Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

left-and-right-human-brain-anatomy-illustration-3d-rendering-stockpack-adobe-stock
Left and Right Human Brain Anatomy Illustration. 3D rendering

Study: Loss of Half the Brain Doesn’t Mean No Word, Face Contact

Researchers astounded: Contrary to theory, in a recent study, the single remaining brain hemisphere supported both word and face reading functions

Some children have half of their brains removed (hemispherectomy) to control massive seizures that would otherwise destroy the child’s whole brain. Specialists were surprised that the children functioned fairly normally — certainly compared to what would have been expected. A recent study of post-hemispherectomy patients has provided dramatic evidence of rewiring: An unprecedented study of brain plasticity and visual perception found that people who, as children, had undergone surgery removing half of their brain correctly recognized differences between pairs of words or faces more than 80% of the time. Considering the volume of removed brain tissue, the surprising accuracy highlights the brain’s capacity — and its limitations — to rewire itself and adapt to dramatic surgery or traumatic injury. The Read More ›

types-of-coffee-placed-to-taste-or-smell-stockpack-adobe-stock
types of coffee placed to taste or smell

Designed to Dine, Part 2: How, Exactly, We Compute Flavor

Once a universally enjoyed but scientifically ignored phenomenon, flavor bursts out as an extraordinary event of a biological computer

Since Part 1 of this article was served up, have you experienced food and drink with greater awareness of flavor? Part 1 laid out the elements of flavor, including the smell, taste, texture, and mouth feel of foods and drinks. Smell delivers 80% of what we experience as flavor, coming from the thousands of sensory nerves in our noses detecting individual molecules. From the tongue comes taste sensations of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (savory). Flavor is like a dynamic 3-D hologram, a multi-dimensional composition of sensory inputs fluctuating in real-time, all delivered as data to the brain for final processing. Flavor makes eating fun! The Computation of Yummy The complicated and integrated systems of smell, taste, and other Read More ›

table-filled-with-snacks-and-traditional-eastern-european-lithuanian-food-for-a-feast-celebration-stockpack-adobe-stock
Table filled with snacks and traditional eastern European (Lithuanian) food for a feast celebration.

Designed to Dine: Humans are Computers of Flavor

Food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the sensations — really the brain — of the beholder (and taster)

Whether you’re a professional gourmet, a self-styled “foodie,” or an everyday North American who likes to eat, you probably look forward to celebration dinners. At any feast on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or the Passover Seder, the focal feature is the food. It doesn’t occur to us to ask: How do we sense the flavors of the food? After all, the food itself has no flavor at all. Flavor is in the mouth — and the nose, tongue, eyes, inner ears, and really the brain — of the beholder. Venture to learn how human beings enjoy food, and you’ll discover exquisite evidence of intelligent design. Like so many biological systems, detecting flavor involves specialized hardware components and the corresponding software to Read More ›

placebo-stockpack-adobe-stock
placebo

Placebo: The Power of the Human Mind Confounds Medical Research

Angelman syndrome, which creates a variety of developmental problems, has proven a challenge for researchers on that account

We don’t often hear about researchers crying but when researchers at Ovid Therapeutics heard the test results for their drug, gaboxadol, they couldn’t help it. They were testing the sleep-inducing drug to help with the symptoms of Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurogenetic disorder that appears in infancy. It results in a variety of developmental problems such as walking and balance disorders, inability to speak or sleep properly, gastrointestinal issues, and seizures. It affects people in different ways and to different degrees. Notably, those who cope with Angelman smile and laugh a lot and have a normal lifespan. The OVID team had high hopes for gaboxadol in August of this year because even improving the quality of sleep would help sufferers Read More ›

kunstliche-intelligenz-konzept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Künstliche Intelligenz Konzept

Oxford’s John Lennox Busts the “Computer Takeover” Myth

AI is here to stay, he says, but in addition to doing a great deal of good, it raises vast problems we must address

Earlier this month, we looked at claims that robots are going to scarf up everyone’s jobs. That was a bonus feature in the Science Uprising series. In another bonus interview, “John Lennox on the Transhumanist Claim AI Will Turn Humans into Gods” (October 17, 2022), Oxford mathematician Lennox talks about claims that 1) computers are taking over and that 2) we will merge with them (transhumanism). Lennox is the author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020). This is the first of two parts, where he talks mainly about narrow AI but then gets into the topic of artificial general intelligence (AGI). A partial transcript and notes follow: John Lennox: The typical AI system consists of a Read More ›

colorful-abstract-iridescent-space-art-swirl-background-stockpack-adobe-stock
colorful abstract iridescent space art swirl background

Is Consciousness a “Controlled Brain Hallucination”? No.

Anil Seth explains away consciousness away using fashionable terms like that. As a pediatric neurosurgeon, I know from clinical experience that he is wrong

Philosopher David Chalmers famously divided the problem of understanding how consciousness is related to the brain by distinguishing between the easy and hard problems of consciousness. The easy problem of consciousness is typically faced by working neuroscientists — i.e., what parts of the brain are metabolically active when we’re awake? What kinds of neurons are involved in memory? These problems are “easy” only in the sense that they are tractable. The neuroscience necessary to answer them is challenging but, with enough skill and perseverance, it can be done. The hard problem of consciousness is another matter entirely. It is this: How can first-person subjective experience arise from brain matter? How do we get an ‘I’ from an ‘it’? Compared with Read More ›

glowing-lightbulb-with-virtual-brain-and-orange-light-creative-new-business-idea-concept-stockpack-adobe-stock
Glowing lightbulb with virtual brain and orange light . Creative new business idea concept.

How Can We Tell a Genius From a Really Smart Person?

Members of Mensa, a club for people with high IQ, think that the difference is exceptional creativity

A few years ago, Claire Cameron, Nautilus’s Social Media & News Editor asked five present or former members of Mensa, an international high-IQ society, founded in 1946. To qualify as members, they had to score above the 98th percentile on an IQ test or another standardized one. Her conversation with Richard Hunter, a retired finance director at a drinks distributor; journalist Jack Williams; Bikram Rana, a director at a business consulting firm; LaRae Bakerink, a business consultant; and clinical hypnotist John Sheehan brings into sharp relief the difference between high intelligence and genius — a fact that the high-IQ scorers were happy to admit. Some snippets from the conversation (participants are identified by their initials): RH: You can have a Read More ›

balsamic reduction
Dirty Nonstick Skillet Used to Make a Balsamic Reduction: An unwashed frying pan covered in a sticky glaze

Reductionism as a Dead End in Neuroscience — Captured in an Essay

From the evidence that he presents, Anil Seth could at most show that animal consciousness is more complex than previously thought

University of Sussex professor of cognitive and computational neuroscience Anil K. Seth, during a routine dismissal of René Descartes (1596–1650), assures us, “It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be.” More mysterious than it needs to be? As noted earlier, what makes understanding the human mind necessarily complex is that it is both the entity we are trying to perceive and the tool by which we hope to perceive it. Such a problem is like trying to imagine a five-dimensional box in relation to the real world. Unlike the five-dimensional box, consciousness is part of the life experience of every human being. How would Dr. Seth unravel the problem? In Read More ›

group-of-neanderthal-hunting-a-bison-stockpack-adobe-stock
Group of neanderthal hunting a bison

Smoke and Drink Too Much? Blame Neanderthal Man!

Besides passing on addictive habits, if you believe a study of casts from fossil skulls, our Neanderthal ancestors couldn’t meditate either…

This from a recent DNA analysis study: Around 40% of the Neandertal genome can still be found in present-day non-Africans, and each individual still carries ~2% of Neandertal DNA. Some of the archaic genetic variants may have conferred benefits at some point in our evolutionary past. Today, scientists can use this information to learn more about the impact of these genetic variants on human behaviour and the risk of developing diseases. Using this approach, a new study from an international team led by researchers from the University of Tartu, Charité Berlin and the Amsterdam UMC analysed Neandertal DNA associations with a large variety of more than a hundred brain disorders and traits such as sleep, smoking or alcohol use in Read More ›

doctor-touching-patient-hand-for-encouragement-and-empathy-in-the-hospital-cheering-and-support-patient-bad-news-medical-examination-trust-and-ethics-stockpack-adobe-stock
Doctor touching patient hand for encouragement and empathy in the hospital, cheering and support patient, Bad news, medical examination, trust and ethics

Psychiatry Has Always Been Difficult But …

… it’s unclear how trashing almost every philosophical tradition from which it is approached will really help

Philosopher Elly Vintiadis at the American College of Greece thinks that psychiatry has a philosophy problem: Psychiatry is caught up in a number of philosophical errors. One is reductionism, as psychiatry tends to seek underlying biological causes for mental disorders. The other is dualism, as it thinks of mental disorders as either caused by our brains or caused by our minds. Both these errors are a result of seeing the world as made up of a hierarchy of things. Instead, if psychiatry saw the world as fundamentally made up of processes, dynamically interacting with each other, a much more nuanced understanding of mental disorders would become available to it, argues Elly Vintiadis. Elly Vintiadis, “Reality and mental disorder: Psychiatry has Read More ›

two-hands-holding-a-paper-with-human-head-and-a-puzzle-piece-finding-a-cure-to-heal-the-disease-mental-health-concept-memory-loss-and-dementia-disease-alzheimers-losing-brain-and-memory-function-stockpack-adobe-stock
Two hands holding a paper with human head and a puzzle piece. Finding a cure to heal the disease. Mental health concept, memory loss and dementia disease. Alzheimer's losing brain and memory function.

The Human Brain Rewires Itself in Middle Age

After we hit forty, our brains integrate more and compartmentalize less

It seems designed to get the best of human longevity: In a systematic review recently published in the journal Psychophysiology, researchers from Monash University in Australia swept through the scientific literature, seeking to summarize how the connectivity of the human brain changes over our lifetimes. The gathered evidence suggests that in the fifth decade of life (that is, after a person turns 40), the brain starts to undergo a radical “rewiring” that results in diverse networks becoming more integrated and connected over the ensuing decades, with accompanying effects on cognition. Ross Pomeroy, “The brain undergoes a great “rewiring” after age 40” at Big Think (September 24, 2022) According to the researchers, when we are young, our brains are modular, suited Read More ›

robot-with-artificial-intelligence-observing-human-skull-in-evolved-cybernetic-organism-world-3d-rendered-image-stockpack-adobe-stock
Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

Computer Takeover Won’t Happen, Say a Scientist and Philosopher

Jobst Landgrebe and Barry Smith say that the Singularity advocates are missing something fundamental about computers vs. humans

Scientist and entrepreneur Jobst Landgrebe and philosopher Barry Smith published a book last month that directly challenges the claim AI is becoming capable of human type thought and will run our world whether we like it or not. Here’s what critics are saying about Why Machines will Never Rule the World: Artificial Intelligence without Fear (Routledge, 2022) It’s a highly impressive piece of work that makes a new and vital contribution to the literature on AI and AGI. The rigor and depth with which the authors make their case is compelling, and the range of disciplinary and scientific knowledge they draw upon is particularly remarkable and truly novel. – Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair, Edinburgh Futures Institute, The University of Read More ›

sea-soul-abstract-marine-backgrounds-with-sun-beam-and-underwater-landscape-stockpack-adobe-stock
Sea soul. Abstract marine backgrounds with sun beam and underwater landscape

Why should we believe that the human mind is immortal?

Philosopher Moreland: Think of the soul like a chest of drawers and think of the mind and the spirit like two drawers in the chest of drawers

Philosopher J. P. Moreland offers some thoughts at Closer to Truth (September 14, 2022) J.P. Moreland: (1:49) Think of the soul like a chest of drawers and think of the mind and the spirit like two drawers in the chest of drawers. I am a soul I’m an immaterial substance. Within me are different faculties, different ranges of powers or abilities. My mind is a faculty of the soul. My spirit is a different faculty of the soul. Now, you can’t separate my mind from my soul like you can [separate] the legs of a table and put them in different places. So the legs of a table would be called “separable parts.” They can be separated from the whole Read More ›

field-of-red-flowers-stockpack-adobe-stock
field of red flowers

Philosophy: Can Red Have “Redness” If No Self Perceives It?

As Closer to Truth’s Robert Kuhn interviews philosopher Julian Baggini, they now tackle the question of “qualia” — part of the nature of conscious experiences

Yesterday, we looked at philosopher Julian Baggini’s argument that the unified self is an illusion. He spoke about this in the context of a discussion with Closer to Truth’s Robert Lawrence Kuhn. Kuhn, nearly midway through, steers the conversation toward qualia, that is, the inner experience we have of things. Red, an often-used example, is a color in the spectrum but it is also, for many, an experience. Serious and influential books have been written (2005 and 2017) about the history of the color and the experiences it evokes. Questions are interspersed between exchanges in the transcribed dialogue: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: (3:23) Let’s distinguish two factors that are flying around here. One is the concept of self — what it Read More ›

split self glasses
Multiple personality disorder concept

Another Philosopher Argues That the Unified Self Is an Illusion

At Closer to Truth, Lawrence Kuhn interviews Julian Baggini, who claims, in terms reminiscent of Thomas Metzinger, that a unified self is an illusion

University of Kent philosopher Julian Baggini, author of The Great Guide: What David Hume can teach us about being human and living well (2021), was interviewed recently by Robert Lawrence Kuhn at Closer to Truth (September 1, 2022). In the interview, Dr. Baggini asserted that, while consciousness is not an illusion, a unified self that persists through time is: Here is a partial transcript, interspersed with questions that arise from the discussion: Robert Lawrence Kuhn: Julian, my own internal feeling of awareness my consciousness seems like the most obvious fundamental thing in the world. You tell me it’s an illusion Why? Julian Baggini: (0:11) To be honest, consciousness isn’t an illusion. I mean clearly there’s awareness of the world. I Read More ›

ultrasound-examination-of-the-head-examination-of-a-month-old-baby-stockpack-adobe-stock
Ultrasound examination of the head. Examination of a month old baby

Woman Missing Her Brain’s Language Lobe Pens New York Times Piece

Helen Santoro’s parents were told she would “never speak and would need to be institutionalized.” She became a science writer instead

Children who suffer perinatal strokes may be left with large holes or lesions where brain regions should be. Many are severely disabled. But some are not disabled at all. One woman, Helen Santoro, was so little affected by the lack of a left temporal lobe that she got dropped from a research study of the aftermath. Now a science writer, she published an article last week in the New York Times about her efforts to understand and unravel the mystery. Perinatal stroke is often discovered, as in her case, when the newborn child has trouble with breathing or sucking reflexes. A brain scan showed “a huge hole’ where her left temporal lobe should have been, just above the ear. Because Read More ›

the-little-chimpanzee-monkey-put-his-human-friends-hand-on-his-head-hugged-him-made-a-grimace-sits-in-a-green-stroller-wearing-blue-shorts-walk-down-the-street-in-the-background-palms-stockpack-adobe-stock
The little chimpanzee monkey put his human friend's hand on his head, hugged him. made a grimace. Sits in a green stroller, wearing blue shorts. Walk down the street. in the background palms,

Researchers Find More Ways That Human and Ape Brains Differ

Underlying the significant differences in brain — to say nothing of the vast difference in mind — is a genetic mystery…

Yale University researchers have identified more specific ways the human brain differs from the brains of all other primates. Using “hundreds of thousands of cells collected from the dlPFC of adult humans, chimpanzees, macaque, and marmoset monkeys,” they found After grouping cells with similar expression profiles they revealed 109 shared primate cell types but also five that were not common to all species. These included a type of microglia, or brain-specific immune cell, that was present only in humans and a second type shared by only humans and chimpanzees. The human-specific microglia type exists throughout development and adulthood, the researchers found, suggesting the cells play a role in maintenance of the brain upkeep rather than combatting disease… An analysis of Read More ›

invisible-man-wearing-black-bowler-surreal-concept-of-absence-of-identity-stockpack-adobe-stock
invisible man wearing black bowler, surreal concept of absence of identity

Philosopher: I’m Neither Me, Myself nor I… Yet I Give Interviews!

Theoretical philosopher Thomas Metzinger tells his interviewer “Nobody ever had or was a self. Selves are not part of reality.”

It’s remarkable that given the abysmal logical state of modern neuroscience, modern philosophy of mind seems to be in a heated contest to be even more absurd. Secular meditation teacher Michael W. Taft interviewed leading theoretical philosopher Thomas Metzinger. Here is one set of Taft’s and Metzinger’s questions and answers, and my observations: Michael W. Taft: You’ve written at great length about the experience of selfhood in human beings. So let’s start off by asking, What is the self? Thomas Metzinger: The first thing to understand, I believe, is that there is no thing like “the self.” Nobody ever had or was a self. Selves are not part of reality. Selves are not something that endures over time. The first Read More ›

chocolate-and-vanilla-bourbon-ice-creams-stockpack-adobe-stock
Chocolate and vanilla bourbon ice creams

How We Know the Mind Is About Information, Not Matter or Energy

The computer program’s world is one of binary 0 or 1 decisions but the physical world is one of many different shades of more or less

It’s really hard to picture the “mind,” isn’t it? You might think of wavy ghosts, or a spectral light. But nothing very definite. The brain, on the other hand, is very easy to visualize. Images and videos are just a Google away. That’s why it’s easy to assume that our brains are the entities that do our thinking for us. The brain is not only easy to image, it is physical. We can (in theory) touch it. Poke it. The brain even runs off electricity, just like your computer. But what makes a computer run Windows? It isn’t just the transistors on silicon wafers. It isn’t just the electricity coursing through the circuits. Windows itself is a ghostly being, like Read More ›

abstract-fractal-patterns-and-shapes-beautiful-abstract-background-solored-wavesspirals-lines-and-circles-infinite-universe-stockpack-adobe-stock
Abstract fractal patterns and shapes. Beautiful abstract background. Сolored waves,spirals, lines and circles. Infinite universe.

Is Ours One of a Few Working Universes Among Countless Flops?

Is that probable? How would we know? Philosopher Stephen C. Meyer offers some suggestions

In this fourth and final portion of a talk at the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith (2021), philosopher Stephen C. Meyer takes on the claim that the fine-tuning of our universe for life can be explained by the multiverse, that is, “there are many other universes with different laws and concepts of physics and different initial conditions, different arrangements that matter in energy at the beginning of those universes. And there are enough such universes to make the improbable features of our universe probable on a mega cosmic scale.” Dr. Meyer is the author of The Return of the God Hypothesis (Harper One, 2021). (A sample of the book is here.) The first portion is here, the second here, Read More ›