Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

Ritual circle in the oldest temple of world - Gobeklitepe. October 2019.

Philosophers: Religion, Not Nature, Made Us Human

Victor Kumar and Richmond Campbell argue that many very ancient human types had human minds; religion is the missing ingredient

The philosophers who make this claim are not evangelists. Victor Kumar is director of the Mind and Morality Lab at Boston University and Richmond Campbell is the George Munro professor of philosophy emeritus at Dalhousie University. In an essay at IAI News, adapted from their book, A Better Ape: The Evolution of the Moral Mind and How it Made Us Human (Oxford University Press 2022), they argue that “it was the cultural institution of religion, and its ability to create large tribes, that made us into modern humans.” Sometimes there is a story in titles. The official title of this piece is “Nature didn’t make us human, culture did.” The subtitle is “How religion made us a successful species.” But Read More ›

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An extreme close up image of metal paper clips

Santa Fe Prof Dissects End-of-World Super-AI Claims

There seems to be little communication, she notes, between people concerned about sci-fi AI risks and people concerned about predictable everyday risks

Santa Fe Institute professor of complexity Melanie Mitchell takes issue — in a gentle way — with those who warn about the dangers of superintelligent machines (AI alignment) destroying us all: In one scenario, for example, Oxford Future of Humanity Institute’s Nick Bostrom developed a scenario by which a super AI, told to make paper clips, might use up the world’s resources in doing so. Her comment: To many outside these specific communities, AI alignment looks something like a religion — one with revered leaders, unquestioned doctrine and devoted disciples fighting a potentially all-powerful enemy (unaligned superintelligent AI). Indeed, the computer scientist and blogger Scott Aaronson recently noted that there are now “Orthodox” and “Reform” branches of the AI alignment Read More ›

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Yes, ChatGPT Is Sentient — Because It’s Really Humans in the Loop

ChatGPT itself told me there could be humans crafting its input. My tests indicate that that’s likely true

OpenAI, recently released a new AI program called ChatGPT. It left the internet gobsmacked, though some were skeptical, and concerned about its abilities. Particularly about ChatGPT writing students’ homework for them! [ChatGPT] also appears to be ominously good at answering the types of open-ended analytical questions that frequently appear on school assignments. (Many educators have predicted that ChatGPT, and tools like it, will spell the end of homework and take-home exams.) Kevin Roose, “The Brilliance and Weirdness of ChatGPT” at New York Times (December 5, 2022) The really amazing thing is ChatGPT’s humanlike responses. They gives an observer an unnerving suspicion that the AI is actually sentient. Maybe it is actually sentient. Wait, what? You heard me. The AI is Read More ›

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Physicist Max Tegmark Worries About Intelligent AI’s “Suffering”

What strikes me about Tegmark’s approach to the question is its fundamental lack of seriousness

In a recent interview, MIT theoretical physicist Max Tegmark talked to Robert Lawrence Kuhn at Closer to Truth about “transhuman brains” (Dec 20, 2022, 8:43 min): Transhuman brains are the melding of hyper-advanced electronics and super-artificial intelligence (AI) with neurobiological tissue. The goal is not only to repair injury and mitigate disease, but also to enhance brain capacity and boost mental function. What is the big vision, the end goal — how far can transhuman brains go? What does it mean for individual consciousness and personal identity? Is virtual immortality possible? What are the ethics, the morality, of transhuman brains? What are the dangers? Here’s a partial transcript and comments: Max Tegmark: I think it’s pretty clear that artificial intelligence Read More ›

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Are Extra Dimensions of the Universe Real or Imaginary?

The human mind can imagine and work with a world that we cannot physically apprehend, that follows the rules of mathematics

In a classic 2018 essay, republished recently at Aeon, science writer and artist Margaret Wertheim, author of a number of books, including Physics on the Fringe (Walker Books, 2011), asks us to think about what “extra dimensions” really means: While on the local level we are trained to think of space as having three dimensions, general relativity paints a picture of a four-dimensional universe, and string theory says it has 10 dimensions – or 11 if you take an extended version known as M-Theory. There are variations of the theory in 26 dimensions, and recently pure mathematicians have been electrified by a version describing spaces of 24 dimensions. But what are these ‘dimensions’? And what does it mean to talk Read More ›

Crystal Prism

Schrödinger Believed That There Was Only One Mind in the Universe

The quantum physicist and author of the famous Cat Paradox believed that our individual minds are not unique but rather like the reflected light from prisms

This story was #9 in 2022 at Mind Matters News in terms of reader numbers. As we approach the New Year, we are rerunning the top ten Mind Matters News stories of 2022, based on reader interest. Here’s #9, from our news division, for those of us who like pondering the deeper things: Schrödinger believed that there was only one Mind in the universe: Consciousness researcher Robert Prentner and cognitive psychologist will tell a prestigious music and philosophy festival in London next month that great physicist Donald Hoffman, quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) believed that “The total number of minds in the universe is one.” That is, a universal Mind accounts for everything. In a world where many scientists strive mightily to explain how the human Read More ›

Artificial Intelligence Playing Go

The Game-Playing AI Does Not Always Win, It Turns Out

Enterprising researchers beat KataGo at Go by taking advantage of its known blind spots

At Vice, science writer Tatyana Woodall tells us that clever researchers developed a rival adversarial AI to trick KataGo into losing games: Players have often used KataGo to test their skills, train for other matches, and even analyze past games, yet in a study posted recently on the preprint server arXiv, researchers report that by using an adversarial policy—a kind of machine-learning algorithm built to attack or learn weaknesses in other systems—they’ve been able to beat KataGo at its own game between 50 to 99 percent of the time, depending on how much “thinking ahead” the AI does. Funnily enough, the new system doesn’t win by trumping KataGo all out, but instead by forcing KataGo into a corner, essentially tricking Read More ›

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Neanderthal Man Had a Thing for Big Eagles — and Hyenas

But we haven’t found evidence that Neanderthals were much interested in dogs

Although technically a dog expert, Mark Derr has given some thought since the 1990s to Neanderthal man who seems to get smarter each time we study him: For instance, Neanderthal appears to have mastered and used fire for a variety of purposes including cooking after their appearance in Eurasia some 300,000 or more years ago. They also made carvings into ivory, and they almost certainly communicated using speech. To show how slowly attitudes change, I have recently seen people speculate that Neanderthal may have only seasonally had fire, but in general were incapable of igniting tinder on their own. This view recently received what would appear to be a mortal blow when Ceren Kabukcu and colleagues revealed that Neanderthal not Read More ›

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Why Many Researchers Now See the Brain as a Quantum System

The hypothesis is that the brain relies on quantum physics, not classical physics, to power thinking processes

Astrophysicist and science writer Elizabeth Fernandez asks us to consider whether quantum processes might help us understand better how the brain works and shed light on consciousness: Some scientists suspect that quantum processes, including entanglement, might help us explain the brain’s enormous power, and its ability to generate consciousness. Recently, scientists at Trinity College Dublin, using a technique to test for quantum gravity, suggested that entanglement may be at work within our brains. If their results are confirmed, they could be a big step toward understanding how our brain, including consciousness, works. Elizabeth Fernandez, “Brain experiment suggests that consciousness relies on quantum entanglement” at Big Think (November 22, 2022) The paper is open access. Her thesis is that the brain Read More ›

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A Science Writer Makes the Case for Plants as Conscious Beings

Annaka Harris, neuroscience and physics writer, starts by casting doubt on human consciousness

Annaka Harris, a science writer focusing on neuroscience and physics and the author of Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind (2019), challenges us to reflect on two points: 1) In a system that we know has conscious experiences — the human brain — what evidence of consciousness can we detect from the outside? 2) Is consciousness essential to our behavior? The editor notes, introducing an excerpt from the book, “But how sure can we be that plants aren’t conscious? And what if what we take to be behavior indicating consciousness can be replicated with no conscious agent involved? Annaka Harris invites us to consider the real possibility that our intuitions about consciousness might be mere Read More ›

Tribe of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers Wearing Animal Skins Stand Around Bonfire Outside of Cave at Night. Portrait of Neanderthal / Homo Sapiens Family Doing Pagan Religion Ritual Near Fire

Our Ancestors Were Cooking Much Earlier Than Thought

The more we learn about early humans, the more sophisticated we find their culture to be

Recent findings suggest that some things we take for granted in human civilizations are much older than thought. Now, these findings are provisional but they are worth looking at: The owl stones from 5,500 and 4,750 years ago may be children’s art: But new research suggests the palm-sized plaques decorated in geometric patterns and with two engraved circles at the top might be the work of children. Numbering in the thousands and made from slate, the owl-like objects – previously dated the stone objects to be between 5,500 and 4,750 years old – may be “the archaeological trace of playful and learning activities carried out by youngsters,” according to the team of Spanish researchers behind the new study… They suggest Read More ›

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Study: 1 in 5 Cardiac Patients May Have Near-Death Experience

The researchers found spikes of brain activity, including so-called gamma, delta, theta, alpha, and beta waves up to an hour into CPR

Recent research shows that one in five people who survive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after a heart attack ‘may describe lucid experiences of death that occurred while they were seemingly unconscious and on the brink of death”: Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and elsewhere, the study involved 567 men and women whose hearts stopped beating while hospitalized and who received CPR between May 2017 and March 2020 in the United States and United Kingdom. Despite immediate treatment, fewer than 10% recovered sufficiently to be discharged from hospital. Survivors reported having unique lucid experiences, including a perception of separation from the body, observing events without pain or distress, and a meaningful evaluation of life, including of their actions, Read More ›

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Computers Are Not Persons Because Computing Is Not Thinking

Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks discusses the issues with human dignity advocate Wesley J. Smith

Recently, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed human dignity advocate Wesley J. Smith on the seeming science fiction question of “Can a computer be a person?” (November 10, 2022, podcast 212): https://mindmatters.ai/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2022/11/Mind-Matters-212-Robert-Marks.mp3 Here are a couple of highlights: About Alexa: Wesley J. Smith: I was going to ask you about Alexa because she may come on in behind me. Of course, she’s not a she. That’s just a female-sounding voice. But I can ask, we’ll call her A, so she doesn’t come on, what time it is and she’ll tell me immediately. I can tell her to play certain music and she’ll play it immediately. How does that operate? I mean, she’s not… That program is not intelligent, Read More ›

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Researchers: The Brain’s Claustrum Acts as a Router for Thoughts

Francis Crick thought the claustrum might be the “seat of consciousness,” an inherently materialist concept. The researchers think he was wrong.

Remember Francis Crick (1916–2004) and The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994)?: “You, your joys and sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will are, in fact, no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons’.” Crick focused on the brain region known as the claustrum as closely tied to consciousness. According to University of Maryland medical researchers, he thought of it as the “seat of consciousness.” Now, the very concept of a “seat of consciousness” assumes that consciousness is a material thing that needs a seat. In other words, consciousness must be found specifically in one place and not Read More ›

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Do Centaurs Really Exist? The Surprising Truth

Well, a half human/half horse cannot literally exist — but the way horses and humans work together has been called a “miracle”

Classical Greek mythology featured the “centaur,” a creature that was half human, half horse. Neuroscientist and horse trainer Janet Jones, author of Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship (Trafalgar Square, 2020), tells us that there is a truth behind the myth (as so often). In what amounts to a “neurobiological miracle,” the horse — a prey animal — and the human — a predator — can learn complete neurological co-operation to perform complex feats that neither can manage alone. How complex are these equestrian feats? Horse-and-human teams perform complex manoeuvres in competitions of all sorts. Together, we can gallop up to obstacles standing 8 feet (2.4 metres) high, leave the ground, and fly blind – neither party able Read More ›

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 ›

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 makes 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 ›


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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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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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 ›