Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Brown Bag School Lunch

Does Information Just Happen? Or Does the Universe Have Meaning?

The computer revolution did not show that information could be produced from nothing

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, a frequent contributor to Mind Matters News, interviewed our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a computer engineer, on the nature of information. Information makes a huge difference to what happens among human beings. But it is not like matter or energy. It doesn’t weigh anything or generate heat. How can we understand it scientifically? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-118-Robert-Marks.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 01:10. Show notes and links follow. Robert J. Marks: Well, my background is not in biology, but it is in computer science and computer engineering. And one of the things we do is do artificial intelligence. And I think maybe your question translated to artificial intelligence is, can anything happen in artificial…

The red human figure extends its influence to the neighboring figures. Spreading ideas and thoughts, recruiting new members. Infection of other people, zero patient. Leader and leadership, new team.

To Succeed, Understand Difference Between Influence and Power

Do you wonder why some people are listened to and not others, regardless of the value of their ideas? Well, read on…

At business mag Forbes, some have begun to consider the difference between influence and power: Swarthmore College has been rated the best liberal arts college in the U.S. by Academic Influence, a new college rankings method that uses artificial intelligence technology to search massive databases and measure the impact of work by individuals who’ve been affiliated with colleges and universities throughout the world. Last Monday, Academic Influence released its first-ever ranking of American liberal arts colleges – those four-year institutions that are relatively small in size, focus on bachelor’s level education, emphasize direct engagement with professors, provide an enriched residential experience, and insist on broad grounding in the liberal arts along with focused study in a major. In brief, here’s…

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Junger Mann mit Glühbirnen-Helm

Does the Ability To Think Depend on Consciousness?

From a medical perspective, “consciousness” adds nothing to the description of mental states

The title question might seem like a strange one but it is vitally important if we are to interpret neuroscience correctly and if we are to understand the mind–brain relationship. In my view, the capacity for thought does not depend on consciousness. The term “consciousness” is at best meaningless and at worst an impediment to understanding the mind. “Consciousness” is a very vague term and, ultimately, I don’t think it has any useful meaning at all, apart from other categories such as sensation, perception, imagination, reason etc. Aristotle had no distinct term for it. Nor do I think did any of the ancient or medieval philosophers. Consciousness is a modern term that seems to subsume all of the sensate powers…

Global virus and disease spread, coronavirus

How China Has Tried To Suppress Coronavirus Science

So far as investigative journalists have been able to determine, the suppression came directly from the top

An investigation by the Associated Press reveals what everyone has suspected since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been keeping a tight rein on the publication or distribution of any scientific research on the coronavirus conducted within the country. AP recently found out just how extensive the muzzling of scientific findings has been. Its report also confirms that the orders came from the top: The AP investigation was based on dozens of interviews with Chinese and foreign scientists and officials, along with public notices, leaked emails, internal data and the documents from China’s cabinet and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It reveals a pattern of government secrecy and top-down control…


What We Can Do To Prevent More Online Censorship

Encrypted email can be an end-around social media companies' monopoly of free speech

With all the concern about major social media companies deplatforming those they disagree with, there is a concern that these companies’ monopoly on social media will eliminate free speech. New social media platforms such as Gab, Parler and MeWe have popped up to offer freer alternatives. Yet even that is not without peril, as deplatforming can happen lower down the technology stack. Parler was recently kicked off AWS (Amazon Web Services). However, in the midst of all the hubbub we’ve forgotten the original social network: email. Email is still here. The distance between email and modern social media may be smaller than it first appears. Lets make a short list of the perceived differences between social media and email, and…

Teddy bear and toys in a baby's room

Why Medical Device Companies Use Priorities Created by Toy Makers

The priorities followed by product developers arise from the ontology they use

The priorities of product development teams arise from the ontology, the beliefs about the nature of reality, they follow. One of the greatest values of defining that ontology is to identify blind spots and wrong assumptions. When the source of priorities is clear, improved, more adaptable options become possible. As Clayton Christensen (1952–2020, pictured) has said: To grow profit margins and revenue, he observes, such companies tend to develop products to satisfy the demands of their most sophisticated customers. As successful as this strategy may be, it means that those companies also tend to ignore opportunities to meet the needs of less sophisticated customers — who may eventually form much larger markets. A hierarchy of products starts with the components,…

Silhouette of one hand desire to Dove carrying olive leaf branch

Poland’s Free Speech Champion Speaks Out!

Poland has been drafting laws that would hold Big Social Media accountable

A month after Poland announced drafted legislation that would hold social media companies accountable for their censorship activities, the author of the widely discussed law has spoken out on why he felt the need to get the state involved. In an article published to Newsweek on January 21, Sebastian Kaleta (pictured) called on “democratic governments all over the globe” to defend the free speech rights of their citizens against the censorship efforts of social media companies. “Two thousand years ago, the Roman comedian Juvenal asked, ‘Who will watch the watchers?’” Kaleta wrote. “In the case of Big Tech, I believe that the answer lies with the people – not nameless moderators operating with no transparency and no ability for recourse.”…

Thief Stealing Folder From Shelf

The President Pardons the Founder of a Church That Worships AI

On his last day in office, departing President Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski has an interesting history He transitioned from Silicon Valley wunderkind to inept theologian to convicted felon. Now he is free, due to a pardon given by Donald Trump in Trump’s last day in office. If you are an orthodox materialist, you believe our brains are computers made of meat. Artificial intelligence, brains made out of silicon, will therefore match and eventually exceed human capabilities and become godlike. So it might make sense to form a church that worships this future AI god. That’s what Anthony Levandowski did in 2019. His church was christened Way of the Future. Levandowski reasoned “What is going to be created [by AI] will effectively be a god … if there is something a…

Chain of amino acid or biomolecules called protein - 3d illustration

#1 Smash Hit in AI 2020: AI Cracks Protein Folding!

The reason it became possible, of course, is many years of human creativity

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI—and now, the #1 Smash Hit! Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about AI programs that can beat humans at understanding the complexities of protein folding, the immensely complex ways that proteins in our bodies actually work. Robert J. Marks: AI has cracked a problem that stumped biologists for 50 years. And it’s a huge deal. Jonathan and Eric, elaborate on this a little bit. Jonathan Bartlett: Well, protein…

colorful numbers background

Most Real Numbers Are Not Real, or Not in the Way You Think

Typical real numbers contain an encoding of all of the books in the US Library of Congress

Pick a random real number between zero and one. The number you choose, with probability one, will contain an encoding of all of the books in the US Library of Congress. This sounds absurd, but real numbers require infinite precision and every time you deal with the infinite, things get absurd. Infinities, including the infinite number of digits to express almost every real number, don’t exist. Curiously then, real numbers are not real. How do we choose a random number between zero and one? The easiest way to explain is using binary decimals. The binary number 0.1000… with zeros forever denotes the number ½ or, in base 10 notation, 0.5. The binary decimal 0.01000… with zeros forever is the number…

Flush royal in poker player hand. Lucky winner.

AI Smash Hits #2 To Win AI-Run Poker Humans Must Find Blind Spots

Each pro separately played 5,000 hands of poker against five copies of Pluribus and Pluribus won. Now this, in itself, was an astonishing result.

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Eric Holloway about AI programs that can beat humans at poker. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Our story begins at 16:36. Here’s a partial transcript. (Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link to the complete transcript.) Robert J. Marks: Carnegie Mellon and Facebook AI beats professionals in six player poker. This result astonished me. I have always heard poker players say that poker is not a game of…

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Lawyer Turned Citizen Journalist in China Turns Up Again—in Jail

She has been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a crime in China

Lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, went missing on May 15 after documenting on Youtube, Twitter, and WeChat what she saw in Wuhan during the early days of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) pandemic. She has now been sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” Zhang had already been detained for supporting the 2019 Hong Kong protests, which likely played into her harsh sentence. So far, 47 journalists have been jailed for reporting on COVID-19 in China. YouTube and Twitter are inaccessible within China because of the Great Firewall which allows the Communist Party of China (CCP) to control the information that comes into and goes out of the country. Within the Great Firewall journalists must adhere…

Legs of disabled person.

#3 AI Smash Hits 2020: AI Can Help Paralyzed People Move Again

The human brain can interface directly with electronics

Our Walter Bradley Center director, Robert J. Marks, is back with the second instalment of the 2020 Smash Hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks talks with Eric Holloway about ways AI can help people with disabilities. A major, often unrealized, fact is that the human brain can work directly with electronic devices, provided that they are positioned or implanted so as to interface with neurons. Many possibilities are being explored. And the “exoskeleton” is our #3. Our story begins at 10:12 min: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Robert J. Marks: We’re up to number three, where…

Time concept

Why the Idea That the Human Mind Is an Illusion Doesn’t Work

There is a simple way to test whether our thoughts are all illusions

Sitting in a room with me are some smart people listening to a podcast of neuroscientist Sam Harris. They nod solemnly as Harris tells them that their thoughts are all illusions. No one has free will either, Harris says, both on the podcast and in his 2012 book, Free Will. Sir Francis Crick (1916–2004) said much the same in his 1994 work, The Astonishing Hypothesis. Harris and Crick are science-trained and Crick is a Nobelist. But popular culture influencers think the same way. The widely-read manga graphic novel artist, Masashi Kishimoto, has a character say in his 2009 work, Naruto, Every single one of us goes through life depending on and bound by our individual knowledge and awareness. And we…

Golden bitcoin coin in fire flame, water splashes and lightning. Bitcoin Gold blockchain hard fork concept. Cryptocurrency symbol in storm illustration with peer to peer network background.

Bitcoin: What’s Good, What’s Bad and What’s the Future?

Bitcoins are currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 each

Bitcoin has been having quite the wild ride over the last several months, and especially the last several weeks. During 2020, the price of a single bitcoin dipped below $5,000, then soared past $20,000 in December. It is currently bouncing in the range of $30,000 to $40,000.So what is the attraction of the digital currency Bitcoin? Why is the value of a bitcoin so high and what are people doing with it? To begin with, keep in mind that a “single bitcoin” is a bit of a misnomer. While a single bitcoin is indeed expensive, coins can be split. The smallest unit in Bitcoin is known as a satoshi, which is 0.00000001 bitcoin. While the quoted price is always given…

Macro photo of human eye, iris, pupil, eye lashes, eye lids.

#4 AI Smash Hits 2020 AI Helps Detect Dreaded White Eye Disease

The first step in treatment is correct diagnosis

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is back with the second instalment of 2020 smash hits in AI. Readers may recall that we offered a fun series during the holidays about the oopses and ums and ers in the discipline (typically hyped by uncritical sources). This time, Dr. Marks wants to talk about a serious issue: The use of AI apps developed at his university, Baylor in Texas, to detect “white eye,” an eyeball cancer in children. “White eye” or leukocoria can be caused by a number of conditions, many of which are treatable. In some cases, however, it is a form of cancer (retinoblastoma). Our story begins at 14:32: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-117-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 Robert J. Marks: Now, the story behind…

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Can We Add New Numbers to Mathematics?

We can work with hyperreal numbers using conventional methods. It could start in high school

Sometimes mathematics is moved forward by the discovery of new formulas and solutions to problems. However, sometimes mathematics grows by adding new kinds of numbers to the number system. In the early days of mathematics, it was thought that whole numbers were the only kind that existed. Sure, there were fractions, but fractions are merely ratios of whole numbers. It was thought that every possible number could be written in terms of whole numbers. These numbers were called rational numbers because they could be written as a ratio. There is a story about a Greek philosopher, Hippasus who discovered, roughly 2500 years ago, that certain numbers (specifically the square root of two) could not be written in terms of ratios…

Spiral Profile

Toward a Serious Scientific Theory of Consciousness

Quantum physics arises from the fact that when we do not observe a particle, it can be in two different places at once, such that it interacts with itself

Consciousness is the ultimate hard problem of philosophy of science. As of today, there is absolutely no scientific solution to the problem. The nature of consciousness seems ineffable: first person experience appears to be a completely different category of existence than objective externaldescription. This dilemma has led philosophers such as Daniel Dennett to use the ultimate solution: deny the problem exists. Unfortunately, that solution never worked for me at school. The objective reality of bad grades is quite hard to deny. Yet, we need not resort to Daniel Dennett’s ultimate solution. There are concrete things we can say about consciousness if we use the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics and the computer science concept of Kolmogorov complexity. Quantum physics…

Condenser microphone golden in the studio recording creating the sound effect for the content creator

Stakeholders Are Competing for Control of Radio Networks

Future networks will need to need to safeguard the quality of the data

The incorporation of ontologies and semantic reasoning have far reaching implications for wireless communications and spectrum management. Early implementations using adaptive spectrum methods are already being deployed. In the future much deeper uses will be developed. In the context of wireless communications ontology and semantic reasoning have similar roles to their use in the semantic web. The ontology layer defines the participants and variables that impact communication. It also describes the relationships between them. A semantic reasoning engine uses the ontology to analyze the current data and formulate a transmission plan to implement the policies it has been given. Thus, the work being developed for the semantic web is being applied to spectrum management. Physical Layer Stakeholders Early uses of…

Old city center view in Krakow

Poland Strikes a Blow for Free Speech Against Big Tech

The new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts

In December, Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that the nation would pursue legislation to hold social media companies accountable for violating free speech rights. The new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts, allowing them to take such measures only when Polish law has been broken. The law would also provide citizens a legal remedy when they feel they have been censored without just cause by appealing to a special court. The announcement was made in response to growing concerns that technological giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are squashing free speech rights. Ziobro called the blocking and removal of online content an act of “ideological censorship,” whereby people are silenced…