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TagNoam Chomsky

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Peering Into the Future with Nikola Danaylov

In a new online series, futurist Danaylov shares both wisdom and folly about future expectations for science and technology

Is our future determined? And if so, what is it determined by? These are the questions Nikola Danaylov is discussing at Singularity Weblog, an online format the futurist author and podcaster uses for addressing topics of science, technology, humanity, and the future. In his latest series, Danaylov – who playfully addresses himself as “Socrates” – posits that humanity’s future is, indeed, determined – determined by the stories we tell ourselves.  Before we jump into his fascinating analyses, let’s take a look at Danaylov himself to understand the worldview from which he writes. Danaylov is a futurist author and speaker based in Toronto, Canada. As a futurist, Danaylov is optimistic about the future of technology and the possibility of an age…

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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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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.…

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Is the Mind Really Just “What the Brain Does”?

Many theories claim so. None of them work. Functionalism, the current survivor, is the best of the lot but deeply flawed

Over the past century there have been several paradigms or patterns of explanation by which philosophers and neuroscientists have tried to understand the mind. Behaviorism was the view that the input to and output from the nervous system was all that mattered. The ‘mind’ was deemed irrelevant to science. Behaviorism was eclipsed by reality—it was more or less demolished in the 1960’s by Noam Chomsky (1928–), who pointed out that language could not be understood in behaviorist terms. The study of the mind is indispensable to linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy. That this needed to be said is a scandal in itself. Identity theory — the view that mental states are identical to brain states — was the rage for several…

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Why Linguist Noam Chomsky Is a Great Scientist of Our Era

He singlehandedly rid linguistics of a stultifying (and technically mistaken) behaviorism

Noam Chomsky (right, in 2017) is, in my view, the best scientist of the past half-century. His work fascinates me, which is not a necessary criterion for being a great scientist—but it helps! I hasten to add that I do not share his politics—I’m of a conservative bent. But his theory of linguistics is brilliant and represents an anthropological, biological, and even metaphysical insight unrivaled in science since relativity and quantum mechanics. A case can be made that Chomsky’s insights are more profound than even those of modern physics, because they plumb the human soul in ways that physics cannot. To understand Chomsky’s achievement, it’s helpful to understand what linguistics was until Chomsky transformed it in the 1950s. Philosophers and…