Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive September 2021

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Soup With Letter Noodles On Spoon

Can There Be a General Theory for Fine-Tuning?

If you make a bowl of alphabet soup and the letters arrange themselves and say, good morning, that is specified. What are the probabilities?

In Episode 2, the first part, (September 9, 2021), Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer discusses fine tuning in biology with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks the way “Life is so finely tuned that it is frightening,” Put another way, the billions of cells in our bodies are each like a city. Not as a group but each of them. No wonder we feel so sick when things are going wrong with our cells. It is like billions of dysfunctional cities… Anyway, Hössjer has been working on a general theory for fine-tuning: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-151-Hossjer-Diaz.mp3 This portion begins at 12:07 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Ola, you came up with a general theory. We…

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children's sorter with geometric shapes on a white background selective focus

If Google Thinks For You, Use THEIR Search Engine. Otherwise…

Google’s monopoly affects the free exchange of ideas in the public square and our electoral process

For years, the internet has been dominated by the all-seeing Google. Google has been so successful in its execution and protection of its brand that we culturally understand that to “Google” something is to conduct an internet search, despite the existence of alternative search engines. Google holds a massive advantage over all other search engines. More than 88% of all web searches are conducted through Google while the second-largest web browser, Bing, claims not quite 6% of all web searches. While alternative search services have existed for years (such as DuckDuckGo, Ask, and Startpage), only two English language indexes exist – Google’s and Bing’s. Most of the familiar search “alternatives” pull from those two datasets. Alternative search engines, then, aren’t all that…

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Viking Longships Approaching at Sunset - illustration

Expert in Defense and Technology To Speak at COSM

By looking to the past, historian Arthur Herman charts a hopeful path into the future

This November, historian Arthur Herman will be addressing the use of artificial intelligence in military preparedness at COSM 2021, an exclusive national summit exploring the myriad ways in which technology is shaping the world around us. Herman received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in history and classics. Since then, he has written nine books, including New York Times bestseller How the Scots Invented the Modern World, Pulitzer Prize finalist Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age, and Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, which was named one of the Economist’s Best Books of 2012. Herman is now a senior…

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Foam cell, a macrophage cell with lipid droplets

Life Is So Wonderfully Finely Tuned That It’s Frightening

A mathematician who uses statistical methods to model the fine tuning of molecular machines and systems in cells reflects…

In Episode 2, “Life is fine-tuned in a fearful and wonderful way” (September 9, 2021), Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer discusses fine tuning in biology with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. It’s a bit scary to think that each of our cells is like a city because it certainly gives us some idea of all the things that can (but, thankfully, usually don’t) go wrong, Note: Episode 1 was “Run the gambit of complexity” (September 20, 2021) discussed here and here. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-151-Hossjer-Diaz.mp3 This portion begins at 01:14 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Today we’re going to talk about fine tuning in biology. How biology is fine tuned to allow us to…

holograms of masks
Holograms of masks, Hackers hiding behind digital anonymous masks, fake accounts. Concept for internet crime, fraud, cyber attack, spam, electronic theft. 3D illustration, 3D render

China Manipulates Social Media to Spark Protests in the U.S.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye and Google Threat Analysis have fingered a campaign against the Hong Kong democracy movement, as well as claims that COVID started in the U.S.

Both a September report by cybersecurity firm FireEye and a threat assessment post by Google highlight the scope of China’s current global propaganda campaign. According to FireEye’s Threat Research Blog, thousands of “inauthentic accounts” — across dozens of social media platforms and websites around the world — amplify the Chinese government’s messaging. While several non-government organizations, cybersecurity firms, and media outlets have reported on the way China’s Twitter network manipulates social medial platforms, FireEye and Alphabet say the breadth and scope of the propaganda campaign is much greater than previously thought: Most reporting has highlighted English and Chinese-language activity occurring on the social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, we have now observed this pro-PRC activity taking place on…

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Vaccine or flu shot in injection needle. Doctor working with patient's arm. Physician or nurse giving vaccination and immunity to virus, influenza or HPV with syringe. Appointment with medical expert.

COVID-19, Bayes’ Rule, and Simpson’s paradox

Israeli data, when studied carefully, confirm the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines

Israel has a very high COVID-19 vaccination rate and yet, on August 15, 2021, 58% of those Israelis hospitalized for COVID-19 were fully vaccinated — suggesting that vaccinations are ineffective or even harmful. This is a great example of two common statistical traps. The first is confusion about inverse probabilities. One hundred doctors were once asked this hypothetical question: In a routine examination, you find a lump in a female patient’s breast. In your experience, only 1 out of 100 such lumps turn out to be malignant, but, to be safe, you order a mammogram X-ray. If the lump is malignant, there is a 0.80 probability that the mammogram will identify it as malignant; if the lump is benign, there is a 0.90 probability that…

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open eye in space

Researchers: The Universe Simulated Itself Into Existence

A recent physics journal paper proposes self-simulation as the origin of the universe, using a quantum gravity model

Yesterday, we looked at “Untitled Earth Sim 64,” a science fiction comedy based on the idea that Earth is a messed up simulation — created by entities that are in themselves simulations. And maybe their simulators were in turn simulated… And so forth. The problem is, where’s the original? Surprisingly, perhaps, there is a physics theory that offers an answer: The universe simulated itself: A new hypothesis says the universe self-simulates itself in a “strange loop”. A paper from the Quantum Gravity Research institute proposes there is an underlying panconsciousness. The work looks to unify insight from quantum mechanics with a non-materialistic perspective. How real are you? What if everything you are, everything you know, all the people in your…

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Big Bang

The Big Bang: The Beginning of All Questions About the Universe

... and the mind and all that

This offbeat “Science Uprising” film discusses the way in which the Big Bang, — the idea of a cosmic beginning — is unpopular among many philosophers of science because it sounds like an argument for the existence of God. But it is the best science explanation: You may also wish to read: The Big Bang has no natural beginning. In the debate between theistic neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and naturalist philosopher David Papineau, the question gets round to the origin of the universe itself

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android robot thinking in office

One Day the Door to the Robot’s Shop Opens – Sci-fi Saturday

Roy, the robot, is suddenly confronted by another robot, determined to kill or die

“Roy” at DUST (July 23, 2021, 7:44 min) Roy is a sci-fi drama short film about a robot mechanic holed away in a rundown barn, living in a world of rustic antiques melded with futuristic sensibilities. He is a man forgotten by society and spends his days tinkering at projects. That is until someone opens the door into his shop. Roy is a story about compassion in the face of those affected by violence and despair. It explores the themes of how we relate to strangers and friends around us who have become bitter and jaded by the world. Roy poses this question: how do we face those transformed by violence and angry at the world? Review: This film won…

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Flu. Influenza viruses with RNA, surface proteins hemagglutinin and neuraminidase,  medically 3D illustration

Astrobiologist: ET Viruses Likely Exist on Planets That Host Life

Paul Davies points to viruses as “mobile genetic elements” that transfer information between life forms — for better or worse

University of Arizona astrobiologist Paul Davies, author of many books, including the recent What’s Eating the Universe? (2021), told The Guardian, recently that if cellular life exists on other planets, something like viruses probably also exist — to transfer genetic information from one life form to another. Viruses, said Davies, can be thought of as mobile, genetic elements. Indeed, a number of studies have suggested genetic material from viruses has been incorporated into the genomes of humans and other animals by a process known as horizontal gene transfer. Nicola Davis, “Viruses may exist ‘elsewhere in the universe’, warns scientist” at The Guardian (September 6, 2021) Horizontal gene transfer, by which life forms “swap” genes, are common in bacteria and have…

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business and investment strategy analytics, financial simulation model

When a Simulated World Begins To Fall Apart — Sci-fi Saturday

Marie has reason to expect trouble when the simulator who explains reality to her cannot get her name right…

“Untitled Earth Sim 64” at DUST by Jonathan Wilhelmsson (September 10, 2021, 6:11) Marie is an offbeat woman who suspects that all is not right with the world. After experiencing various glitches in reality, she is called upon by a mysterious being that accidentally lets slip that her universe is a simulation. Marie’s life quickly unravels at this revelation, as she desperately looks for meaning in an untitled simulation. Review: This sci-fi comedy has won a number of awards and it is easy to see why. It is fast-paced and raises many interesting issues. When Marie (Karen Olrich-White) attempts to explain to her friend (Alexandra Frick) that she has learned from a mysterious voice (James Fraser) — amid a series…

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Neptune Planet Solar System space isolated

Researchers: There Are Cold Planets Throughout Our Galaxy

They report that there are even cold planets in the Galactic bulge, where it was not certain they would exist

Researchers from Osaka University, using gravitational microlensing, have determined that there are cold planets throughout our galaxy. Cold planets would have average temperatures below the freezing point. The results show that the planetary distribution is not strongly dependent on the distance from the Galactic center. Instead, cold planets orbiting far from their stars seem to exist universally in the Milky Way. This includes the Galactic bulge, which has a very different environment to the solar neighborhood, and where the presence of planets has long been uncertain. “Stars in the bulge region are older and are located much closer to each other than stars in the solar neighborhood,” explains lead author of the study Naoki Koshimoto. “Our finding that planets reside…

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Robot hand pressing computer keyboard enter

English Prof: You’ll Get Used To Machine Writing — and Like It!

Yohei Igarashi argues that seamless machine writing is an outcome of the fact that most of what humans actually write is highly predictable

English professor Yohei Igarashi, author of The Connected Condition: Romanticism and the Dream of Communication (2019), contends that writing can mostly be automated because most of it is predictable: Instances of automated journalism (sports news and financial reports, for example) are on the rise, while explanations of the benefits from insurance companies and marketing copy likewise rely on machine-writing technology. We can imagine a near future where machines play an even larger part in highly conventional kinds of writing, but also a more creative role in imaginative genres (novels, poems, plays), even computer code itself. Yohei Igarashi, “The cliché writes back” at Aeon (September 9, 2021) Currently, humans’ ability to guess whether it is machine writing, he says, is only…

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Guaranteed Likely Probable Certainty Measuring Confidence Level

Fine-tuning? How Bayesian Statistics Could Help Break a Deadlock

Bayesian statistics are used, for example, in spam filter technology, identifying probable spam by examining vast masses of previous messages

In the earlier part of podcast episode 150, “Ours is a finely tuned — and No Free Lunch — universe,” Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and University of Miami biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón discussed with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks the many ways in which the universe is finely tuned for life. Many theorists are not happy with the idea of fine-tuning because they are uncomfortable with its theistic implications. In this second portion of the episode, they discuss how a method of estimating probability called Bayesian statistics or Bayes theorem could help break a deadlock around fine-tuning: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-150-Hossjer-Diaz-.mp3 This portion begins at 13:00 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Bayes’ theorem…

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Software development

Publisher of Popular Electronics To Speak at COSM 2021

Futurist John Schroeter is an author as well as a publisher and developer

John Schroeter has many accomplishments as a futurist but also as an author, publisher, and developer: ➤ He is Executive Director at Abundant World Institute, a think tank for leading technologists, futurists and entrepreneurs seeking to create more abundance in the world: Their foundational book, Moonshots—Creating a World of Abundance, won the 2019 Gold Medal by Axiom Business Book Awards, and was recognized by Kirkus Reviews as a “Best Book of 2018.” After Shock (2020) marks the 50-year anniversary of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock. ➤ He is also the publisher, at TechnicaCuriosa, of iconic mags such as Popular Electronics and Popular Astronomy. “Our iconic titles have literally changed the world. Take Popular Electronics for example. Just one landmark issue was…

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Texas Governor Signs Law Curbing Big Tech Censorship

A similar law in Florida was halted by a federal judge. Will Texas's law face the same legal battle?

Last Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 20 into law, legislation that would prohibit social media companies from banning users for their political beliefs and provide users with a legal remedy for unfair discriminatory behavior. The law is very similar to legislation passed earlier this year in Florida. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7072 into law at the end of May. Within days, technology trade groups had filed a lawsuit, and on June 30, a federal judge stopped the bill in its tracks with a preliminary injunction. For the bill’s proponents, the law’s intention is to protect the free speech rights of state citizens when using social media. “Freedom of speech is under attack in Texas,” said…

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Set of numbers 1, 2, 3 made of leather. 3D render font with skin texture isolated on black background.

Further Dispatches From the War on Math

Discussions of social policy where math is relevant can be useful. But a student who does not understand how an equation works will fail at both math AND social policy

Earlier this year, I reposted an article that originally ran at Salvo on the war on the teaching of mathematics as a discipline in publicly funded schools in North America. The war continues so here are some updates: Recently, three mathematicians who immigrated to the United States weighed in: The United States has been dominant in the mathematical sciences since the mass exodus of European scientists in the 1930s. Because mathematics is the basis of science—as well as virtually all major technological advances, including scientific computing, climate modelling, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and robotics—US leadership in math has supplied our country with an enormous strategic advantage. But for various reasons, three of which we set out below, the United States is…

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Concept Of Open Mind

New Theory of Mind Offers More Information, Less Materialism

First, let’s begin by noting a remarkable fact: Panpsychism seems to have triumphed in the area of theories of consciousness.

At Nautilus, evolutionary biologist Tam Hunt asks us to consider the “General Resonance Theory of Consciousness,” which he has been developing with psychologist Jonathan Schooler — “a framework with a panpsychist foundation. It may, he thinks, “at least in theory, provide more complete answers to the full array of questions the hard problem of consciousness poses.” Hunt’s quite clear about the panpsychism (the view that everything in the universe participates in consciousness): Since I came up in philosophy, rather than neuroscience or psychology, for me the easy part was deciding the philosophical orientation. Schooler and I duked it out over whether we should adopt a materialist, idealist, panpsychist, or some other position on our way to a complete answer. I…

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The Final Materialist Quest?: A War on the Reality of the Mind

Going to war with the very concept is an approach even George Orwell did not think up

One of the stranger articles we’ve seen in a long time at Aeon proposes a war on the very concept of “the mind.” “The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of them,” Joe Gough, a philosophy student, says. Here is his reasoning: The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once.…

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Developing programmer Team Development Website design and coding technologies working in software company office

The Two Most Common Problems with Outsourced Code

And how to mitigate against them

I have had many opportunities to work with developers outside the United States in a variety of capacities. To begin with, let me assure readers that there are great developers all over the world. The sun never sets on the current team I work with. The great thing about software development is that you can find great talent wherever the Internet is. There are great individual developers in every country, but I have found that, in many countries, the culture of software development has not evolved to where it is in America. When hiring individual developers, this rarely matters. The proper developers tend to gravitate to whatever level you are hiring at (or, alternatively, you can have a headhunter screen…