Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Silvery marmoset (Mico argentatus).

Why Do Researchers Wonder Whether Animals Have Personalities?

Every friend of dogs, cats, or birds knows what some researchers struggle to prove. Let’s take a look at what they found

Recently, a research team announced that marmosets — small highly social New World monkeys — display personality traits, whether they are wild or captive: Some individuals were fast to approach any novelty, while others were more careful; hereby showing a similar pattern to humans: for instance, some humans enjoy trying out new restaurants, whereas others prefer to eat in their favorite restaurant. What is more interesting, when comparing personality traits of monkeys in Austria across four years, the authors found that these monkeys are quite consistent in their personality traits (e.g., those that are explorative when they are younger, stay similarly explorative four years afterwards). University of Vienna, “Marmoset Monkeys Have Personalities Too” at Neuroscience News The paper is open…

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Flying cranes

Random Evolution Doesn’t Produce Algorithmic Functions in Animals

A bird does not fly just because it has wings; it needs a “flight” program in its brain. Explanations of the evolution of flight do not account for that.

In a recent article “Evolution and artificial intelligence face the same basic problem,” Eric Holloway addressed the conundrum faced by artificial intelligence theorists: How can “a random process with no insight into the environment… increase information about that environment within evolving DNA sequences and/or artificial intelligence programs. By what mechanism can randomness ‘know’ anything?” Dr. Holloway’s challenge goes to the heart of the problem with the materialist worldview regarding origins, evolution, and ultimately intelligence. Software vs. hardware in your body Imagine you knew absolutely nothing about roller skates. Then you awoke this morning to find your ankles and feet permanently installed into roller skates. Instantly, everything you understood about walking and running is worthless. Getting onto your feet at all…

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Pair of ravens in courtship. Corvus corax

Why Does Science Embrace the “Talking Animals” Myth?

Many birds are quite smart but why do some researchers imply that they think like people?

In recent years, studies have confirmed a widespread cultural intuition that some birds, particularly corvids like crows and ravens, are “smart.” They show considerable problem-solving skills. Thus, they loom large in mythology as messengers and tricksters. For example, the Norse king of the gods (pictured) had two ravens as advisors. Oddly enough, science today retains the mythology and makes a curious use of it: New discoveries about the specifics of corvid brain organization and intelligence are framed as demonstrating that humans do not really have as exceptional thinking ability as we suppose: Research unveiled on Thursday in Science finds that crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and…

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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Crows Can Be as Smart as Apes

But they have quite different brains. The intelligence doesn't seem to reside in the details of the mechanism
Studying animals' intelligence has taught us many things. But in some ways, it has deepened the mystery of intelligence. Read More ›