Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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Brain hacks

Do we understand the brain better if we see it as a computer?
Seeing the brain as a computer doesn’t tell us as much as we might think. When human beings build computers, we design them in a way that we can understand and use. So we think our brains must be like that too. Sure enough, in the vast complexity of our brains, we can surely find some elements that remind us of a computer. Others won’t.   Read More ›
Ice cream chocolate and vanilla sundae topping with red cherry.

A Short Argument Against the Materialist Account of the Mind

You can simply picture yourself eating a chocolate ice cream sundae.
We have thoughts and ideas—what philosophers call “intentional” states—that are about things other than themselves. We don’t really know how this works. But whenever we speak to another person, we assume it must be true. And in our own case, we know it’s true. Even to deny it is to affirm it. Read More ›
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Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?

If we can be forced to want something, is the will still free?
The materialist interpretation of Reilly’s work is a misunderstanding of what the research actually shows. The stimulations did not evoke complex abstract intentions and acts—the patients didn’t reflexively decide to do integral calculus or donate to Amnesty International. Read More ›
Brain activity

Knowledge is power, sort of…

If that’s ALL knowledge is, the resulting science is bound to be limited, says Michael Egnor
If you are trying to predict the course of a cannonball, Newtonian mechanics are adequate. If you are trying to understand the mind of the guy who fired the cannon, you need to look much deeper. Read More ›
MRI Image Of Head Showing Brain

Do either machines—or brains—really learn?

A further response to Jeffrey Shallit: Actually, brains don’t learn either. Only minds learn.
Learning is an ability of human beings, considered as a whole, to acquire new knowledge, not an ability of human organs considered individually. Read More ›
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Could AI understand the universe?

World-renowned chemist thinks it might understand what we can’t, including consciousness
Atkins is arguing that the fact that we do not understand what consciousness is, far from being a barrier to creating artificial consciousness, offers the hope that, once we do create them, artificially conscious entities will understand consciousness but we won’t. The proposition sounds a bit confused, no? Read More ›
HAL-like-lights

Could HAL 9000 ever be built?

I say yes. Some reflections on the 50th Year Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey
At one point on the trip from Earth to Jupiter, HAL becomes suspicious that the crew might be sabotaging the mission. HAL then purposely tries to kill all the crew. The most logical explanation for this act is a coding error. HAL was programmed to operate on the basis that the mission took priority over human life. Read More ›
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Can a game prove that computers could really think?

Philosopher Daniel Dennett thinks so. Let's apply Occam's Razor and see
While I agree with Dennett that Occam’s Razor shouldn’t be used overzealously, we shouldn’t be too reluctant to use it either. The reason why Dennett rejects Occam’s Razor in the Game of Life is that if he didn’t, then nothing in the Game of Life would be capable of possessing cognitive states. Read More ›
MRI Image Of Head Showing Brain

Do big brains matter to human intelligence?

We don’t know. Brain research readily dissolves into confusion at that point
We also know very little about the human brain. Take this controversy about why the large human brain evolved... Read More ›
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Why can’t machines learn simple tasks?

They can learn to play chess more easily than to walk
If specifically human intelligence is related to consciousness, the robotics engineers might best leave consciousness out of their goals for their products and focus on more tangible ones. Read More ›
Conceptual image of a large stone in the shape of the human brain

The brain is not a “meat computer”

Dramatic recoveries from brain injury highlight the difference
The brain looks like a computer only if we analyze it as if it were a computer. Our analysis does not mean that it is a computer, and it does not mean that computation explains the mind or even that computational approaches to neuroscience provide genuinely meaningful insight into neurophysiology. Read More ›
MRI brain : Brain tumor at right parietal lobe

Boy loses large hunk of brain

And is “doing just fine”
When pundits talk glibly of creating artificial minds or claim that consciousness is an illusion, it might help to remember that few predicted cases like this could exist and few thought that high tech diagnostics would lead to their discovery. Read More ›
Brain research or diagnostic on the digital model in virtual reality. 3d illustration.

AI That Can Read Minds?

Deconstructing AI hype
The source for the claims seems to be a 2018 journal paper, "Real-time classification of auditory sentences using evoked cortical activity in humans." The carefully described results are indeed significant but what the Daily Mail article didn't tell you sheds a rather different light on the AI mind reader. Read More ›
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How to hack your unconscious mind

Assuming it exists
Those who tell us that we can learn to use our unconscious mind and those who tell us that it doesn’t exist both claim to speak for science. But this is no ordinary dispute. An ordinary dispute might be something like What killed the dinosaurs? Imagine instead a dispute between scientists who do and scientists who do not believe that dinosaurs have ever existed. Read More ›
Little girl undergoing electroencephalography procedure

Attend your own funeral!

It’s easy if you upload your consciousness to the cloud, says futurist
Presumably, in Ian Pearson's future, the rich can attend their own funerals and alternate world funerals an indefinite number of times, each one numbering as many different people as he wants. Read More ›
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Can free will even be an illusion?

Michael Egnor reiterates the freeing implications of quantum indeterminacy

Many say so. For example, at Cosmos, senior artificial intelligence research scientist Alfredo Metere explains, … there is a causal relationship between the Big Bang and us. In other words, free will is not allowed, and all of our actions are just a mere consequence of that first event. Such a view is known as “determinism”, or “super-determinism” (if one finds it productive to reinvent the wheel). He asserts that today we know the universe to be chaotic. Because the cosmos is clearly chaotic, we can observe time-reversibility only locally, rather than globally. This in turn means that free will is an inevitable illusion for us humans, due to our subjective perception of the universe, rather than its innermost nature. Read More ›

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Robot priests: And you thought “robotic religion” was just a pointed criticism… ?

You know, rote prayers, mindless gestures… Is that the way of the future for some?

Reuters announced last year that in Japan, a robot can be hired to perform Buddhist funeral rites: A Japanese company has introduced a new role for SoftBank’s humanoid robot “Pepper” – a Buddhist priest for hire at funerals. … With Japan’s population ageing and shrinking, many Buddhist priests receive less financial support from their communities, prompting some to find part-time work outside their temple duties, said Michio Inamura, Nissei’s executive adviser. The funeral robot could step in when a priest was not available, he said. It also cost less at 50,000 yen (about $450) per funeral compared to more than 240,000 yen ($2,200) for a human priest. More.   As of August 2017, the robot priest had not yet been Read More ›

Artificial intelligence and mind backdrop

Reconciling mind with materialism, twenty-five years on

Jerry Fodor posits that the reason "we're all materialists" is the alternatives seem even worse
Thinking of philosophical materialism as a science must have seemed like a step forward at the time. Over twenty-five years later, there have been dozens of theories of consciousness jostling for the podium, most of them “worse than wrong,” even in the eyes of a sympathetic observer (2016). Not only has the materialist approach failed but in recent years, its failure has brought serious intellectual figures round to such views as consciousness is an illusion or that everything is conscious. Read More ›
Dr. Michael Egnor, M.D.

Neurosurgeon outlines why machines can’t think

The hallmark of human thought is meaning, and the hallmark of computation is indifference to meaning.
A cornerstone of the development of artificial intelligence is the pervasive assumption that machines can, or will, think. Watson, a question-answering computer, beats the best Jeopardy players, and anyone who plays chess has had the humiliation of being beaten by a chess engine. Does this mean that computers can think as well as (or better than) humans think? Read More ›