Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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Vintage tin robot toys

Researchers: Humans “Exploit” Machines Without a Sense of Guilt!

Humans, we are told, are so unethical that we take advantage of "benevolent" self-driving cars

In case no one knew this, humans are cruel, greedy, and deceptive. We even take advantage of self-driving cars. Our crimes are revealed in a recent study that scolds humans as “unwilling to cooperate and compromise with machines. They even exploit them.” When you’ve stopped laughing, you might be interested to learn of some intriguing findings from studies of human behavior around self-driving cars (autonomous vehicles) and Prisoner’s Dilemma games. One team of researchers, in a test involving 9 experiments and 2000 participants, tried to determine whether humans would behave as co-operatively with AI systems as we do with fellow humans: The study which is published in the journal iScience found that, upon first encounter, people have the same level…

Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Freebits: An Interesting Argument From the Big Bang for Free Will

There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will

Caleb Scharf (pictured), author of The Ascent of Information (2021), offers an excerpt at Nautilus that introduces two new terms, the “dataome” and “freebits.” The dataome is all the ways human beings create information, from cave paintings to cloud servers. He asks, “Was all of this really inevitable? Did we ever have a choice in creating a dataome or doing any of the things we do, and does any self-aware entity in the universe have a choice either?” Relying on theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s 2013 essay, “The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine,” he asks us to consider that there are two types of uncertainty, only one of which could create choice. Typical “randomness” actually follows statistical laws, a…

Archaeological excavation.

Death: Child Grave From 80,000 Years Ago Shows Abstract Thinking

The lovingly prepared site on the Kenyan coast held the remains of a 2–3 year-old child

A child’s grave, found recently in Kenya, pushes clear evidence of abstract thinking back to 80,000 years ago, the Middle Stone Age. The child, nicknamed “Mtoto” (child in Swahili) by the archaeologists, was 2½ – 3 years old; whether a boy or a girl is as yet unclear: In a tour de force of discovery, recovery, and analysis, an interdisciplinary research team has uncovered the earliest known human burial in Africa. The grave, found less than 10 miles inland from southeast Kenya’s lush ocean beaches, contained the remains of a two- to three-year-old child buried with extraordinary care by a community of early Homo sapiens some 78,000 years ago. While some human burials in the Middle East and Europe are…

dachsund dog portrait studio looking up.

Do Any Dogs Go To Heaven? If So, Why?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch was troubled as a child by the Catholic tradition that dogs like his beloved Purzel did not go to heaven

In recent articles, we’ve discussed well-known neuroscientist Christof Koch’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness which, as he acknowledges, takes a panpsychist (everything is conscious to some degree) approach to the mind. He has explained his reasoning at MIT Press Reader: Materialists must see human consciousness as an illusion — but then whose illusion is it? Panpsychism allows humans to have actual consciousness but, he says, “experience may not even be restricted to biological entities but might extend to non-evolved physical systems previously assumed to be mindless — a pleasing and parsimonious conclusion about the makeup of the universe.” His perspective is gaining popularity in science. One, perhaps unexpected, factor that he mentions as shaping his overall approach was youthful…

duck decoy with stuffed and calls

A Physicist’s Defense of Reality, Despite Quantum Physics

He explains why Eddington’s solid table really IS solid, even if, at the highest resolution, it is mostly empty space

In the wake of quantum physics, King’s College philosopher of physics Alexander Franklin is concerned to stress that “everyday reality is not illusory but emergent”: Popular science often tells us that we are radically deceived by the commonplace appearance of everyday objects and that colour and solidity are illusions. For instance, the physicist Sir Arthur Eddington [pictured] distinguished in 1928 between two tables: the familiar table and the scientific table, while the former is solid and coloured, the scientific table “is nearly all empty space”. Eddington then makes the striking claim that “modern physics has by delicate test and remorseless logic assured me that my second scientific table is the only one which is really there”. Alexander Franklin, “Solid objects…

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Birth of Virtual Consciousness

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI Is Not an Insurmountable Problem

Neuroscientist: Conscious AI is not an insurmountable problem

Neuroscientist Ryota Kanai, founder and CEO of Tokyo-based startup Araya, aims to “understand the computational basis of consciousness and to create conscious AI.” He isn’t sure, he says, if we want AI to be conscious. But, technically, he doesn’t see it as an insurmountable problem: If we can’t figure out why AIs do what they do, why don’t we ask them? We can endow them with metacognition—an introspective ability to report their internal mental states. Such an ability is one of the main functions of consciousness. It is what neuroscientists look for when they test whether humans or animals have conscious awareness. For instance, a basic form of metacognition, confidence, scales with the clarity of conscious experience. When our brain…

person behind mask

We Are Now Informed: Consciousness Does Not Really Exist

Rubbish. Giving up consciousness as an illusion would be like turning off the master switch. What would the ensuing darkness and powerlessness tell us?
What you think is enabling you to listen with any attention to neuroscientists (your dog, coffee cup, and your toothpaste are not listening to neuroscientists) is something — some of them tell us — we should give up as an illusion. Read More ›
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Is More Coercion — in Principle — an “Extension” of Morality?

Activist Garrett Hardin popularized government coercion to “save the planet” in 1968

Recently, the Communist Party of China has announced permission for the three-child family, possibly because of the demographic ruin that the previous one-child family has occasioned in that country. But the basic idea that government should control everything is not new and it did not originate in China. Let’s go back to the 1960s in the United States. In 1968, Garrett Hardin (1915–2003) made a famous appeal in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine, Science, for good old-fashioned coercion of human beings to stop having so many children: The abstract for his “Tragedy of the Commons” (Science, 1968), a Cool concept at the time, read simply “The population problem has no technical solution; it requires a fundamental…

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A cute girl playing with wooden abacus. Educational concept for kids. Learing to count. Math for children. Math for children.

The Mystery of Numeracy: How DID We Learn To Count?

Some animals can do rough figuring but only humans count

At a time when many people see numbers, arithmetic, and mathematics as mere oppression, others are intrigued by the basic question, how did the human race learn to do math? There are some clues, as a new project called Quanta is trying to establish. First, while no animals use abstract numbers in the wild, some animals can do rough figuring: Although researchers once thought that humans were the only species with a sense of quantity, studies since the mid-twentieth century have revealed that many animals share the ability. For instance, fish, bees and newborn chicks can instantly recognize quantities up to four, a skill known as subitizing. Some animals are also capable of ‘large-quantity discrimination’: they can appreciate the difference…

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New Paper Provides Further Evidence for Free Will

According to the new research, many of the busy brain signals on which the “no free will” position depends on were system noise

We all sense that free will is real. We know that we could have stopped ourselves from making some mistakes. For decades, some neuroscientists have claimed that free will is an illusion, based on some well-publicized experiments. Some recent research challenges that: Experiments spanning the 1960s and 1980s measured brain signals noninvasively and led many neuroscientists to believe that our brains make decisions before we do—that human actions were initiated by electrical waves that did not reflect free, conscious thought. However, a new article in Trends in Cognitive Science argues that recent research undermines this popular case against free will. “This new perspective on the data turns on its head the way well-known findings have been interpreted,” said Adina Roskies,…

Little brave pawn wearing artificial paper crown suit on chessboard with figures, business entrepreneur leadership concept

Do You Have a “Selfish Prefrontal Cortex”?

Do you tell “white lies” only for selfish motives?

A recent neuroscience paper claims to determine whether your motives are selfish: You may think a little white lie about a bad haircut is strictly for your friend’s benefit, but your brain activity says otherwise. Distinct activity patterns in the prefrontal cortex reveal when a white lie has selfish motives, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience. White lies — formally called Pareto lies — can benefit both parties, but their true motives are encoded by the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC). This brain region computes the value of different social behaviors, with some subregions focusing on internal motivations and others on external ones. Kim and Kim predicted activity patterns in these subregions could elucidate the true motive behind…

Veterinarian feeding African gray parrot

Is the Key to Human Language To Be Found In Singing Birds?

If singing birds can explain human speech, why aren’t the birds all giving interviews?

That’s the claim of a recent article in Cognitive Sciences: The study is based on evidence from diverse fields such as archaeology, evolutionary genomics, neurobiology, animal behaviour and clinical researcher on neuropsychiatric disorders. With these, it shows that the reduction of reactive aggressiveness, resulting from the evolution and process of self-domestication of our species, could have led to an increase in the complexity of speech. According to the authors, this development would be caused by the lowest impact on brain networks of stress hormones, neurotransmitters that activate in aggressive situations, and which would be crucial when learning to speak. To show this interaction, researchers analysed the genomic, neurobiological and singing-type differences between the domesticated Bengalese finch and its closest wild…

Human brain with an implanted chip.

What Will Elon Musk’s Neuralink Really Change, If It Catches On

Neuralink’s computer chip implants may help restore function in people with motor or sensory disabilities

Finishing the third and final podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, had a look at entrepreneur Elon Musk’s implanted brain chip venture, the Neuralink: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 14:28 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Let me end our discussion together by asking you an outlier question. Elon Musk is developing something called Neuralink. It’s a chip which goes into the brain. Its immediate application is going to be for those that are handicapped. It is going to allow them communicate directly to objects that they can’t control normally because of their handicap.…

Cells under a microscope. Cell division. Cellular Therapy. 3d illustration on a dark background

Why Don’t Changes to Our Bodies Create a Different Consciousness?

The sense of consciousness remains single and united despite ceaseless bodily change

In the third podcast of the “Unity of Consciousness” series, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on unique features of human consciousness, including the question of why there really can’t be two of you. But Dr. Marks asks one final question: If consciousness is simply generated by the body, as materialists think, why don’t changes to our bodies create different consciousnesses? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 11:06 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: There are cells that change quite a lot. And then there are cells that don’t change a lot, for example, neurons. That is, you keep the same neurons.…

There But For Fortune

Life in the Plural: If There Were Two of You, Would “You” Exist?

According to philosopher Angus Menuge, there can’t be two of you, because two things cannot be one thing.

In the third podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on unique features of human consciousness, including the fact that our experiences are a unity, which has prompted some interesting thought experiments, for example those of Richard Swinburne. But here’s another one: What if there really were two of you? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 06:49 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: What is the idea of “too many thinkers” in philosophy? Angus Menuge (pictured): The simple view of personal identity is that your soul or your mind is always you. That’s a dualist view.…

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Why Do We Stay the Same Person Over Time? Why Not Split Up?

It would be a total fluke if all the different clouds of atoms that produce your brain would always produce the same consciousness. But they do

In the third podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on unique features of human consciousness, including the fact that our experiences are a unity, despite being scattered across many brain regions and even if our brains are split in half: But now let’s do some thought experiments, as proposed by Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 04:55 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Angus Menuge: There’s another problem raised by [philosopher] Richard Swinburne: He imagines that he’s going to have an operation where each of his cerebral hemispheres is placed in another person. So…

Human brain model for education in laboratory.

Intelligence: A Thousand Brains — or a Thousand Theories?

What does the iconic mammalian neocortex do that equivalent systems in birds and octopuses can’t do? That’s not clear

Jeff Hawkins, inventor of PalmPilot (a smartphone predecessor) and co-founder of Numenta (2005), does not lack confidence. After an interview with him in connection with his new book, A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence (Basic Books 2021), Will Douglas Heaven tells us at MIT Review, “Neuroscientist and tech entrepreneur Jeff Hawkins claims he’s figured out how intelligence works—and he wants every AI lab in the world to know about it”: He’s not the first Silicon Valley entrepreneur to think he has all the answers—and not everyone is likely to agree with his conclusions. But his ideas could shake up AI. Will Douglas Heaven, ““We’ll never have true AI without first understanding the brain”” at MIT Technology Review (March…

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How Split-Brain Surgery Underlines the Unity of Consciousness

At one time, some thought that if the brain were split, consciousness would be too, but that did not turn out to be true

In the third podcast of a series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on unique features of human consciousness. They started with the fact that our experiences are a unity despite being scattered across many brain regions. But it’s a remarkable fact that our consciousness remains single even when our brains are split in half: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 03:04 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Let’s talk about the split brain operation where a neurosurgeon goes in and separates the right and left hemispheres. As I understand it, the signal for the epileptic fits starts on…

Happy family enjoying picnic

Mystery: Our Brains Divide Up Events But We Experience Them Whole

That’s one of the conundrums of consciousness

In the third podcast of the series, “Unity of Consciousness,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews Angus Menuge, professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, on some of the unique features of human consciousness, starting with its unity. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Angus-Menuge-Episode-3-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 01:04 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: We hear of “Dr. Jekyll–Mr. Hyde” dual personalities but most of us only have one consciousness. What is the so-called unity of consciousness? It’s an area in philosophy, is that right? Angus Menuge (pictured): Going back a very long way. It’s mentioned by Plato and Aristotle, and later on by Kant… We can have many experiences concurrently. So when you…

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Prosthetic robotic arm with palm in fist, 3d rendering on black background

Nobel Prize Economist Tells The Guardian, AI Will Win

But when we hear why he thinks so, don’t be too sure

Nobel Prize-winning economist (2002) Daniel Kahneman, 87 (pictured), gave an interview this month to The Guardian in which he observed that belief in science is not much different from belief in religion with respect to the risks of unproductive noise clouding our judgment. He’s been in the news lately as one of the authors of a new book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, which applies his ideas about human error and bias to organizations. He told The Guardian that he places faith “if there is any faith to be placed,” in organizations rather than individuals, for example. Curiously, he doesn’t seem to privilege science organizations: I was struck watching the American elections by just how often politicians of both…