Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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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…

Glowing earth DNA strand

Has a Computer Algorithm Discovered the Secret of Life?

In the past, a curious pattern wouldn’t have been visible due to the lack of computing resources

Artificial intelligence has enabled a remarkable level of automation of chemistry, with great benefits to us all. Once upon a time there was a multivolume Beilstein’s Handbook of Organic Chemistry, but it is now an online database. Biochemist Fazale Rana (pictured) tells us that, because so much has been discovered about the chemistry of the world we live in, “Learning to master Beilstein’s Handbook is no easy task. In fact, there are textbooks devoted to teaching chemists how to use this massive database effectively.” So putting Beilstein online doesn’t make it a walk in the park but does make it computable. And some have started computing around the origin of life. Origin of life studies have been hampered by the…

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Believers in God Detect Patterns More Easily

Psychologists found that both devout Christians and Muslims unconsciously detected patterns in a test more quickly

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center wanted to know “why and how brains come to believe in gods.” They explored that question using a concept in psychology called implicit pattern learning. Explicit learning is conscious but implicit learning is unconscious. For example, explicit learning is mastering the times tables in arithmetic class. Implicit learning is absorbing, without consciously thinking about it, the way the teacher treats others. The researchers’ hypothesis was: “people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power” To test that, they studied people who believe in God in the United States and in Afghanistan, using a conventional test for unconscious pattern learning: For…

Engineering students using a 3D printer

Why Engineering Can’t Be Reduced to the Laws of Physics

When we reduce the engineer’s mind to a computer, the source of innovation disappears

The fundamental problem of modern science is the problem of innovation. Where does novelty come from? This problem shows up in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and economics. Within physics, the problem is how to account for the fundamental constants of reality. They are all precisely tuned to make sentient and intelligent life—life that can learn about itself and the universe—possible through science. Within biology, the problem is accounting for the source of highly complex genetic sequences that express finely tuned biological functions. In artificial intelligence, the challenge is identifying solutions that are relevant to a given scenario. In economics the problem is identifying the right products for the market. What do all these situations have in common? In each case,…

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How Do We Know Our Universe Is Not a Sim World?

It’s an interesting idea, say Bradley fellows, but for a number of reasons, it is not credible

The computer sim universe seems to be a way of dealing with the massive evidence of the fine-tuning of our universe without invoking traditional philosophy or religion.

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Believing in a Purposeful World Is Good Mental Health!

Perhaps fine-tuning of the universe should be taught in school as a mental health initiative

The massive evidence for design in our universe raises a question: Why isn’t the fine-tuning of the universe taught in school, not as a support for any specific religion but rather as a connection with reality, as support for mental health?

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