Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


sri lanka elephant

Sci-fi Saturday: What If Next-Stage Evolution Children Appear?

A sci-fi short from Sri Lanka looks at the possibilities

Here’s the last item in our Saturday reviews of free, relevant sci-fi fun from DUST, the sci-fi channel at YouTube. This one is “Vikaari”from Synhedrion Studios (Sri Lanka, 13:54): Due to some possible “evolutionary transformation,” children in Sri Lanka are born with no emotional reaction to anything but with the ability for telekinesis and a hive mind. It’s suggested that that is an adaptive response to continuous warfare. Many want to kill them, saying “They look like kids, but they’re not.” Eerily reminiscent of the persecution of people with Down Syndrome. Evolution theories are evoked in glowing color to explain the situation though many such theories are contested today. The story is very well done as a parable of the…

Space dust abstract galaxy

Does the Slow Pace of Evolution Mean That ET Life Is Rare?

That’s the contention in a recent paper by astrobiologists at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute

In a new paper, researchers affiliated with Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute use the assumptions we make about the evolution of life on Earth to estimate the likelihood of it happening the same way elsewhere. And the numbers do not look good. As a science writer puts it: There are countless naturally occurring, but extremely lucky ways in which Earth is special, sheltered, protected, and encouraged to have evolved life. And some key moments of emerging life seem much more likely than others, based on what really did happen. Caroline Delbert, “Intelligent Life Really Can’t Exist Anywhere Else” at Popular Mechanics In the paper, the Oxford group concludes, It took approximately 4.5 billion years for a series of evolutionary transitions…

Atoms and their electron clouds , Quantum mechanics and atomic structure

The Aliens Exist—But Evolved Into Virtual Reality at a Nanoscale

That’s the Transcension Hypothesis, the latest in our series on science fiction hypotheses as to why we don’t see extraterrestrials

Readers will recall that we have been looking at science writer Matt Williams’s analysis of the various reasons that we do not see extraterrestrials except at the movies. Last week, we looked at the Firstborn Hypothesis: We don’t see aliens because they haven’t evolved yet. And, when they do, we must be careful not to harm their development through colonization. This week is a bit of a deeper dive: The extraterrestrials have evolved so far beyond us that perhaps we could not encounter them. … the Transcension Hypothesis ventures that an advanced civilization will become fundamentally altered by its technology. In short, it theorizes that any ETIs that predate humanity have long-since transformed into something that is not recognizable by…

Frog with Turtle and Snail

To What Extent Does Life Simply Invent Itself As It Goes Along?

The evidence may surprise us

According to a popular anti-creationist website Talk Origins, one of the strongest pieces of evidence for evolution and common descent is the phylogenetic signal. In their view, when we look at specific properties across multiple species — number of legs, presence or absence of wings, the presence of a gene, a configuration of nucleotides in the genome, etc. — such properties will form a strongly nested hierarchy. We should expect to see such a strongly nested hierarchy if organisms evolved from one another and therefore a “family tree” links all the organisms together. However, if a property that appears only on a branch, it will be shared only by that branch’s leaves. Leaves on a different branch will not have…

Closeup of housefly

Human, Mouse, and Fly Brains All Use the Same Basic Mechanisms

The study of brains in recent decades has yielded a very different picture from the patterns we might have expected

With differing outcomes, of course: A new study led by researchers from King’s College London has shown that humans, mice and flies share the same fundamental genetic mechanisms that regulate the formation and function of brain areas involved in attention and movement control. News Centre, “Humans and flies employ very similar mechanisms for brain development and function” at King’s College London (August 3, 2020) We might have expected a gradual increase in size and complexity, corresponding with ability, leading up to the human brain. But we have learned from recent research that lemurs, with brains 1/200 the size of chimps’, pass same IQ test (the Primate Cognition Test Battery). Human intellectual abilities are orders of magnitude greater than that of…

Gray Mouse Lemur, microcebus murinus

Lemurs with Brains 1/200 the Size of Chimps’ Pass Same IQ Test

This new finding about mouse lemurs also makes human exceptionalism more exceptional
Researchers were surprise to discover recently that the mouse lemur, a tiny primate whose brain is 1/200th the size of a chimpanzee’s brain, did as well as great apes on a primate intelligence test. Read More ›
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…

robotic arms in a car plant

Elon Musk Tweet Shows Why Many Doubt Origin of Life Studies

Musk was talking about the origin of machines, not life, but the principle is, perhaps surprisingly, the same
Creating a machine that manufactures or a cell that reproduces is much harder than creating a prototype of either. It’s a search for a search. Read More ›
abstract binary code science computing center

Can AI Really Evolve into Superintelligence All by Itself?

We can’t just turn a big computer over to evolution and go away and hope for great things

At Science earlier this year it was claimed that Darwinian evolution alone can make computers much smarter. As a result, researchers hoped to “discover something really fundamental that will take a long time for humans to figure out”: Artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving—literally. Researchers have created software that borrows concepts from Darwinian evolution, including “survival of the fittest,” to build AI programs that improve generation after generation without human input. The program replicated decades of AI research in a matter of days, and its designers think that one day, it could discover new approaches to AI. Edd Gent, “Artificial intelligence is evolving all by itself” at Science (April 30, 2020) How does that work? The program discovers algorithms using a…

Businesswoman hand holding wooden cube with flip over block CHANGE to CHANCE word on table background. success, strategy, solution, business and Positive thinking concepts

Evolution And Artificial Intelligence Face The Same Basic Problem

Think of the word ladder game, where we transform one word into another by changing only one letter at a time
Without knowledge about the goal and how to get there, it rapidly becomes first difficult and then completely impossible to reach the goal. Read More ›
Line Design Composition

The Evolution (or Not) of Consciousness

Did consciousness evolve? How do materialists deal with the definition of consciousness? Dr. Michael Egnor and Dr. Bernardo Kastrup discuss consciousness, evolution, and intelligent design. Show Notes 00:28 | Introducing Dr. Bernardo Kastrup 01:05 | Did consciousness evolve? 03:35 | Two alternatives for Darwinists 05:00 | Intelligent design theory 07:15 | Jerry Fodor on natural selection 10:52 | Random mutations…

group of people swims in a mud

Why Consciousness Couldn’t Just Evolve from the Mud

Kastrup, a panpsychist, is sympathetic to the basic intuitions behind the idea that there is design in nature (intelligent design theory)
In a recent podcast, “Does the Moon Exist if No One is Looking at It?”, neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup. Dr. Kastrup has been, in Dr. Egnor’s words, “leading a modern renaissance of metaphysical idealism”—that is, reality is essentially mental rather than physical. Read More ›
man inside man

Kastrup: No, Consciousness CANNOT Be Just a Byproduct

Philosopher Bernardo Kastrup responds to biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness could be a mere by-product of a useful evolved trait

In response to Biologist Jerry Coyne’s claim that consciousness is merely a byproduct of a useful evolved trait, computer engineer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup points out that consciousness, which requires vast organized, underlying complexity, is one of the most difficult unsolved problems in science. It cannot be a mere accidental byproduct of something else.

Read More ›
Sagrada Familia
Spandrels within the interior arches of the Sagrada Familia

Did Consciousness Evolve?: A Darwinist Responds

Jerry Coyne argues that consciousness is a mere byproduct of useful traits that are naturally selected. But wait…

The critical problem that consciousness poses for Darwinian evolution is that there is no survival advantage for subjective first-person existence over objective third-person existence.

Read More ›
peacock with open tail and female

Did Consciousness Evolve to Find Love?

It’s an attractive idea but it comes with a hidden price tag

If consciousness is a mere tool of human sexual selection, it is mere plumage, a pretty enticement, of no meaning or import otherwise. But then what becomes of Dr. Graziano’s own intellectual labors?

Read More ›

Did Consciousness “Evolve”?

One neuroscientist doesn’t seem to understand the problems the idea raises

Darwinian evolution must select physical attributes. If consciousness evolved as a mere byproduct of physical brain processes, it is powerless in itself. Thus Graziano's theories of consciousness are themselves mindless accidents.

Read More ›
Evolution of computer Claaudio Schwartz Purzlbaum Unsplash-0-DjV_Tk1cQ

Can computers simply evolve greater intelligence?

Maybe it sounds attractive but nature doesn't seem to work quite that way
When the researchers did not develop the right environment for their digital organisms, nothing evolved. As Bill Dembski predicts, they could move design around but they could not eliminate it. Read More ›
The car made of grass.

Can We “Evolve” Self-Driving Cars?

The new method may be an advance but thinking of it as "evolution" at work risks misconceptions

In evolution, “performance” just means the continued survival of a lineage. Thus it can include hybrids between what you might want for your purposes and what you don’t want.

Read More ›
hunters on cave paint digital illustration with notebook

Why Some Scientists Think Science Is an Illusion

It’s a useful illusion, they say, but our brains are not really wired to know the facts

The great triumph of the theory of evolution was to show that humans are just animals in nature—clever, yes, but clever animals. Or so we are told.  But wait!

Read More ›
Crop man with dog in fall field

Those Puppy Dog Eyes Are No Accident

The babyface dog is, according to a study of animal shelters, more likely to be adopted

Over thirty-three millennia of selective breeding shaped “a scant, irregular cluster of fibres” found around wolves’ eyes into eyebrows that communicate—to humans—a look-after-me doggy expression.

Read More ›