with organ system.

Are Human Brain Transplants Even Possible?

What would be the outcome if one person received transplants from the brains of others? If it’s not possible, there may be a good reason why not

Earlier this week, I discussed the work of Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who did extensive research on head transplants in animals. The operation sometimes worked, most notably in monkeys. But it has never been done in humans, mostly because head transplantation would mean cutting the spinal cord, which would cause complete and permanent paralysis. The most reasonable perspective on the soul is that it is the active principle of the body — that is, the soul is what the body does. Thus soul follows function. From this perspective, I infer that after a head transplant, I would see with my original eyes, hear with my original ears, etc. If I were able to move my…

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Intestinal villi, mucosa intestinal. Bacteria and microbes in intestines. Microscopic villi and capillary. Human intestine, chronic disease. Hepatitis viruses, influenza, cell infections, 3D Rendering

Surprisingly, Many “Alien” Cells Live Inside Us

One zoologist thinks that they create our sense of self

At New Scientist, Graham Lawton asks us to think about them: For starters, we are chimeras: some parts of us are human, but genetically not “us”. Most, if not all, of us contain a few cells from our mother, our grandmothers and even elder siblings that infiltrated our bodies in the uterus. Women who have carried children host such cells too. “Something like 65 per cent of women, even in their 70s, when autopsies were performed, had cells in their brains that were not theirs,” says David Linden at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Chimeric cells have been found to contribute to both good and bad health, for example promoting wound healing but also triggering autoimmune disease. Graham Lawton, “Why…

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Electrocardiogram in hospital surgery operating emergency room showing patient heart rate with blur team of surgeons background

Are Head Transplants Soul Transplants?

Specifically, if your head were transplanted, would your soul go with it?

Wired offers a fascinating article about Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon in the mid-20th century who was famous for his extensive research on head transplants. He transplanted heads of various animals, often unsuccessfully (many animals died) but with some success, particularly with monkeys. The medical, ethical, and sociological issues are interesting in themselves, but I’ll focus here on the metaphysical issues. Specifically, if your head is transplanted, does your soul go with it? First, it worth noting that head transplantation is difficult surgery but doable. We know how to sew blood vessels together, how to fuse spinal bones, how to attach tracheas and muscles and peripheral nerves. Transplantation of an entire head (or an entire body, depending on your perspective)…

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5G Network Internet Mobile Wireless Business concept.5G standard of modern signal transmission technology.

How 5G Is Shaped By Narrative and Myth

Our perspective powerfully influences how we see things

We all use narratives and sometimes myths to organize our thinking. According to WikiDiff, … the difference between narrative and myth is that narrative is the systematic recitation of an event or series of events while myth is a traditional story which embodies a belief regarding some fact or phenomenon… It is important to be aware and careful of the narratives we use. It is even more important to be reflective of the myths we follow. Myths, with their attendant belief systems, have a greater impact on our perceptions and actions than narratives. The stories we use to frame our understanding of the facts about a topic highlight some areas but blind us to others. We should think about topics…