Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagLanguage (prewired)

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Homo erectus thinking alone - 3D render

Cognitive Scientist: Earliest Humans, Homo Erectus, Had Language

Homo erectus needed a language to enable such remarkable achievements over 100,000 years ago, he says

Many experts believe that language has been a late development in human history. As Daniel Everett puts it, “many paleoanthropologists view erectus as little more than a skinny gorilla, of few accomplishments, far too stupid to have language, and lacking a vocal apparatus capable of intelligible speech.” Everett (pictured) disagrees and asks us to look at some facts from paleontology: Evidence that erectus had language comes from their settlements, their art, their symbols, their sailing ability and their tools. Erectus settlements are found throughout most of the old world. And, most importantly for the idea that erectus had language, open oceans were not barriers to their travel. Erectus settlements show evidence of culture – values, knowledge structures and social structure.…

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Detective board with photos of suspected criminals, crime scenes and evidence with red threads

Why Computers Will Likely Never Perform Abductive Inferences

As Erik Larson points out in The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, what computers “know” must be painstakingly programmed

I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, here, here, and here. Larson did an interesting podcast with the Brookings Institution through its Lawfare Blog shortly after the release of his book. It’s well worth a listen, and Larson elucidates in that interview many of the key points in his book. The one place in the interview where I wish he had elaborated further was on the question of abductive inference (aka retroductive inference or inference to the best explanation). For me, the key to understanding why computers cannot, and most likely will never, be able to perform abductive inferences is the problem of underdetermination of explanation by data. This may seem like a mouthful, but the idea is straightforward.…

Mother spending time talking to her baby at home
Side view of a woman playing with her infant child. Smiling woman talking to her baby sitting on a couch.

Babies Can Understand Whole Sentences Before They Can Speak

Before uttering their first word, a new study suggests, children can understand what groups of words mean together

In a recent study of 11–12 month olds published in Cognition, researchers found that infants on the verge of saying single words themselves can already process complete sentences such as “Clap your hands.” The research sheds light on the difficulties adults have learning second languages if they focus too intensely on single words: Dr Barbora Skarabela, of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Languages Sciences, said: “Previous research has shown that young infants recognise many common words. But this is the first study that shows that infants extract and store more than just single words from everyday speech. This suggests that when children learn language, they build on linguistic units of varying sizes, including multiword sequences, and not just single…