Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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Large Language Models Can Entertain but Are They Useful?

Humans who value correct responses will need to fact-check everything LLMs generate

In 1987 economics Nobel Laureate Robert Solow said that the computer age was everywhere—except in productivity data. A similar thing could be said about AI today: It dominates tech news but does not seem to have boosted productivity a whit. In fact, productivity growth has been declining since Solow’s observation. Productivity increased by an average of 2.7% a year from 1948 to 1986, by less than 2% a year from 1987 to 2022. Labor productivity is the amount of goods and services we produce in a given amount of time—output per hour. More productive workers can build more cars, construct more houses, and educate more children. More productive workers can also enjoy more free time. If workers can do in four Read More ›

Fresco at Palace of Knossos in Crete

How a Searchable Database Is Helping Decipher a Lost Language

A cryptographer “solved” Minoan B from ancient Cretan culture in the 1950s but Minoan A remained a mystery until recently

There was once a flourishing civilization on the island of Crete called the Minoan culture (3000–11100 B.C.). Two languages are associated with it, Minoan A and, later, Minoan B. Minoan B was deciphered but Minoan A has remained a mystery that has “tormented linguists for many decades,” as Patricia Klaus puts it. Deciphering it would give us a window back as far as 1800 BC.: Linear A, which was used by the Minoans during the Bronze Age, exists on at least 1,400 known inscriptions made on clay tablets. The language has baffled the world’s top archaeologists and linguistic experts for many years. Patricia Claus, “Minoan Language Linear A Linked to Linear B in Groundbreaking New Research” at Greek Reporter (May Read More ›