Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagPlants

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close up photo of green leafed plant

If You Do Something to a Plant, Will It Remember?

Depends. Plants turn out to be more and more like animals. NOT like people but like animals

Plants, we are learning, have internal means of remembering and keeping track of things: In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers from Nara Institute of Science and Technology have revealed that a family of proteins that control small heat shock genes enables plants to ‘remember’ how to deal with heat stress… “Heat stress is often repeating and changing,” says lead author of the study Nobutoshi Yamaguchi. “Once plants have undergone mild heat stress, they become tolerant and can adapt to further heat stress. This is referred to as heat stress ‘memory’ and has been reported to be correlated to epigenetic modifications.” Epigenetic modifications are inheritable changes in the way genes are expressed, and do not involve changes in the…

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Cat looking to little gerbil mouse on the table. Concept of prey, food, pest.

Can We Find Purpose in a Universe With No Underlying Purpose?

That’s the ambitious goal of a prominent science writer

British science writer Philip Ball offers us a guide to a very interesting project: an attempt to “naturalize” the idea of agency, that is, make the desire to do things—the mouse’s desire to escape the cat— explainable from a fully materialist perspective. That’s much harder than it seems. Rocks don’t desire anything. So we can’t just start from the bottom. It’s also not enough to say that the mouse wants to avoid getting killed. That’s true but it doesn’t really explain anything. For example, a person looks both ways before crossing the street to avoid getting run over. But, by itself, that doesn’t explain why she tries to avoid getting run over. One must factor in her memory, background knowledge,…

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one common green bottle fly being eaten by a venus flytrap flower

How Plants Can Count and Remember With No Brain

Plants like the Venus Flytrap can time things by the chemicals circulating in their systems

How can a plant remember anything, we might wonder? One way is that it may have specific chemicals circulating in its system. Calcium, according to a recent discovery, turns out to be the element that prompts Venus flytraps to shut their traps on insects—but only on the second try: A Venus flytrap’s short-term “memory” can last about 30 seconds. If an insect taps the plant’s sensitive hairs only once, the trap remains still. But if the insect taps again within about half a minute, the carnivorous plant’s leaves snap shut, ensnaring its prey. Curtis Segarra, “How Venus flytraps store short-term ‘memories’ of prey” at ScienceNews The Venus’s trap is more complex than a mousetrap because the plant can’t just clamp…

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Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

Could Super Artificial Intelligence Be, in Some Sense, Alive?

An AI theorist makes the case to a technical writer…

Tech writer Ben Dickson poses the question: Should you feel bad about pulling the plug on a robot or switch off an artificial intelligence algorithm? Not for the moment. But how about when our computers become as smart—or smarter—than us? Ben Dickson, “What will happen when we reach the AI singularity?” at TheNextWeb, July 7, 2020 Philosopher Borna Jalšenjak (above right) of the Luxembourg School of Business has been thinking about that. He has a chapter, “The Artificial Intelligence Singularity: What It Is and What It Is Not,” in Guide to Deep Learning Basics: Logical, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives, in which he explores the case for “thinking machines” being alive, even if they are machines. The book as a whole…

Young birch with black and white birch bark in spring in birch grove against the background of other birches

Researchers: Trees “sense” their height and weight

We have only recently discovered how complex plant communications are

Trees rarely just fall over but we seldom stop to think about why they don’t. Manipulating the weight of downy birch trees, the team discovered that a tree can adjust its stem thickening in relation to its height, especially if the stem is free to move a bit. They were able to test this thesis by studying a mutant tree that sadly lacks that ability.

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old tree roots in a green forest

New Research Suggests That Plants Can “Think”

But what does that mean? Clearly not what some people expect

From time immemorial, we have endowed what we find in nature with our own characteristics. That is called mythology. The people who think that salad is murder or beg plants to forgive their sins are not helping the environment; they are incorporating a mythology into their lives

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Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) blossoms and buds macro picture
Thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) in bloom

Researchers: Yes, Plants Have Nervous Systems Too

Not only that but, like mammals, they use glutamate to speed transmission

Nature is so full of information whose origin we cannot really account for under currently acceptable hypotheses but nothing prevents us from using it to our advantage in the meantime.

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Is Salad Murder?

A Darwinian biologist wrestles with the significance of plant intelligence

If plants can sense things and communicate with each other, even though they lack a mind or brain, should they have rights? In an age of sometimes violent animal rights activism, that’s not an idle question. Plant physiologist Ulrich Kutschera, author of Physiology of Plants. Sensible Vegetation in Action (January 2019, German), talked about it in a recent interview: This is a serious issue which is related to plant intelligence. In April 2009, the Swiss Parliament discussed the topic of “plant ethics” and proposed to attribute to plants a kind of “Würde”, which can be translated as “dignity” (3). As a consequence, some radical plant ethics-activists have distributed T-shirts and other propaganda material with the slogan “Salad is murder”. Despite…

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Potted plants from above

That Plant Is Not a Cyborg

Or a robot. The MIT researcher's underlying idea is a good one but let’s not “plant” mistaken ideas
If plants could move around freely, they would move into the most beneficial lighting arrangement. They compensate for their rootedness by growing in the optimum direction and constantly repositioning their leaves. An MIT researcher has helped out a plant by fitting it with electronic sensors attached to robotic wheels. Read More ›
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Leaves of a maple tree

Can Plants Be as Smart as Animals?

Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain

None of the plants' extensive "social life" requires reason, emotion, value systems, mind, consciousness, or a sense of self. It requires only that the plant, like an animal, seek to continue its highly organized existence. But plants' ability to process information for that purpose gives pause for thought.  

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