Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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How Human Language Is, and Isn’t, Like a Computer Program

A key difference is that a language cannot be downloaded into the brain, like a program. It must be painstakingly acquired

Giosuè Baggio, professor of psycholinguistics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has mixed feeling about comparing the brain’s management of human language to computation. In some ways, it is a useful analogy: If we look at what the brain does while people perform a language task, we find some of the signatures of a computational system at work. If we record electric or magnetic fields produced by the brain, for example, we find signals that are only sensitive to the identity of the sound one is hearing — say, that it is a b, instead of a d — and not to the pitch, volume, or any other concrete and contingent features of the speech sound. At some Read More ›

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Weak Anthropic Principle? Not an Explanation but a Tautology!

Compared to the Strong Anthropic Principle — the universe is objectively fine-tuned for life — the Weak Anthropic Principle aims to avoid evidence and subvert discussion

My friend and colleague Dr. Bob Marks has a wonderful podcast with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz, regarding a recent paper they published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics on fine tuning for life in the universe. It’s very clear from astrophysics that many physical variables in the early universe needed to take very specific values — with very little margin for error — to permit the emergence of life. This is quite remarkable, and the authors have written a very nice paper exploring the probabilities involved in this apparent fine-tuning in considerable detail. It’ fascinating and I highly recommend listening to the podcast. In the most recent segment, “Our universe survived a firing Read More ›