Mind Matters News and Analysis on Natural and Artificial Intelligence

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Researchers Identify a New Form of Brain Communication

Mouse studies find brain waves that can bypass synapses and gaps, even communicate with severed nerves

Such surprising new findings show that comparisons between a human brain and a computer greatly underestimate the complexity of the brain.

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Conceptual illustration of neuron cells with glowing link knots in abstract dark space, high resolution 3D illustration

Even the axons in our nerve cells are “smart PCs”

Your brain is not a computer, it is billions of them

Contrary to expectations, researchers say, far-flung regions (thousands of cell body widths from their nucleus) can even make independent decisions.

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Human Fetus Week Nine

The Junk Science of the Abortion Lobby

Fetuses not only experience pain but experience it more intensely than do adults
Much of pro-abortion advocacy is science denial—the deliberate misrepresentation of science to advance an ideological agenda. Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University, wrote a misleading essay on that theme in the New York Times, “Science won’t end this debate” (January 22, 2019). Read More ›
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Abstract Looking Into a Kaleidoscope Background Geometric Shapes

In One Sense, Consciousness IS an Illusion…

We have no knowledge of the processes of our consciousness, only of the objects of its attention, whether they are physical, emotional, or abstract
When we think, we think about reality, not about the neurological processes by which we connect to reality. It is by keeping this understanding clearly in mind that we escape the solipsism that bedevils modern neuroscience. Read More ›
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Afraid man in tinfoil helmet watches TV, paranoia concept. UFO, conspiracy theory, brain theft protection, phobia

3: With Mind-Reading AI, You Will Never Have Secrets Again!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Did you read about the flap they had to cut out of a volunteer’s skull?

The Daily Mail is the United Kingdom’s second largest circulation daily. A headline from the webpage screams: No more secrets! New mind-reading machine can translate your thoughts and display them as text INSTANTLY! Not a lot of nuance there. The story continues on a tidal wave of hyperbole, • Researchers say they have developed a machine that can translate our thoughts •  The astonishing machine will analyse what you are thinking and display it as text ending with a charitable hope: •  Scientists hope that the machine can be used by people who are unable to speak The reality is that AI can read your mind for a few words repeated often if you have a flap cut out of your skull and Read More ›

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4: Making AI Look More Human Makes It More Human-like!

AI help, not hype, with Robert J. Marks: Technicians can do a lot these days with automated lip-syncs and smiles but what’s behind them?
This summer, some were simply agog over “Sophia, the First Robot Citizen” (“unsettling as it is awe-inspiring”) Read More ›
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How is Human Language Different from Animal Signals?

What do we need from language that we cannot get from signals alone?
Language, which is the rule-based use of abstract designators, is essential for abstract thought because only designators can point to things that have no concrete physical existence. Only human beings think abstractly, and language is what makes abstract thought possible. Read More ›
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AI and the Future of Murder

If I kill you but upload your mind into an android, did I murder you or just modify you?
The sci-fi TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013– ) tackled this question in an episode titled “Self Control”.  Scientist Holden Radcliffe has an android assistant appropriately named Aida (Artificial Intelligence Digital Assistant). Together, they build a virtual world that people could be plugged into and uploaded into, called The Framework. Read More ›
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Quantity vs Quality: Can AI Help Scientists Produce Better Papers?

What happens when scientists simply can't read all their peers' papers and still find time for original research?
Quantity is definitely a solved problem. STM, the “voice of scholarly publishing” estimated in 2015 that roughly 2.5 million science papers are published each year. Some are, admittedly, in predatory or fake journals. But over 2800 journals are assumed to be genuine. Read More ›
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Man in a maze

Has Neuroscience Disproved Thinking?

A philosopher argues that Nobel Prize-winning research shows that the theory of mind is just another illusion, useful for survival and success
We've all seen this sort of argument before in many other guises. It is commonly called “reductionism.” The reductionist claims that, because an object can be construed as made up of parts, the object is just the parts. It is like saying that because an article like this one is constructed from letters of the alphabet, the article is only rows of letters. Read More ›
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Noted Astronomer Envisions Cyborgs on Mars

Sir Martin Rees thinks of this “post-human evolution” as going beyond Darwin to “secular intelligent design.”
AI apocalypse is certainly in the air. Elon Musk, Henry Kissinger, and the late Stephen Hawking have all predicted an AI doomsday. Industry professionals’ doubt and disparagement don’t seem to register with the media in the same way. Read More ›
Personal communication

Brain hacks

Do we understand the brain better if we see it as a computer?
Seeing the brain as a computer doesn’t tell us as much as we might think. When human beings build computers, we design them in a way that we can understand and use. So we think our brains must be like that too. Sure enough, in the vast complexity of our brains, we can surely find some elements that remind us of a computer. Others won’t.   Read More ›
Ice cream chocolate and vanilla sundae topping with red cherry.

A Short Argument Against the Materialist Account of the Mind

You can simply picture yourself eating a chocolate ice cream sundae.
We have thoughts and ideas—what philosophers call “intentional” states—that are about things other than themselves. We don’t really know how this works. But whenever we speak to another person, we assume it must be true. And in our own case, we know it’s true. Even to deny it is to affirm it. Read More ›
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Does brain stimulation research challenge free will?

If we can be forced to want something, is the will still free?
The materialist interpretation of Reilly’s work is a misunderstanding of what the research actually shows. The stimulations did not evoke complex abstract intentions and acts—the patients didn’t reflexively decide to do integral calculus or donate to Amnesty International. Read More ›
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Do either machines—or brains—really learn?

A further response to Jeffrey Shallit: Actually, brains don’t learn either. Only minds learn.
Learning is an ability of human beings, considered as a whole, to acquire new knowledge, not an ability of human organs considered individually. Read More ›
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Apes Can Be Generous

Are they just like humans then?
If we are to genuinely understand machines, animals, and ourselves, we need to clearly understand that it is the immateriality of human intellect and will—our capacity to think and act abstractly— that makes us radically (i.e. ontologically) different from any animal or machine. Read More ›
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Is the octopus a “second genesis of intelligence”?

Can its strange powers provide insights for robotics or the human mind?
What’s really interesting about these stories is that, while we are learning that there is much intelligence in the animal (and plant) world, including some that can be applied to robotics, very little sheds light on explicitly human intelligence. Read More ›