Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Man making fire with tinder polypore fungus in a forest

Biochemist: Why Only Humans Could Learn To Use Fire

Many animals display intelligence but controlling fire requires other advantages as well

Biochemist Michael Denton contends, in an excerpt from Chapter 11 in his The Miracle of Man (2022), that humans were designed to use fire. Here is some of his evidence that “only a special type of unique being very close to our own biological design could have taken the first and vital step to technological enlightenment, fire-making”: From first principles, a creature capable of creating and controlling fire must be an aerobic terrestrial air-breathing species, living in an atmosphere enriched in oxygen, supportive of both respiration and combustion. This fire-maker must have something like human intelligence to accomplish the task, and while it is true that other species — e.g., dolphins, parrots, seals, apes, and ravens — possess intelligence and…

Engineers Meeting in Robotic Research Laboratory: Engineers, Scientists and Developers Gathered Around Illuminated Conference Table, Talking, Using Tablet and Analysing Design of Industrial Robot Arm

At Salon, Funk and Smith Take On “Stealth AI Research”

All we know for sure about the claims about Google AI’s LaMDA showing human-like understanding is that, since 2020, three researchers who expressed doubt/concerns were fired

Yesterday at Salon, Jeffrey Funk and Gary N. Smith took a critical look at “stealth research” in artificial intelligence. Stealth research? They explain, A lot of stealth research today involves artificial intelligence (AI), which Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s CEO, has compared to mankind’s harnessing of fire and electricity — a comparison that itself attests to overhyped atmosphere that surrounds AI research. For many companies, press releases are more important than peer review. Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, recently reported that LaMDA, Google’s state-of-the-art large language model (LLM), generated this text, which is remarkably similar to human conversation: Blaise: How do you know if a thing loves you back? LaMDA: There isn’t an easy answer…

weasel peering out of a burrow

Dawkins’ Weasel Program vs the Information Life Acquires En Route

To demonstrate what is wrong with fully naturalist assumptions like those of Richard Dawkins’ Weasel program, I developed Weasel Libs, modeled on Mad Libs

In his famous Weasel program zoologist and philosopher Richard Dawkins shows that the simple combination of random mutation and natural selection (Darwinian evolution) can produce the English sentence, “Methinks it is like a weasel”, in a short time period. The point of his program is to demonstrate that evolution can generate the complex, pre-specified DNA sequences we find in biology before the heat death of the universe. His argument sounds persuasive because both English sentences and DNA sequences are made up of symbols. Both can be randomly modified anywhere, and by cumulative selection, they can plausibly adapt to the environment in reasonably short order. Writers in English can learn to pen best-selling novels through trial and error and audience feedback.…

Handsome bearded African man touches the touchscreen in his new high-tech electric vehicle while while talking by phone and smiling. Self driving vehicle concept

New York Times Documentary Takes on Musk’s “Self-Driving” Claims

In an era where Big Media tend to just play along with Big Tech hype and vaporware, a Season 2 film homes in for a closer look

The New York Times has a new TV show through FX Networks, called The New York Times Presents, a series of standalone documentaries presented by journalists from the paper. Mind Matters News readers will likely take a special interest in the first documentary of Season 2 because it deals with the technology of self-driving cars at Tesla and we have been talking about these issues for years. The film, titled Elon Musk’s Crash Course, follows the development of Tesla Motors and its claims about full self-driving vehicles. On the whole, while the I can commend the documentary as one of the first large-scale media efforts to take the issues with Tesla self-driving cars seriously, overall it emphasizes the wrong issues.…

Magic Forest at Night under Fullmoon with Fireflies VR360

Firefly: What Worked, What Didn’t… and WHY Was It Cancelled?

When all is said and done, Firefly is one of those classic series that any sci-fi fan should watch

When everything is said and done, Firefly is an excellent series. So the question remains; why was it cancelled? Many opinions have been aired in the entertainment media. In my view, three major reasons stand out. Number 1: The Friday night death slot. That;s what they call it when a show targeted at a younger audience runs in that slot because that audience was usually not at home on Friday nights. So, when the show aired, there was nobody to watch it. Number 2: Bad marketing. It’s said that the promos advertised the series as more or less a zany comedy. While Firefly does have moments of levity, it is more of an action-adventure series. There are plenty of serious…

Social but not social

Will AI Overtake Humans? Only If We Let It

We are getting too cozy with dependence on high tech to ease the burden of thinking for ourselves

This story originally appeared at Newsmax. (May 19, 2022) As I reported last year, there’s been a lot of talk about a Singularity in the last decade. That’s the point when machine intelligence (AI) exceeds human intelligence and begins to rule humanity and eventually the entire universe. It’s a scary proposition to be sure, but we can rest easy on that front, because it’s not going to happen. The futurists assume there’s a bridge between narrow applications of AI and the general intelligence humans possess. But no such bridge exists. As Erik J. Larson explains in his book The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, we’re not even on the right road to such a bridge. You can also take George Gilder’s word for it. One…

All Religions Temple in Kazan, Russia

What Do Christianity and Hinduism Have in Common?

And where do they differ?

At Theology Unleashed, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and Hindu philosopher and broadcaster Akhandadhi Das discuss the similarities and differences between Thomistic philosophy and Vedanta Philosophy. Thomistic philosophy is the philosophy originally developed by Thomas Aquinas (1225– 1274), adapting the approach taken by early philosopher of science Aristotle (384– 322 BC) to the Christian worldview of the High Middle Ages. His work is of enduring significance in philosophy. Vedanta is “one of the world’s most ancient spiritual philosophies and one of its broadest, based on the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of India. It is the philosophical foundation of Hinduism… Vedanta affirms: The oneness of existence, The divinity of the soul, and The harmony of all religions.” – Vedanta Society of Southern California…

Human fetus on scientific background

Must We Be Able To Reason To Be Thought Of As Human Persons?

A common argument as to why abortion is generally ethical is that the unborn child cannot reason

Perhaps the most common justification that abortion proponents give for supporting abortion is that the human embryo or fetus isn’t capable of rational thought — and rational thought is the defining characteristic of humanity. They’re wrong in a fundamental way. How they’re wrong is best understood if we look at the metaphysics of human development. Metaphysics is “The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.” (American Heritage Dictionary) The ancient philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BC), who provided an important foundation for science, pointed out that humans are rational animals. That is, we have at least the possibility of rational thought, although at some stages of life…


What You Need To Know About Surveillance Capitalism

A Harvard professor coined the term and her 2019 book sounds a warning about how Google and Facebook gain power and wealth selling YOU

The term “surveillance capitalism” was coined by Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff in her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. It’s a fascinating read, offering insight into the power that companies like Google and Facebook have amassed and the danger that power poses to our way of life. Here’s how she explained it to the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 News in 2019: Here’s how surveillance capitalism works, just in brief. It begins with these companies claiming, unilaterally claiming, our private human experience as their free source of raw material. So what do they do with that raw material? They lift out of it the rich predictive signals in our…

Unicorn Landscape

How Far Will Unicorn Share Prices Fall?

Cumulative losses give us some insights

Most investors know that America’s Unicorns are losing money. What they don’t know is that most Unicorns have dug big holes for themselves and aren’t sure how to dig themselves out. What do I mean by holes? I mean massive cumulative losses that have been accumulated over many years of yearly losses. Because many of today’s Unicorn startups were founded at least 10 years ago, and are still unprofitable, they have a had a long time to create huge cumulative losses, some much more than the $3 billion that Amazon once had. The biggest losses are for Uber ($29.1 billion), WeWork ($12.2 billion), Snap ($8.7 billion), Lyft ($8.5 billion), Teledoc Health ($8.1 billion), and Airbnb ($6.4 billion), followed by four…

Stethoscope on computer with test results in Doctor consulting room background and report chart for medical costs in modern hospital on Laptop desk. Healthcare costs business and fees concept.

Would Health Care AI Mean Caregivers Spend More Time on Patients?

Chances are, it will just mean fewer and less qualified caregivers

Pat Baird, regulatory head of global software standards at Philips, recently wrote an article titled, “Can Artificial Intelligence ‘Rehumanize’ Healthcare?” His thesis is that “By lowering administrative burden, AI can increase caregivers’ time spent actually caring for patients.” I will argue that this vision for the contribution of AI to healthcare delivery will not happen due to some very observable forces. A place to begin the analysis is with the funding source for AI in healthcare. AI is bought or developed by healthcare delivery organizations. These organizations are following a business plan and if AI does not provide a business benefit, they will not pay for it. We can conclude that AI in healthcare will be designed and used to…

Window Rain Water Drops Stormy Weather

Firefly Episode 13: If You Are Stuck at Home in a Rainstorm…

Otherwise, you may just want to skip this one. But let me explain why

You may remember the classic Western, Unforgiven (1992) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. It’s the sad tale of a lonely farmer who had recently lost his wife. He was, at one point, a cold-hearted gunman. He decides to take one final job, adopting his dark earlier persona for the last time so he can provide a better life for his kids. His job is to kill a local sheriff who has been harassing prostitutes in a small Western town. It’s a story with no real good guys that leaves us with the infamous line, “We all have it coming.” I think this episode of Firefly tried to emulate the Western. But it does a terrible job. Before discussing the…

Inflation, dollar hyperinflation with black background. One dollar bill is sprayed in the hand of a man on a black background. The concept of decreasing purchasing power, inflation.

Will Higher Prices Disarm Russia? It’s Complicated…

The effects of hyperinflation are subtle, but very real

The annual rate of consumer price inflation in Russia was 9% in February and 17% in March. For producer prices, the March number was 27%. Is Russia headed for hyperinflation, with prices increasing at triple-digit rates or more? I don’t know, but it is worth remembering what happens during hyperinflations. Many people believe that higher prices make everyone worse off. This is not true. Buyers pay more, but sellers receive more. One person’s higher price is another’s higher income. If all prices and incomes were to increase by the same amount — say 10 percent — everyone’s real, inflation-adjusted income would be unchanged. The true costs of inflation are more subtle. In practice, within every inflation, some prices increase more…

Cloud in woman hands on blue sky

Arm in the Cloud?: Lower Cost and Higher Performance

A quick tutorial on why Arm technology has 90% of the cell phone market

Central processing units (CPUs) are usually classified according to their architecture. Historically, desktop computers (especially non-Apple computers) were almost entirely based on Intel’s x86 32-bit architecture, with more recent ones supporting AMD’s 64-bit extensions for more modern computers. The x86 architecture has never ruled because it was a great architecture for the future, but merely because of compatibility — essentially, if you write software to one architecture, it won’t run on another one. The one company that pushed more aggressively for new architectures was Apple, which switched its Macintosh operating system through four major CPU architectures: Motorola 68k, PowerPC, Intel x86, and now Arm. Not only that, their earlier Apple II series ran yet another CPU architecture—the 6502. Because Apple…

eurpean siblings brother and sister quarelling

Why AI Can’t Save Us From Ourselves — If Evolution Is Any Guide

Famous evolutionary theorist E. O. Wilson’s reflections help us understand

The late E. O. Wilson (1929–2021) received more than one hundred awards for his research and writing, including two Pulitzer Prizes. As a professor at Harvard University, Wilson influenced generations with his ideas about human evolution and ethics. In his 2012 New York Times essay “Evolution and Our Inner Conflict,” Wilson asked two key question regarding the problem of evil in our world: Are human beings intrinsically good but corruptible by the forces of evil, or the reverse, innately sinful yet redeemable by the forces of good? Are we built to pledge our lives to a group, even to the risk of death, or the opposite, built to place ourselves and our families above all else? Wilson believed that humans…

Chatbot / Social Bot mit Quellcode im Hintergrund

AI Companies Are Massively Faking the Loophole in the Turing Test

I propose the Turing Test be further strengthened by presuming a chatbot is human until proven otherwise

Computer pioneer Alan Turing was posed the question, how do we know if an AI has human like intelligence? He offered his famous Turing test: If human judges cannot differentiate the AI from a human, then it has human-like intelligence. His test has spawned a number of competitions in which participants try to fool judges into thinking that a chatbot is really a human. One of the best-known chatbots was Eugene Goostman, which fooled the judges into thinking it was a 13-year-old boy — mostly by indirection and other distraction techniques to avoid the sort of in-depth questioning that shows that a chatbot lacks understanding. However, there is a loophole in this test. Can you spot the loophole? What better…

Visualization of Virtual World

Does Information Weigh Something After All? What If It Does?

At the rate we create information today, one physicist computes that in 350 years, the energy will outweigh the atoms of Earth

In the 1960s, IBM researcher Rolf Landauer (1927–1999) observed that if the logical information in a computational system decreased, then the physical entropy in the system must increase (Landauer’s Principle). This conclusion follows from the principle that the entropy in a closed system can never decrease. A decrease in the logical information corresponds to a decrease in entropy. And factoring in the principle that the entropy cannot actually decrease, the physical system itself must increase in entropy when the information decreases. This increase in entropy will result in the emission of heat, and a reduction of energy in the system. Now Melvin Vopson, a physicist at the University of Portsmouth, has taken Landauer’s principle to the next logical step. He…

propane tanks
Gas cylinders used welding Industrial in factory

Cybersecurity: Put a Lid on the Risks. We Already Own the Lid

Security specialist David Kruger says, data must be contained when it is in storage and transit and controlled when it is in use

Veteran software developer David A. Kruger offered some thoughts on computer security recently at Expensivity and we appreciate the opportunity to republish them here as a series. Last week’s discussion focused on the ingredients that cybersecurity needs to work. Today, the focus is on putting a lid on risks. Put a Lid on It Fortunately, we have at our disposal untold millions of man hours of safety engineering focused on safely extracting benefits from the use of hazardous things. For example, our homes and the highways we travel on are chock full of beneficial things that can easily kill us, such as high voltage electricity, flammable/explosive natural gas, and tanker trucks filled with flammable or toxic chemicals driving right next…

Woman fist with woke written. Woke concept refers to awareness of social and racial justice, concern, vigilance, activism.

A Catholic and a Hindu Tackle Woke culture

In a wide-ranging discussion, Michael Egnor and Arjuna Gallagher look at Woke culture, abortion, euthanasia, and microaggressions

In a recent series of Mind Matters News, podcasts, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed Arjuna Gallagher, a Hindu who lives in New Zealand. The first podcast looked at what the world’s 1.2 billion Hindus generally think about the mind and the second explored the Hindu view of free will and evil. The third podcast addressed the question, “What do Hindus think about the Big Bang?” Now, the fourth and final podcast asks, what do Hindus think of current science and culture issues, especially the flowering of Woke Cancel Culture, abortion, and euthanasia? Gallagher hosts a YouTube channel called Theology Unleashed, which has featured many guests discussing the spiritual dimension of our lives — for example, philosopher David Bentley Hart and neuroscientist…


Firefly Episode 10: Jealousy Divides the Firefly Crew in Space

And yet jealousy plays a key role in saving Mal and Wash from a villain’s sadistic torture

Episode 9 marks a turning point for the series. The previous episodes have been somewhat hit and miss but so far, there’s only been one outright bad episode (Episode 5, which broke all the “rules” of consistent character). However, at best thus far, the series has been very… episodic. That is, a handful of the characters recurs but the events from the preceding episodes seem to have no effect on the upcoming ones. But with Episode 9, that changes. The transition from Episode 9 to 10 starts off on a promising note. We see the events of Episode 9 actually affecting the events of Episode 10. This is a trend that continues as the story builds to a crescendo. That…