Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

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Philosopher Argues, Human Reason Is Inferior to Animal Reactions

Smith offers to resolve the problem of human exceptionality by dethroning reason

He hopes that artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life (a “statistical near-certainty”) will help us “give up the idea of rationality as nature’s last remaining exception.”

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Hands selecting colored lights

Younger Thinkers Now Argue That Free Will Is Real

The laws of physics do not rule it out, they say

Assuming this trend among younger thinkers persists, the philosophical discussions around AI are not making determinism seem necessary or inevitable. And that, when you think of it, is an odd fate for determinism.

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George Gilder with a microphone in the foreground

George Gilder: Why Entrepreneurship Can’t Just Be Automated

In business, an entrepreneur is the “oracle,” the one element that cannot be programmed or computed

Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t need it. We could program it on our machines. But because it’s always surprising, it can’t be planned.

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Can Physics Prove There Is No Free Will?

No, but it can make physicists incoherent when they write about free will

It’s hilarious. Sabine Hossenfelder misses the irony that she insists that people “change their minds” by accepting her assertion that they… can’t change their minds. 

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Human head in silhouette apparently on fire

The Human Brain: Even Basic Facts Are Hotly Contested

Keep that in mind when AI boosters claim that their product will function like a human brain

When we read that “Scientists Are Closer to Making Artificial Brains That Operate Like Ours Do”, we might ask: If career researchers dispute the question of how the brain works at basic levels, how can non-experts be so sure they have replicated it?

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Unordnung im Kinderzimmer, Playmobil - und Legosteine warten auf eine Zusammensetzung
Legos and toys for assembly

Computers Are No Smarter Than Tinkertoys

Philosopher: You may as well believe that Penn and Teller really do magic

Philosopher Ed Feser wrote a great post recently on why it is irrational to believe that artificial intelligence is really intelligent. He begins with Arthur C. Clarke’s famous observation that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Clarke’s assertion, he points out, can be taken two ways: people can be fooled into thinking that advanced technology is magic and, as a metaphysical assertion, that advanced technology really is magic. He defends the first assertion and, of course, denies the second: There are, however, many people who believe a claim that is analogous to, and as silly as, the metaphysical thesis that sufficiently advanced technology really is magic — namely the claim that a machine running a sufficiently advanced computer Read More ›

gloved hands with the laboratory tubes
Bacteria in Petri dish

Even Bacteria Are Purpose-Driven

The recent finding that bacteria can make individual decisions may help design better antibiotics

Does this mean that bacteria have free will? Not really; as Michael Egnor reminds us, free will is an immaterial quality of the reasoning mind. Life forms that lack a reasoning mind make decisions based only on their needs or desires.

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Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.
Ancient symbols texture, Petroglyphs on Newspaper Rock, Utah, USA.

The Origin of Language Remains Obscure

One problem is that information is not measured in science in a way that relates to matter and energy.

Human language is much more than a system of signals. And two recent articles in Inference Review provide insight into some of its ongoing puzzles in the huge unmapped territory of the interaction between the mind and the brain.

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Does “Alien Hand Syndrome” Show That We Don’t Really Have Free Will?

One woman’s left hand seemed to have a mind of its own. Did it?

Alien hand syndrome doesn’t mean that free will is not real. In fact, it clarifies exactly what free will is and what it isn’t.

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Circuit board. Electronic computer hardware technology. Motherboard digital chip. Tech science EDA background. Integrated communication processor. Information CPU engineering 3D background
Circuit board. Electronic computer hardware technology. Motherboard digital chip. Tech science EDA background. Integrated communication processor. Information CPU engineering 3D render background

The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part III

No program can discover new mathematical truths outside the limits of its code

Not only is it valid to ask whether artificial intelligence is impossible but the argument can be pursued on a scientific basis with quantifiable, empirical evidence.

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blue digital binary data on computer screen. Close-up shallow DOF

The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part II

There is another way to prove a negative besides exhaustively enumerating the possibilities

I am publishing, in three parts and with his permission, an exchange with Querius, who is looking for answers as to whether computers can someday think like people. In the first part, we discussed why human thinking cannot be indefinitely compressed. Here is the second part: Recapping for myself what I said in Part I and mulling it over: “If all symbol strings do have a shorter representation, then so must their shorter representations. Thus, we’d end up concluding that all symbol strings can be represented by nothing, which is incoherent.” Wait, I’m getting lost. “Therefore, we conclude that only some symbol strings have a compressed representation. As a consequence, compression intelligence is only true if the physical effects of Read More ›

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The Flawed Logic behind “Thinking” Computers, Part I

A program that is intelligent must do more than reproduce human behavior

If an algorithm that reproduces human behavior requires more storage space than exists in the universe, it is a practical impossibility that also demonstrates the logical impossibility of artificial intelligence.

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Creativity Does Not Follow Computational Rules

A philosopher muses on why machines are not creative

He worries about something quite different from the usual robots-are-coming scare: “It is entirely possible that we will come to treat artificially intelligent machines as so vastly superior to us that we will naturally attribute creativity to them. Should that happen, it will not be because machines have outstripped us. It will be because we will have denigrated ourselves.”

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Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools
Scapula on the background of fertile soil. Place for the text. The concept of agriculture. Metal garden tools

Scientism is not a cure for stupidity

But never mind, quite a few science savants have rushed in fearlessly

A science writer tackled a big issue recently: stupidity. Who does he ask? Why, scientists of course. Surprisingly enough, it’s a question few scientists have grappled with, perhaps out of a desire not to wade into a subject that could so easily offend. After all, the field of intelligence studies is rife with controversy. Ross Pomeroy “What is Stupidity?” at Real Clear Science But never mind, quite a few science savants, unafraid to offend, have rushed in: Evolutionary biologist David Krakauer, President of the Santa Fe Institute,told Nautilus, “Stupidity is using a rule where adding more data doesn’t improve your chances of getting [a problem] right. In fact, it makes it more likely you’ll get it wrong.” I won’t contradict Read More ›

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Silhouette of a female as training her dog - website banner

The Real Reason Why Only Human Beings Speak

Language is a tool for abstract thinking—a necessary tool for abstraction—and humans are the only animals who think abstractly

In his discussion of why only humans have language, science writer Tom Siegfried gets a lot right, but he misses the crucial reason.

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An array of symbols from the National Archives, Hämeenlinna, Finland

Artificial Intelligence Must Be Possible! Really…?

Many arguments for strong artificial intelligence depend on an ideological commitment to explicit, unproven theories about the universe

Not only is it valid to ask whether artificial intelligence is impossible but the argument can be pursued on a scientific basis with quantifiable, empirical evidence.

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Apples and oranges in shadows

Why I Doubt That AI Can Match the Human Mind

Computers are exclusively theorem generators, while humans appear to be axiom generators

My primary reason for doubting that AI can match human intelligence is that the difference between mind and machine is a difference of kind, not of quantity. Understanding the distinction will help us exploit the abilities of each to their maximum potential.

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Pinball chute

How Can Mere Products of Nature Have Free Will?

Materialists don’t like the outcome of their philosophy but twisting logic won’t change it

Although most compatibilists have a more or less materialist view of nature, they find it impossible to shake the conviction that free will is real.

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