Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagCaleb Scharf

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Choosing the High Road or Low Road

Freebits: An Interesting Argument From the Big Bang for Free Will

There are two types of uncertainty, we learn, only one of which could create free will

Caleb Scharf (pictured), author of The Ascent of Information (2021), offers an excerpt at Nautilus that introduces two new terms, the “dataome” and “freebits.” The dataome is all the ways human beings create information, from cave paintings to cloud servers. He asks, “Was all of this really inevitable? Did we ever have a choice in creating a dataome or doing any of the things we do, and does any self-aware entity in the universe have a choice either?” Relying on theoretical computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s 2013 essay, “The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine,” he asks us to consider that there are two types of uncertainty, only one of which could create choice. Typical “randomness” actually follows statistical laws, a…

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Futuristic Mars Space Scene with Large Moon

The Aurora Hypothesis: ET Could Risk Only Rare Contact With Us

Given the difficulties and risks of space travel, extraterrestrials with advanced technology may have visited Earth only one in a million years, researchers say

In recent months we’ve been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s coverage of the many reasons (links below) that have been advanced as to why we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last Saturday, we considered the Percolation Hypothesis, whose beauty is its common-sense simplicity: The aliens can’t overcome the laws of physics, any more than we can. In the real world, barriers like years between communications even at the speed of light would take a toll on adventurousness. Another hypothesis that Williams has examined is our focus today, the Aurora Hypothesis, “just because planets are habitable doesn’t mean that intelligent life can colonize there.” (Williams) The thesis has had a busy life in science media. Its earliest…

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Oumuamua is a mildly active comet, and the first interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.

Astrobiologist Cautions Against Jumping the Gun in Spotting ET

Scientists he says, are cautious with good reason. There are many weird natural phenomena like Oumuamua out there.

At Nautilus, astrophysicist (and astrobiologist) Caleb A. Scharf offers some sobering reflections on the diligent search for extraterrestrial intelligences (ET) in recent decades: Despite this effort, there has been no evidence to date of extraterrestrial life. But that lack of evidence is not because the scientific enterprise is uniformly conservative, rigid, and close-minded, as implied by [astronomer Avi] Loeb and uncritically echoed by some columnists. It’s because no discovery or event has risen to the level where it is inexplicable in any other way. Could greater funding and support change that story? Perhaps, but the same could be said for almost any other ambitious scientific enterprise, and the answer cannot be known beforehand. Caleb Scharf, “The Alien-Haunted World” at Nautilus…

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life on planet Mars, astronaut discovers bacterial life on the surface of a rock

At Scientific American: The Aliens Could Be Extremely Boring

Well, we can’t be sure, can we? It’s literally a whole other world

Okay, it’s just a thought. But what if all the interesting stuff is happening in our own imaginations? Caleb Scharf is a University of Columbia astrobiologist and here is his view: There’ll be some initial oddities, some curiosities that aren’t quite the things we planned for. A dull carrier wave signal for instance. Over time more evidence will show up, until eventually it’s clear that there are lots of species out there, puttering around in their own little neighborhoods and doing nothing truly extraordinary, because those possibilities were, in the end, more the product of our lively imaginations than anything that the universe compels life towards. Of course, I’m being a little facetious, the first discovery of life of any…