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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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Magpie (Pica pica)

Is the Turing Test Misguided? George Montañez comments

When you think about it, the Turing test is a bit of a scam. Human beings are supposed to guess whether we are talking to computers purely according to answers. But clever answers can be precoded by a clever person. We could be talking to a well-trained magpie. George Montañez of Harvey Mudd College argues that the question of whether machines can think, as posed in Alan Turing’s seminal paper in 1950 , “Computing machines and intelligence,” is too vague to admit of an exact answer. Besides which, it is kind of complicated. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-088-George-Montanez.mp3 Transcript. As he told Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks in a recent podcast: George Montañez Yeah. So, there was actually three versions of the…

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Speak

How Do Sounds Contain Ideas?

Human language differs from animal and plant communication systems in that it enables the transmission of ideas

It’s not a simple question! Human language differs from animal and plant communication systems in that it enables the transmission of ideas, which are abstractions. Think of the Pythagorean theorem or tripartite government. Many explanations of how human language came to exist seem to be stabbing in the dark. Here are some of the current theories: Could language have arisen from hand gestures? We are told that “Wild chimpanzees, for example, have been seen to use at least 66 different hand signals and movements to communicate with each other. Lifting a foot towards another chimp, for example, means ‘climb on me’, while stroking their mouth can mean ‘give me the object’” (Horizon August 20, 2019). But these aren’t ideas, just…

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direction arrows on asphalt ground, feet and shoes on floor

A Theoretical Physicist Defends Free Will

Physics, he says, has made huge strides, but has not upset free will

George Ellis, considered a world leader in relativity and cosmology (right, courtesy David Monniaux), offers some thoughts: Physics has made huge strides since the days of Laplace; indeed, it would be completely unrecognisable to him. Yet there are still physicists today who confidently proclaim that we can’t have free will because physics determines everything, including brain functioning – entirely ignoring the complex context and the power of constraints. If you seriously believe that fundamental forces leave no space for free will, then it’s impossible for us to genuinely make choices as moral beings. We wouldn’t be accountable in any meaningful way for our reactions to global climate change, child trafficking or viral pandemics. The underlying physics would in reality be…

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EEG Test on an Elderly Man at Hospital Laboratory

Can We Really Cheat Death by Downloading Our Brains?

Through the ages, we have thought of unique ways to avoid death. Could the internet and artificial intelligence help?

Last October, Jay Richards, author of The Human Advantage, caught up with Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a Baylor University computer engineering prof, at COSM 2019 to ask, what are our cheat-death chances? They were responding to futurist Ray Kurzweil’s heady claims made at the conference that we will merge with computers by 2045 and live on as AI. Richards and Marks reflected on Kurzweil’s claims and the thoughts of the panel responding to them. Here’s a partial transcript: Jay Richards: He’s (Kurzweil, below right) very much a sort of, I’d say, a techno-optimist. And in fact, he sort of thinks we’re going to get brain scans and upload ourselves, whereas the panel… Though I know there was a…

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Young man shaving

Nominalism: The Stubble Left by Ockham’s Razor

Ockham was a methodological minimalist, not a philosophical minimalist
Ockham did not say that complex metaphysical realities don’t exist. He said that we should trim our understanding of reality to the use of as few concepts as possible for reasons of efficiency, even at the cost of absolute precision. Ockham may thus be said to be a methodological minimalist. Read More ›
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A hand pointing at brain MRI on the light box

Why Brain Activity Doesn’t Reveal Our Minds

There is poor correlation between different scans of even the same person’s brain, experienced researchers say

At one time, we were told that, one day, machines will read our minds. But, now researchers say, the more we know about the brain (set aside the mind for a moment), the more reasons we have for doubt: But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person’s brain. Karl Leif Bates, “Studies of brain activity aren’t as useful as scientists thought” at Duke Today Brain scanning—functional MRI (fMRI)—tells us about general brain structures, says Duke University neuroscientist Ahmad Hariri, who led a team that reanalyzed the data. It doesn’t say much about the…

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hombre joven hundido en fondo tipo minecraft

Philosopher: Sims Do Not Understand Simhood

Richard Johns explains how you can know for sure that you are not a sim

Recently, philosopher Richard Johns (left), whose work was profiled here at Mind Matters News in “A philosopher explains why thinking matter is impossible,” has now written a piece for Medium. In it, he explains why we cannot create a sim that is a conscious, rational being. He uses a dialogue between “Alice” and “The Programmer” to unpack the idea: The dialogue begins with Alice returning from school to find a strange little man in her apartment. He seemed not to notice her entering the room, and remained seated comfortably in Alice’s favourite armchair, reading her own copy of Nick Bostrom’s “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”. “Who the hell are you?” Alice shrieked. “What are you doing in my…

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Sad wife holding wedding ring on coronavirus confinement

Does COVID-19 Lead Women to Cheat?

The “subpersonal” approach to human psychology is popular but is it valid?

It's an open question whether the mind evolved at all and therefore whether evolutionary psychology is any help in understanding it.

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walnut split on a white background

My Right Hemisphere Is An Atheist! No, Wait …

In reality, split-brain surgery does not split consciousness in any meaningful sense

The atheist neuroscientist who has made bizarre claims about the outcomes of split brain surgery appears not to know much about neurosurgery.

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Two Astronauts on the Alien Planet Discover Plant Life. Space Travel, Discovery Of Habitable Worlds and Colonization Concept.

Is Intelligence Common or Rare in the Universe?

A recent analysis says that life is common but intelligence not so much. Let’s explore the reasoning

We really don't know anything about life elsewhere in the universe so even university-trained scientists often try to WISH it into existence.

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Free-range red angus cattle on pasture, Argentina.

No Free Will Means No Justice

Materialist biologist Jerry Coyne doesn’t seem to understand what denying free will would mean for the criminal justice system

Without free will, no one is innocent. Who asks cattle on the way to the abattoir if they are guilty or innocent?

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ufo flying over the desert

Close Encounters, Fifth Kind, Just Missed Contact

Worth a watch but Stephen Greer and I part company when he makes clear that he believes everything is conscious

In his documentary on UFOs, Stephen Greer certainly gets one thing right: Consciousness doesn’t fit into conventional science inquiry.

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Bright light at the end of the dark spooky coridor. Concept of near death experience

Neuroscience Can’t Dismiss Near Death Experiences

It’s sobering to note that neuroscience has utterly failed to explain how the brain and mind relate

Despite claims, NDEs are radically different from any mental experience caused by brain impairment.

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man jumping on rock formation

Is Materialism Falsifiable? Yes, Easily.

Neurologist Steven Novella is sure that materialism is not falsifiable by science

Contrary to Steven Novella's claims, cosmological singularities refute materialism. Kurt Gödel can explain

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Father And Young Son Reading Book Together At Home

Fatherhood Is Not “Subpersonal”

Human fathers care (but gorillas don’t) because fatherhood depends on explicitly human ideas

Why do men see themselves as “fathers” but male gorillas don’t? Proposed answers from evolutionary psychology are hopelessly inadequate.

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Archaeological excavation with skull still half buried in the ground

Philosopher Flattens Evolutionary Psychology

There is no such thing as a fossil mind

Rejecting evolutionary psychology means realizing that we cannot both claim to represent “Science!” and refuse to be bound by its standards.

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robots call center

Why Richard Dawkins Thinks AI May Replace Us

He likes the idea because it is consistent with his naturalist philosophy

Dawkins thinks we didn’t evolve so as to understand consciousness. But that our odd situation points nowhere. Isn’t all this past its sell-by date?

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Alfred Nobel Prize

Thinking Outside the Box Is Not a Disease

Enforced orthodoxy, often described euphemistically as “scientific consensus,” is an impediment to science

At the Skeptical Inquirer, we read about the“Nobel Disease,” whereby Nobel Prize-winning scientists ditch critical thinking and embrace unorthodox views. In reality, unorthodoxy helped them win the Prize.

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American Earth Venn Diagram

Physicist Rejects Free Will — and Thus Fails Logic

If we accepted his argument for materialism, we would have to stop believing in it—a curious, self-refuting result

Carroll’s argument that man is wholly governed by physics is self-refuting. Because physics and logic share no commonality, materialists like Carroll implicitly assert that their own arguments lack logic. One might say that the only thing materialists get right is that their ideas are nonsense. If man is all physics, he can have no logic.

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Lightning in the dark

Should AI Hold Patents? The Flash-of-Genius Answer

To understand why AI cannot independently invent, let’s look at how famous inventors have actually done it

Like Excel, AI assists programmers in their design work. AI can search through trillions of possibilities, using data from a million sources, to find a successful design. But the structure of the search and the source of the data is the choice of the programmer. A look at how famous inventors developed products that changed the world sheds some light on the process.

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