Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding interested product in the store.

The Amazing Things We Can Do with Virtual and Augmented Reality

The “father of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness, talks to Robert J. Marks about his vision for the future

In a recent podcast, “Robert J. Marks and Thomas Furness on VR and AR,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks continued his discussion with the “grandfather of virtual reality,” Thomas Furness. They focused on the cutting edge of virtual reality today. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-094-Thomas-Furness.mp3 Transcript. Partial transcript: Robert J. Marks: So, Dr. Furness, we have been talking about a number of fascinating things, but there’s still some things that I’d like to talk to you about. Another one is ARToolworks. Now, AR stands for augmented reality. Thomas Furness: Now, the difference really is between the VRs generally, where you are completely immersed in a computer-generated environment. That’s all you see is the computer generation of images. AR, on the other hand,…

Antibiotic resistant bacteria inside a biofilm, 3D illustration. Biofilm is a community of bacteria where they aquire antibiotic resistance and communicate with each other by quorum sensing molecules

In What Ways Are Bacteria Intelligent?

As antibiotic resistance grows, researchers are discovering that these microbes are not just single, simple cells

Recently, Princeton University physicist Robert Austin challenged his graduate student Trung Phan to design a maze that he (Austin) couldn’t solve: Austin, Phan discovered, tended to retrace his steps when he encountered a dead end. So Tran decided on a maze without dead ends. The true purpose of the experiment, as Sophia Chen recounts at Wired, was to design a maze that bacteria can solve with remarkable skill based on their colony organization which, if you like, stands in for a brain: Curiously, bacteria—single-celled organisms that are among the simplest living things—are well known for working together, creating problem-solving units that are more than the sum of their parts. For example, to protect themselves from your immune system, the bacteria…

Dog playing the shell game with her human. Concept of training pets, domestic dogs being smart and educated

In What Ways Are Dogs Intelligent?

There is no human counterpart to some types of dog intelligence

At Gizmodo recently, George Dvorsky adopted the useful, though somewhat unusual, strategy of determining dog intelligence by focusing on what dogs can’t do. He starts with the premise, as put by University of Exeter psychology professor (and dog expert) Stephen Lea, who says that domestication “has radically altered the intelligence of dogs.” Not so much raised or lowered it as changed its nature from the type of intelligence we would expect from a wolf: “Dogs are very good at what they’re bred to do — they’re excellent at doing those things, and in some cases even better than other species we think are intelligent, such as chimps and bonobos,” Zachary Silver, a PhD student from the Comparative Cognitive Lab at…

Incognito warrior in iron helmet and red cloak.

What would Plato Say About Antifa? Or Darwin?

A careful reading of Plato and Arendt goes a long way toward explaining the current scene—but it is unsettling reading

In college, I hated Plato. We read his Republic, and, as a patriot and an idealistic young (small “d”) democrat, I was appalled at the hegemony of the Guardians and at Plato’s disdain for democracy. It seemed to me that his Guardians were the archetypal totalitarians, and that it was a fundamental human right — enshrined in the Constitution — to be ruled only by consent of the governed. In my dotage, I am more sympathetic to Plato — it’s remarkable how much smarter the old philosopher has gotten in the past 40 years! I am still uncomfortable with Guardians, at least of the secular sort. But I think John Adams got it right when he observed that “our Constitution…


Why Reasonable People Think Near-Death Experiences Are Real

Distinguished engineers Walter Bradley and Robert J.Marks sift through the evidence

In a recent podcast, “Walter Bradley on Near-Death Experiences,” Center director Robert J. Marks discusses these experiences with Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named. Dr. Bradley is an emeritus distinguished professor at Baylor University, formerly professor and mechanical engineering head at Texas A&M University. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-093-Walter-Bradley.mp3 Here are some selections from the transcript: (You can download the entire transcript here.) Marks and Bradley started with first principles: Is it reasonable to believe that there is anything out beyond the material world? Many people assume that science exists to defend materialism. But Walter Bradley has defended the idea that there is also an immaterial world, of which we are a part, in a…

Baby girl in surprise talking on a vintage phone

Why Linguist Noam Chomsky Is a Great Scientist of Our Era

He singlehandedly rid linguistics of a stultifying (and technically mistaken) behaviorism

Noam Chomsky (right, in 2017) is, in my view, the best scientist of the past half-century. His work fascinates me, which is not a necessary criterion for being a great scientist—but it helps! I hasten to add that I do not share his politics—I’m of a conservative bent. But his theory of linguistics is brilliant and represents an anthropological, biological, and even metaphysical insight unrivaled in science since relativity and quantum mechanics. A case can be made that Chomsky’s insights are more profound than even those of modern physics, because they plumb the human soul in ways that physics cannot. To understand Chomsky’s achievement, it’s helpful to understand what linguistics was until Chomsky transformed it in the 1950s. Philosophers and…

Inner Life of Super Human AI

GPT-3 Is “Mindblowing” If You Don’t Question It Too Closely

AI analysts sound unusually cautious in pointing out that it doesn’t live up to a lot of the hype

Last week, Jonathan Bartlett wrote about the somewhat misleading buzz around the new OpenAI third-generation software, GPT-3 (Generative Pretrained Transformer). And now—for a change—much of the industry has begun to seem socially distant, so to speak, from the reckless hype that has accompanied other releases. For example, one article starts off breathlessly: The artificial intelligence tool GPT-3 has been causing a stir online, due to its impressive ability to design websites, prescribe medication, and answer questions… Its predecessor, GPT-2, made headlines for being deemed “too dangerous to release” because of its ability to create text that is seemingly indistinguishable from those written by humans. While GPT-2 had 1.5 billion parameters which could be set, GPT-3 has 175 billion parameters. A…

Black Chimpanzee Mammal Ape

But, in the End, Did the Chimpanzee Really Talk?

A recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine sheds light on the motivations behind the need to see bonobos as something like an oppressed people, rather than apes in need of protection

Recently, Michael Egnor commented on radical primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s effort to level the playing field between humans and bonobos by including the latter as authors of a research paper on animal welfare: “Non-human animals don’t have abstract knowledge-making and practices that would allow them to be meaningfully consulted. It is reality, not anthropocentric bias, that has left animals out of this decision-making process.” There is a larger and very interesting story around that paper, recently relayed at Smithsonian Magazine by Lindsay Stern (right), a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Yale and author of a novel, The Study of Animal Languages. Her article tells us a good deal about the motivations of those who, essentially, see bonobos not as apes…

Flush royal in poker player hand. Lucky winner.

Does AI Really “Get” Poker? Why That Matters.

Science journalist Maria Konnikova, also a professional poker player, explores the human side of poker and efforts to automate it

Maria Konnikova (left), a science journalist who quit a good gig to become a poker player, learned a a good deal about the human side of the game and about AI programmers’ efforts at automating it. Along the way, she won money and wrote a book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win (June 2020). In an excerpt at Wired, she reflects on the fact that computer pioneer John von Neumann (1903–1957) was a poker player and “Not just a poker player, but someone for whom poker inspired brilliant insights into human decisionmaking, someone who considered it the ultimate game for approximating the strategic challenges of life.” Poker is a game of skill but…

Smart car, Autonomous self-driving concept.

The Political Case Against Self-Driving Cars

An auto mechanic turned philosopher warns against ceding control of one’s destination to others, in the relentless pursuit of safety

Some worry about the role driverless cars might play in the next pandemic lockdown (there will be other pandemics and emergencies). David Lanza offers a thought-provoking scenario for these autonomous/self-driving vehicles: The production of driverless cars remains in its infancy, but if those cars ever become common, the government will have no problem locking us down on the slightest pretext. Driverless cars have no steering wheels and depend upon pre-programmed GPS coordinates to guide them (and us) to our destinations. Aside from entering a destination at the start of a trip, a driver has no way to direct the car. David Lanza, “Driverless Cars Will Make the Next Pandemic Crackdown Complete” at American Thinker The response to the COVID-19 crisis,…

Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?

Oxford mathematician contends that science should increase our respect for what God has created and allowed us to do

John Lennox. author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?”, he discusses with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, the title question: “Can AI replace the need for belief in God?” https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources) Robert J. Marks (right): Let’s talk about the theological implications of AI. You have a reputation, not only as a mathematician, but a Christian apologist. And I wanted to go into some…

Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

Could Super Artificial Intelligence Be, in Some Sense, Alive?

An AI theorist makes the case to a technical writer…

Tech writer Ben Dickson poses the question: Should you feel bad about pulling the plug on a robot or switch off an artificial intelligence algorithm? Not for the moment. But how about when our computers become as smart—or smarter—than us? Ben Dickson, “What will happen when we reach the AI singularity?” at TheNextWeb, July 7, 2020 Philosopher Borna Jalšenjak (above right) of the Luxembourg School of Business has been thinking about that. He has a chapter, “The Artificial Intelligence Singularity: What It Is and What It Is Not,” in Guide to Deep Learning Basics: Logical, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives, in which he explores the case for “thinking machines” being alive, even if they are machines. The book as a whole…

Paradigm of Quantum Wave

At Nautilus: Electrons DO have a “rudimentary mind”

Panpsychists in science believe that nature is all there is but, they say, it includes consciousness as a fundamental fact of nature

A leading theory of consciousness, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) proposed by University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Giulio Tononi and championed by by another leading neuroscientist, Christof Koch, has clear panpsychist affiliations. It is favored by proponents of the idea that electrons are conscious. Whoa!, you say. How can electrons be conscious? Wouldn’t they at least need a brain to be conscious? Let’s hear an explanation from proponent Tam Hunt (right) at Nautilus: You might see the rise of panpsychism as part of a Copernican trend—the idea that we’re not special. The Earth is not the center of the universe. Humans are not a treasured creation, or even the pinnacle of evolution. So why should we think that creatures with brains, like…

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Shaved male nape and a lot of usb cables connected to it. Concept of dependence in thinking and information

AI Expert: Artificial Intelligences Are NOT Electronic People

AI makes mistakes no human makes, so some experts are trying to adapt human cognitive psychology to machines

David Watson of the Oxford Internet Institute and the Alan Turing Institute has published an interesting and quite readable paper in Minds and Machines on the way in which artificial intelligence experts often endow their creations — mistakenly — with human characteristics. In his open access paper, “The Rhetoric and Reality of Anthropomorphism in Artificial Intelligence,” he fills us in on some of the limitations of AI and proposes fixes based on human thinking. First, thinking that AI is like a human or about to become like a human is not new: The biomimetic approach to AI has always inspired the popular imagination. Writing about Rosenblatt’s perceptron, the New York Times declared in 1958 that “The Navy has revealed the…

Computer error.

AI Will Fail, Like Everything Else, Eventually

The more powerful the AI, the more serious the consequences of failure

A day does not go by without a news article reporting some amazing breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In fact, progress in AI has been so steady that some futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, project current trends into the future and anticipate the headlines of tomorrow. Consider some developments from the world of technology: 2004 DARPA sponsors a driverless car grand challenge. Technology developed by the participants eventually allows Google to develop a driverless automobile and modify existing transportation laws. 2005 Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot is able to walk as fast as a human, delivering trays to customers in a restaurant setting. The same technology is now used in military robots. 2007 Computers learned to play a perfect game of checkers,…

Groupe de Bonobos autour d'un hôtel à insectes

Can Animal Minds Rival Humans Under the Right Circumstances?

Are we just not being fair to animals, as some researchers think?

In 2007, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, a psychologist and primatologist , published a paper in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science with a remarkable citation: Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Kanzi Wamba, Panbanisha Wamba, and Nyota Wamba, “Welfare of Apes in Captive Environments: Comments on, and by, a Specific Group of Apes,” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 10:1 (2007): 7–19. What is remarkable about the paper is not the text but the authorship statement. Kanzi, Panbanisha, and Nyota Wamba are not co-author colleagues—they’re apes, bonobos to be specific. Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh (right) is a controversial scientist who believes that animals have intellectual powers that can, under the right circumstances, rival the human intellect. She included her ape subjects as co-authors on the paper because…

brain anatomy mri.jpg
Doctor demonstrating human brain anatomy and MRI brain on background

Can We Develop Tests of the Brain for Consciousness?

The paper proposing the tests reads like an ambitious but hopeless project that offers some genuinely interesting moments.

In a recent, well-organized paper, neuroscientist Christopher Tyler of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco offers not only ten features that comprise consciousness but also empirical tests for such features. He hopes to finally crack the Hard Problem of Consciousness by dividing consciousness up into component parts and studying associated brain functions. He calls his approach Emergent Aspect Dualism. He hopes to reconcile monism (physical nature is all there is) with dualism (consciousness is not physical). With that in mind, he hopes to identify the physical machinery that rolls out consciousness, the “neural substrate for conscious processing (NSCP).” But he also hopes to borrow as much from dualism as he can, perhaps in part in order to avoid…

concept of future technology 5G network wireless systems and internet of things

Valley Insider Peter Thiel’s Comments Last Year Proved Prophetic

China’s recent takeover of Hong Kong and the campus Cancel Culture spotlight his warnings for our culture’s future in the age of 5G

Peter Thiel, who spoke by interactive video to the COSM conference last October, is probably the most remarkable of the Silicon Valley insiders. A fuller version of his discussions with tech philosopher George Gilder has just been released. What makes Thiel (think PayPal, Facebook, Palantir, Airbnb, Lyft, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX) unique is that he so much contradicts the Valley stereotype and is certainly not afraid to tell the Valley its faults. In fact, he moved down to Los Angeles in 2018, fed up with the Valley as a one-party state. He suggested in 2019 that Google be investigated for treason for refusing to work with the Pentagon but helping the Chinese military. Most of the time, though, Thiel prefers…

iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office…


China’s Health Code App: One More Way to Track Citizens

For the Chinese Communist Party, SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus) has provided an opportunity to expand its massive surveillance system. The current extensive network of facial recognition cameras has left some gaps. People could avoid recognition, for example, by wearing a face covering to curb the spread of a respiratory illness. Now, China is looking to fill those gaps by keeping the Alipay Health Code app, launched at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a mainstay for its citizens: Compared to omnipresent facial recognition software and other surveillance systems in China, the health code mechanism covers more people and collects a broader range of personal information. The state can also impose stricter control as people now have to use health codes…