Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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3d rendering of Human cell or Embryonic stem cell microscope background.

Are the Brain Cells in a Dish That Learned Pong Conscious?

Human-derived organoids learned faster than AI and always outperformed mouse-derived organoids in terms of volley length, raising troubling questions

Recently, science media were abuzz with a remarkable story about minibrains (mouse and human brain cells in a dish) learning to play the video game Pong: Scientists have successfully taught a collection of human brain cells in a petri dish how to play the video game “Pong” — kind of. Researchers at the biotechnology startup Cortical Labs have created “mini-brains“ consisting of 800,000 to one million living human brain cells in a petri dish, New Scientist reports. The cells are placed on top of a microelectrode array that analyzes the neural activity. “We think it’s fair to call them cyborg brains,” Brett Kagan, chief scientific officer at Cortical Labs and research lead of the project, told New Scientist. Tony Tran,…

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Problem solving concept. Mixed media

Does Superdeterminism Resolve Dilemmas Around Free Will?

If we lack free will, we have no justification whatsoever to even believe that we lack free will

The conventional view of nature held by materialists, who deny free will, is that all acts of nature, including our human acts and beliefs, are wholly determined by the laws of nature, understood as the laws of physics. We cannot be free, they assert, because all aspects of human nature are matter, and the behavior of matter is wholly determined by physical laws. There is no “room” for free will. It’s noteworthy that physicists who have studied determinism in nature (specifically, in quantum mechanics) have for the most part rejected this deterministic view of free will and implicitly (if not explicitly) endorsed the reality of free will. There are two reasons for this. First, experiments that have followed from the…

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Chorus sheet music

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas Music is All in Your Mind

Is music a matter of matter and energy alone, or is there something more to the story?

What better time than the Christmas season to explore immaterial realities of the human mind? A perfect example to consider is Christmas music. It’s everywhere during the holiday season. But what exactly is music? Described in purely physical terms, music is what humans sometimes perceive from the vibrations of air. Individual pieces of music are described less in physical terms and more in subjective terms using words that reflect how humans experience music in their minds. Eight key elements of music fall mostly into the category of qualia, i.e., experiences that occur in the hearers’ minds only: Dynamics, Form, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, Texture, Timbre and Tonality. Do you know the Christmas song “We Three Kings” when you hear it? Written in 1857, the song has been arranged…

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Red Pill Blue Pill concept. The right choice the concept of the movie matrix. The choice of tablets

The Matrix Trilogy: Some Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the films and am looking forward to the Matrix Resurrections but there are some things I need to say as a reviewer

While waiting for The Matrix: Resurrections, December 22: I admit, I’ve given this trilogy a hard time. But I do actually enjoy the films… when I’m not thinking about them. There are some good elements, and I want to point those out before going further. First of all, the relationship between Neo and Trinity is solid. It develops with the trilogy and we don’t have to suffer through a bunch of “will they?/won’t they?” tropes. A viewer can get invested in their relationship, so it hurts when Trinity dies. I appreciate any film where this risk is taken, instead of breaking up the characters and then getting them back together just so the writers don’t have to show the relationship’s…

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Atom Particle

Discovering the Non-Materialist Dimension in Science

Hint: Stephen Hawking was a fine physicist and writer but not a very good philosopher

Rounding out their discussion at Theology Unleashed, neuropsychologist Mark Solms and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor talk about physicists who point a way forward: A partial transcript of this portion, along with some notes, follows. Summary to date: In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. Then Solms pointed to the reality that discussing the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even…

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Information Theory - Shannon Equation

Why Neuroscientist Solms Is No Materialist: Information Theory

He points out that, to begin with, Einstein’s famous equation — E equals MC squared — makes the point that matter is derivative. It’s a state of energy

Arjuna, the host of the Theology Unleashed broadcast with South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms and Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the mind vs. the brain (October 22, 2021) begins this portion by offering a Hindu (Hare Krishna) perspective view of the whole question of mind vs. matter… and he finds considerable common ground with the other two non-materialists! The true implications of quantum mechanics and information theory in refuting materialism are only beginning to be understood. Summary to date: In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally…

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Turing machine close-up

Did Alan Turing’s Change of Heart Set AI on the Wrong Path?

Erik Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, thinks Turing lost track of one really important way minds differ from machines

In the earlier part of this episode of “Hyping Artificial Intelligence Hinders Innovation” (podcast episode 163), Andrew McDiarmid interviewed Erik J. Larson, author of The Myth of Artificial Intelligence (Harvard University Press, 2021) discussed the big switch in computer science, roughly around 2000, from deductive to inductive logic — because Big Data made inductive logic more productive. Now they look at what machines still can’t do: This portion begins at about 12:39 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Andrew McDiarmid: I found some of your podcasts on the web and in one of them you say, “I don’t know what a mind is, but I know what a machine is.” So how does that…

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Prehistoric hand paintings at the Cave of the Hands (Spanish: Cueva de Las Manos ) in Santa Cruz Province, Patagonia, Argentina. The art in the cave dates from 13,000 to 9,000 years ago.

Evolutionary Psychology: When We Looked In, No One Was There…

Evo psych likely got started when psychologists wanted to get in on illuminating findings in evolution, like the Cambrian Explosion

In a recent episode of ID: The Future, Casey Luskin and I discussed my chapter on evolutionary psychology in The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021). Evolutionary psychologists claim to find the basis of human psychology in what enabled our remote ancestors to survive — that is, in prehuman or prehistoric behavior. A conceptual problem has always bothered me. Reading University of New Hampshire philosopher Subrena Smith helped clarify my thoughts: There is no such thing as a fossil mind. If our behavior is said to stem from our prehistoric or prehuman past, not from our known human circumstances, evolutionary psychology is a discipline without a subject. Also, any human…

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bacteria

Would Cognition in Bacteria “Dethrone” Humans?

A cognition researcher’s approach to the question helps account for the growing popularity of panpsychism — as an alternative

Adelaide University cognition researcher Pamela Lyon offered an interesting thesis at Aeon last month: “Cognition did not appear out of nowhere in ‘higher’ animals but goes back millions, perhaps billions, of years.” Given that several scientists have recently made claims for cognition in single-celled entities, her contention is not all that surprising. But her approach to the topic prompts some thought: Lyon, who has little time for doubters, invokes Charles Darwin in calling for a “Copernican” shift in thinking on the subject: In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin draws a picture of the long sweep of evolution, from the beginning of life, playing out along two fundamental axes: physical and mental. Body and mind. All living beings,…

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Girls eye with paint and earth

Why Panpsychism Is Starting To Push Out Naturalism

A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work

Naturalism, often called “materialism,” posits that nature is all there is. Panpsychism doesn’t dispute that. But the panpsychist also thinks that consciousness is real — present in all nature (or all living nature) but especially developed in humans. Last Monday, writing about a classical atheist naturalist who was attacking panpsychism, I reflected on the difficulties the trend to panpsychism presents him. The naturalist is hostile to the panpsychist because he assumes that human consciousness will, in due course, be explained away. It is either an illusion, or an aid to survival that evolved among early humans. Or perhaps it is a spandrel (in evolution theory, a useless accompaniment of useful traits). In short, what we thought was our means of…

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Quantum Wave

Can Quantum Physics, Neuroscience Merge as Quantum Consciousness?

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser looks at the pros and cons of current theories

Physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser offers some thoughts as to the light that quantum mechanics — as opposed to classical physics — can shed on consciousness. The problem, he thinks, is that both quantum mechanics and consciousness are mysteries. Adding two mysteries together doesn’t produce simple answers: The truth is that despite the tremendous success of quantum physics when it comes to its applications — the digital and nuclear technologies that define much of modern life — its interpretation remains uncertain, a target of heated debate among physicists. We know how to use quantum physics, but we do not know what it is telling us about the nature of reality. Marcelo Gleiser, “Can quantum mechanics explain consciousness?” at Big Think…

Businessman and his conscience

A Neuropsychologist Takes a Crack at Defining Consciousness

Frustrated by reprimands for discussing Big Questions in neuroscience, Mark Solms decided to train as a psychoanalyst as well

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. Then Solms pointed to the reality that discussing the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. Egnor and Solms agreed that…

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

Materialist Neuroscientists Don’t Usually See Real Patients

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and neuropsychologist Mark Solms find common ground: The mind can be “merely what the brain does” in an academic paper. But not in life

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. But Solms pointed to the reality that asserting the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. In this portion, Egnor and…

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open eye in space

A Darwinian Biologist Resists Learning To Live With Panpsychism

Jerry Coyne makes two things quite clear: He scorns panpsychism and he doesn’t understand why some scientists accept it

Jerry Coyne, a traditional Darwinian evolutionary biologist and author of Why Evolution Is True, is having a hard time understanding why anyone would even consider taking panpsychism seriously. His bafflement over the growing acceptance of the idea that every living thing (or everything) is conscious to some extent may shed light on some new features of the changing science landscape. His jumping off point is a recent three-way debate/discussion, sponsored by MindChat, between panpsychist philosopher Philip Goff, naturalist theoretical physicist Sean Carroll, and physicalist philosopher Keith Frankish, who views the mind as an illusion created by the brain — or, as Coyne puts it, “a trick of the biological mind.” Coyne, as a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is),…

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Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Does Science Disprove Free Will? A Physicist Says No

Marcelo Gleiser notes that the mind is not a solar system with strict deterministic laws

One of the most disturbing implications of materialism in modern science is the inference that science disproves the existence of free will. Of course, this is not actually the case, but even the mistaken denial of free will has profound and very disturbing implications for our social structure, our criminal justice system, and our way of government. People who are assumed to lack free will are ultimately little more than cattle to be herded and, as philosopher Hannah Arendt has observed, the denial of free will — and the denial of individual responsibility that follows on it — is a cornerstone of totalitarianism. At Big Think, physicist and philosopher Marcelo Gleiser points to the fallacy that physics and neuroscience disprove…

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Nerve Cell. 3D. Neurons

Why So Many Neuroscientists Are Unreflective Materialists

It’s part of a larger commitment to the belief that materialism will one day refute dualism by explaining away all of the apparent immaterial aspects of the mind

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has contributed a chapter of The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions About Life and the Cosmos (2021): “Have science and philosophy refuted free will?” (Ch 18) and “Can materialism explain human consciousness?” (Ch 19). In it, he notes a reality of modern neuroscience: Materialism (the mind is simply what the brain does) is not a discovery so much as a pledge of allegiance: One might think that the logical problems with materialism would insulate 21st-century neuroscience from its influence, but that is not so. Most contemporary neuroscientists work from an implicitly materialist perspective — in part because they’re unreflective, in part because materialism is the metaphysical correlate of the atheistic scientism that…

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Servers at sunset, cloud technology concept. 3d rendering

Harvard U Press Computer Science Author Gives AI a Reality Check

Erik Larson told COSM 2021 about real limits in getting machines that don’t live in the real world to understand it

The speaker told the audience that although computers can do many impressive things, they will never achieve artificial intelligence. Who is “they” in the sentence you just read? The audience or computers? You immediately know the answer. It’s computers, because we know that researchers are struggling how to figure out how to endow computers with AI. It makes no sense to talk about an audience having artificial intelligence. You intuitively understanding the meaning of “they” in the sentence without even having to think about it. What if the sentence had read: The speaker told the audience that although computers can do many impressive things, they will be sorry if they bought one of this year’s models. Again, it is obvious…

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Girl in orange shirt standing near house robot

Silicon Valley Insider: Why Friendly Super-AI Won’t Happen

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel talks about the Great Filter hypothesis: Why should we assume a superior artificial intelligence would be friendly?

In a wide-ranging talk at the recent COSM 2021 conference (November 10–12), Peter Thiel (a PayPal and Facebook founder) expressed concern that people worry a great deal about artificial intelligence that thinks like people (AGI) but the real push now is for massive “dumb” surveillance AI peering into every detail of our lives, for the benefit of either government or the corporate world. He went on to say that he doubts that artificial general intelligence (AGI) — “superhuman software that can do everything that we can do” — would, in any event, be “friendly.” That is, that it “won’t kill us.” If it is intelligent enough to be independent, why should we assume so? “Friendly” is a human value, hard…

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illustration of balloon flying at the end of the sky, surreal minimal concept

3.Neuroscientist: Mind Is Not Just Brain? That’s Career Limiting!

Neuropsychologist Mark Solms and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor agreed that clinical experience supports a non-materialist view but that the establishment doesn’t

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that the mind is not merely the brain. Now, Solms talks about the reality that discussing the fact that the mind is not merely the brain can be a career-limiting move. A partial transcript, notes, and links to date follow: Next, I…

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Happy beautiful twins girls point up isolated on blue background, two sisters showing something above their heads , advertisement, place for text, body language

Why Physicalism Is Failing as the Accepted Approach to Science

The argument that everything in nature can be reduced to physics was killed by the philosophical Zombie, as Prudence Louise explains
At Medium, Prudence Louise, a writer on philosophy and religion, explains that in 1994 philosopher David Chalmers killed the Zombie in cold blood, igniting “a zombie apocalypse.” Sounds like an unusual role for a philosopher. And the Zombie?: “The philosophical notion of a “zombie” basically refers to conceivable creatures which are physically indistinguishable from us but lack consciousness entirely (Chalmers 1996)” — Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Louise asks us to picture that: Imagine you meet your doppelganger. Someone physically identical to you, atom for atom. The only difference is the doppelganger has no inner consciousness. They look happy or sad, they even tell you of their hopes and dreams. But there is nothing more than physical processes moving in response to physical causes. Their lips move and sounds which are meaningful to you come out, but they experience nothing at all. From the outside you are identical. But from the inside the zombie is a hollow imitation. That is a philosophical zombie. The physical structure, functions and behavior are identical, but there is no consciousness. What exactly is the missing ingredient? Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) The zombie could, in principle, exist. At the same time, we all know we are not zombies in the sense that we know we are conscious more certainly than we know anything else. And if consciousness is an illusion, well, whose illusion is it? As Louise goes on to show, for a physicalist (a person who believes that everything is physical), the zombie is an “explanatory nightmare.” It forces us to sense that there is something besides the physical. Although we can explain more and more about the human body in terms of structure and function, there is no good science-based theory of consciousness on the horizon. And if we can explain everything about a human being except consciousness, well, we haven’t explained, say, the difference between Jane and Zombie-Jane, which humans generally agree is important. As Louise explains in her short article, “The stakes are high. If there can’t be a scientific explanation of conscious experience, this shows physicalism is false.” One problem is that science explains third-person phenomena but consciousness is a first-person phenomenon. She then goes into much more careful logical and philosophical detail but here’s the gist: When you move your body to the fridge in response to a desire for a snack, or take medication in response to pain, or lock the doors due to a fear of burglars, there is no causal connection between those conscious states and the physical effects of your body moving. This view isn’t fatal to the physicalist theory, but it puts it on critical life support. Our mental states cause actions which move matter constantly, giving us a lot of evidence it’s true. Any arguments those powers are illusory will need to be stronger than our confidence our conscious states cause our bodies to move. Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) Physicalism took root in a mechanistic view of the universe, pioneered by Isaac Newton. And before the Zombie even showed up, that view was already being challenged by quantum mechanics, in which the conscious observer plays a key role in what happens. But, for scientists, physicalism is not the only game in town: Alternative metaphysics, like idealism, substance dualism or panpsychism all avoid the hard problem by denying causal closure. They accept the observation that consciousness is non-physical, and it’s causally effective, which means causal closure must be false. Unlike the observations of consciousness and its causal powers, causal closure isn’t based on observations of the world. It’s a metaphysical commitment. Physicalism is confronting a problem created by its philosophical commitments being in conflict with our observations of the world. Prudence Louise, “The Impossibly Hard Problem of Consciousness” at Medium (October 30, 3021) Of the three alternatives Louise lists, panpsychism seems to the one many scientists are gravitating to. Instead of “nothing is conscious,” many now think everything is conscious. Just recently, prominent biochemist James Shapiro titled a paper “All living cells are cognitive.” And prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio offered that viruses have some type of intelligence. Other well-known science achievers argue that electrons have a rudimentary mind. In response to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, philosopher Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not in conflict with physics. It offers a simpler view of physics than dualism, with fewer gaps than materialism (including physicalism). Essentially, panpsychism offers a way for scientists to address human consciousness, as currently understood, without explaining it away as an illusion. It would allow them to say that if Zombie-Jane existed, she would be missing something critical that Jane has (and so does everything else, to at least some extent). Whether that benefit makes panpsychism a better explanation of reality than idealism or dualism is a separate question. Each of these points of view has its own issues but the Zombie isn’t one of them. You may also wish to read: Theoretical physicist slams panpsychism Electrons cannot be conscious Sabine Hossenfelder’s view because they cannot change their behavior. Hossenfelder’s impatience is understandable but she underestimates the seriousness of the problem serious thinkers about consciousness confront. There is a reason that some scientists believe that the universe is conscious: It would be more logically coherent to say that you think the universe is conscious than to say that your own consciousness is an illusion. With the first idea, you may be wrong. With the second idea, you are not anything. Read More ›