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Mind Matters Reporting on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

Natural Intelligence

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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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Close-up view of 'one way' road sign with blurred building in the background. Manhattan, New York City, United States of America.

Flubbed Headlines: New Challenge For AI Common Sense

I propose a new challenge: Teach computers to correctly understand the headline “Students Cook and Serve Grandparents”

Many high tech companies, including Microsoft, are headquartered near the coast in the state of Washington. The executives must have been terrified when they read the headline: “Tuna Biting Off Washington Coast” But wait. Tuna are not chomping on Seattle beaches. The headline, meant to convey good news for fishermen, can be read that way of course. We use common sense to identify the intended meaning and the incorrect interpretation makes us smile. But AI has trouble doing this because it lacks common sense. To solve the problem of AI’s lack of common sense, Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen (1953–2018) poured big bucks into Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “To make real progress in A.I., we have to overcome the Read More ›

Head shot close up portrait of red-and-green macaw in zoo

Polly Want a … Statistician?

Ethology, the science of animal behavior, offers interesting data but the interpretations are too often witless

Can birds really do statistics? A reporter writing up the results of a study for a popular science magazine seems to think so. The researchers are (appropriately) more cautious. But what are the issues here?

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Choose your way

How Did “Wanting” Things Emerge?

Agency (“wanting” or “deciding” things) is as hard a problem in physics as consciousness

Rocks don’t resist becoming sand but plants resist, by various strategies, becoming insect food. All life forms seem to need and want things; the most intelligent ones want more complex and less obviously necessary things. At New Scientist, we are told that wanting things is a “superpower” that physics can’t explain. But are we asking the wrong questions?

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The concept of rational and irrational thinking of two people. Heads of two people with colourful shapes of abstract brain for concept of idea and teamwork. Two people with different thinking.

We Will Never “Solve” the Brain

A science historian offers a look at some of the difficulties we face in understanding the brain

In a forthcoming book, science historian Matthew Cobb suggests that we may need to be content with different explanations for different brain parts. And that the image of the brain as a computer is definitely on the way out.

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Is Transhumanism Uncomfortably Tempting?

An ethicist asks us to stop and reflect

Jacob Schatzer identifies three issues in the essay, “The Allure of Transhumanism,” that might prompt some queasy recognitions in all of us, at times.

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Young birch with black and white birch bark in spring in birch grove against the background of other birches

Researchers: Trees “sense” their height and weight

We have only recently discovered how complex plant communications are

Trees rarely just fall over but we seldom stop to think about why they don’t. Manipulating the weight of downy birch trees, the team discovered that a tree can adjust its stem thickening in relation to its height, especially if the stem is free to move a bit. They were able to test this thesis by studying a mutant tree that sadly lacks that ability.

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バイナリーコードの背景

Superintelligent AI Is Still a Myth

Neither the old classical approaches nor the new data scientific angle can make any headway on good ol’ common sense

The official Winograd Schema Challenge, organized by Levesque and friends to see if AI could learn common sense, was retired officially in 2016 for the embarrassing reason that even the well-funded bleeding age Google Brain team performed poorly on a test set of a few hundred questions.

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Man caressing a tame black fox

Tame Animals, Not Wild Ones, Are Mysterious

A recent discovery about tame foxes sheds some light but deepens the larger mystery

New research puts us back where we started. The foxes are tame. But why are they tame? Other foxes are decidedly not tame. Why is it so easy to “tame” dogs and cats but not wolves and bobcats? 

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