Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive September 2021

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Anomalocaris, creature of the Cambrian period, isolated on black background

Did Minimal Consciousness Drive the Cambrian Explosion?

Eva Jablonka’s team makes the daring case, repurposing Hungarian chemist Tibor Gánti’s origin of life studies

Eva Jablonka is “one of the world’s foremost experts in epigenetic inheritance and evolution” but she has also had a longstanding interest in consciousness studies. She was author, with Marion J. Lamb, of Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (MIT Press 2006/rev. 2014). She and neurobiologist Simona Ginsburg, along with illustrator Anna Zeligowski, offer a new approach to the origin of consciousness in an essay at IAI.TV — one with an interesting departure from many approaches to consciousness: Taking their inspiration from Hungarian chemist Tibor Gánti (1933–2009), who posited a chemoton — the minimal life form or protocell — as the origin of life, they first attempt to define minimal consciousness,…

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Cancel Culture Symbol

Database! One Stop Shop for Tracking Attacks by Cancel Culture

Looking at a number of entries at once helps us grasp the extent of the takeover of our culture, especially at universities, by grievance mobs

One used to hear many people say “Cancel Culture is so ridiculous, it will go away soon.” Well, that’s not happening. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who usually writes about other matters, discusses two representative incidents: The removal of a book review at Science-Based Medicine written by one of its own editors because it was deemed too friendly to Abigail Shrier’s book, Irreversible Damage (2021), on the 4,400% rise from from 2008 to 2018 of teenage females seeking to transition to males — and the curious absence of rigorous studies that might account for the astounding increase. Coyne notes I read Shrier’s book and thought it was fair, empathic, and certainly not transphobic. But because Shrier was unfairly accused of transphobia…

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young man working freelance in laptop at home

The Bionic Man Was Science Fiction; the Bionic Hand Is Not

A recent internet-savvy bionic hand, developed by an American neuroscientist and computer engineer, is the most flexible yet, with sensory feedback

Many people associate bionics with a 70s sci-fi TV series, The Six Million Dollar Man (“After a severely injured test pilot is rebuilt with nuclear-powered bionic limbs and implants, he serves as an intelligence agent”). It’s not science fiction any more: According to the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago, roughly 100,000 Americans — and 10 million people worldwide — are missing a hand. The award-winning Ability hand shown in the video, made by Psyonic, a Champaign, Illinois-based startup, is a useful illustration of how far prosthetics has come via electronic and internet technology. Representative of a new generation of prostheses, it is both electronics and internet-friendly: It charges in roughly an hour and the…

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Planet with numerous prominent ring system

5. Egnor, Dillahunty Dispute the Basic Causes Behind the Universe

In a peppery exchange, Egnor argues that proofs of God’s existence follow the same logical structure as proofs in science

At this point in the “Does God exist?” debate between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), readers may recall that the debate opened with Egnor explaining why, as a former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then made his opening argument, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded in his own opening argument that the propositions were all unfalsifiable. When, in Section 4, it was Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty, Dillahunty was not easily able to recall Aquinas’s First Way (the first logical argument for the existence of God). No matter, they agreed to keep talking. The…

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T-shirt made in Bangladesh. Customer looking at the origin and import country of a cheap fashion product in clothes store or shop. Ethical consumer behavior. Woman holding label and price tag with tex

What Do Robots Find Hard? Sewing a T-shirt, For One Thing

Humans automatically and constantly adjust hand movements to the ever-changing alignment of cloth. Robots just freeze

Menswear entrepreneur Harris Quinn wrote a thoughtful piece at Wired recently on the mixed success of efforts to automate sewing via Sewbots, for example, developed by SoftWear Automation CEO Palaniswamy Rajan: One reason that sewing lends itself so well to the grinding labor of sweatshops is that it is very difficult to automate. That’s because cloth is pliable and constantly moving. The Sewbots face unexpected hurdles: But no two batches of cotton are exactly alike, often varying from harvest to harvest; variations in the fabric and dyes further complicate matters. Each variation can necessitate recalibrating the system, interrupting operations, and SoftWear has to train its machinery to respond accordingly. “The biggest challenge we have faced getting to a production system…

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Silicon Valley and Green Hills at Dusk. Monument Peak, Ed R. Levin County Park, Milpitas, California, USA.

Is Silicon Valley Doomed? Hear Walter Myers III at COSM 2021

His experience and knowledge ranges from philosophy to biology to state policy
Is it the end for Silicon Valley? That's the question Walter Myers III will be addressing this November at COSM 2021 – an exclusive national summit in Bellevue, Washington. Read More ›
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Knights on a chessboard. Business, strategy, conflict and leadership concept.

4: Egnor Now Tries To Find Out What Dillahunty Actually Knows…

About philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as he begins a rebuttal

Readers and viewers who have been following this debate, “Does God exist?” (September 17, 2021), between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty may recall that it opened with Egnor explaining why, as former atheist, he became a theist. Then Dillahunty explained why, as a former theist, he became an atheist. Michael Egnor then stated his case, offering ten proofs for the existence of God. Matt Dillahunty responded that they wre all unfalsifiable propositions. Now it is Egnor’s turn to rebut Dillahunty. The conversation was somewhat rambunctious and has been condensed for print: A partial transcript (beginning at 36:30) and notes follow: Michael Egnor: Well, first of all, you mentioned that you don’t defend the existence of leprechauns…

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Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Why Did Stephen Hawking Give Up on a Theory of Everything?

Daniel Díaz and Ola Hössjer continue their discussion of the fine tuning of the universal constants of nature with Robert J. Marks

In a continuing conversation with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz on the fine-tuning of the universe — and Earth — for life, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks asks them about why a Theory of Everything eludes us and about the life-permitting interval — the narrow window for life that the constants of the universe permit. This is the second part of Episode 3, “The universe is so fine-tuned!” (September 16, 2021). Earlier portions, with transcripts and notes, are listed below. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-152-Hossjer-Diaz.mp3 This portion begins at 12:36 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: In truth, there’s a lot of fundamental constants — the electric charge of an electron,…

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Molecules, abstract molecular and research background

Top World Chemist, James Tour, To Speak at COSM 2021

Tour builds molecules for a living, a position that causes him to stand in awe” of God: “Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith.”

Rice University chemistry professor James Tour is officially best known for his many research papers (700) and patent families (130). He is popularly known more for his passion for introducing the lay public to the awesome chemistry of life. The ORCID database of science achievements puts it like this: Tour’s scientific research areas include nanoelectronics, graphene electronics, silicon oxide electronics, carbon nanovectors for medical applications, green carbon research for enhanced oil recovery and environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction, graphene photovoltaics, carbon supercapacitors, lithium ion batteries, CO2 capture, water splitting to H2 and O2, water purification, carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications, graphene oxide, carbon composites, hydrogen storage on nanoengineered carbon scaffolds, and synthesis of single-molecule nanomachines which includes molecular…

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3D Illustration Roboter Auge

Move Over Turing and Lovelace – We Need a Terminator Test

More research should be spent on a Terminator test to mitigate the threat of an unfriendly, all-powerful artificial intelligence

What we really need is not a Turing test or a Lovelace test, but a Terminator test. Just imagine. If we create an all-powerful artificial intelligence, we cannot assume it will be friendly. We cannot guarantee anything about the AI’s behavior due to something known as Rice’s theorem. Rice’s theorem states that all non-trivial semantic properties of programs are undecidable. Benevolence is certainly a non-trivial semantic property of programs, which means we cannot guarantee benevolent AIs. Therefore, what we really need is a way to distinguish the all-powerful artificial intelligence from human intelligence, so we can protect ourselves from humanized mass murdering robots. Let us think about this in terms of test errors. When we perform a test on some…

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Confused businessman with stressed and worried about  working mistake and problems.

The Entrepreneur’s Worst Mistake In New Technology Ventures

As a new entrepreneur, you won't make it to 100,000 users unless the product works well for your customers

I’ve worked with many tech startups over the years. By and large there has always been one overriding factor that has caused tech startups to falter — trying to build their application to handle too much traffic upfront. The goal of every tech entrepreneur is for everyone in the country to use their next product. Everyone is going to make the next star application, like Facebook. In order to accomplish this, tech entrepreneurs give a command to their tech team that is probably their worst mistake: “Make the application able to scale to millions of users.” That might sound like a reasonable request, but I can assure you that it is absolutely the worst possible plan of attack. Programming legend…

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Human hand fine tuning levels on professional audio equipment

Was the Universe Created for Life Forms to Live In? How To Know?

We can begin by looking at the fundamental constants that underlie the universe

In a continuing conversation with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz (podcast 153) on the fine-tuning of the universe — and Earth — for life, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks asks them about fundamental constants. This is the first part of Episode 3, “The universe is so fine-tuned!” (September 16, 2021). Earlier portions, with transcripts and notes, are listed below. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-152-Hossjer-Diaz.mp3 This portion begins at 01:09 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Why is the speed of light, the speed of light? Why isn’t it slower or faster? Why is the universal gravitational constant what it is? It turns out these and other constants of the cosmos are…

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white knight chess piece

Atheist Spokesman Matt Dillahunty Refuses To Debate Me Again

Although he has said that he finds debates “incredibly valuable,” he is — despite much urging — making an exception in this case. Why?

I recently debated atheist Matt Dillahunty on Theology Unleashed,. Matt is an atheist activist and the former president of the Atheist Community of Austin, Texas. Since 2005 he has hosted the televised webcast The Atheist Experience and he has also hosted a live Internet radio show and founded Iron Chariots, a counter-apologetics project. From a bio sketch: Matt Dillahunty is a seasoned debater, the current president of the Atheist Community of Austin, and the well known host of The Atheist Experience. He has debated Jordan Peterson, David Wood and a host of other theists, and has shared stages with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Laurence Krauss. He is known for his cool headed logical arguments and philosophical abilities. Matt describes…

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mini robot work

Love Among the Ruins, for Robots — Sci-fi Saturday

A beautifully rendered animated short of robots looking for some place to just exist in a deserted, ruined industrial landscape

“Left Behind” at DUST by Minna Ericksson and Kateriina Kontturi at Xero Shorts (May 1, 2021, 7:14 min, animated) A lone robot walks the desolate landscape in search of a new life. It finds one in a unexpected place. Review: In a ruined, dystopian industrial landscape, a large robot (presumably laid off from a shut down enterprise) searches for a new place to be. The robot finds a cute baby robot that, duckling fashion, immediately bonds and begins to follow it around. The giant robot is none too pleased and tries, at first, to shed its unwanted companion. Then the baby robot begins to dance and… no more spoilers. This animation is not a laff riot; the climax reaches for…

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Fog in the forest

Longtime Skeptic Now Accepts Parapsychology as Science

But read the fine print. It’s a matter of determining what can be considered a science statement, whether it is proven or disproven

University of London psychology prof Chris French has a complex relationship with parapsychology (research into, for example, extrasensory perception or ESP). At one time, he believed in it, then was, for four decades, a skeptic — but he has now come round to a new approach to the question: How do we decide what is and isn’t “science”: Before we can assess the scientific status of any discipline, we must first consider what philosophers of science refer to as the demarcation problem. What criteria must be applied in order to decide whether a discipline is a true science or not? This is a fascinating topic that has been a subject of discussion amongst philosophers of science for a very long…

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Layers of Deceit Plague a High-Tech Call Center – Sci-Fi Saturday

Locked in, Jess must try to save a competitor’s life when she can only contact artificial intelligence choices that are not programmed to provide the needed assistance

“Lifeline” (2018) at DUST by Harry Jackson (At DUST September 6, 2021, 7:57 min) Jess, and her trial for a job at a high-tech call centre. When her competitor suddenly collapses, her only means to save him is a state of the art computer system. The problem is, the art is in a terrible state. Review: Jess (Gwyneth Keyworth) and Keith (Nathan Bryon) are competing for a job at the futuristic (and dominant) call center Ulternative Solutions. The iconic “room” where the company started — and they are locked into while trying out — is dusty. And Keith, it turns out, has asthma… Julia Deakin, as the witchlike supervisor, apprises the competitors of the company’s “ruthless sales ethic” “cherry picking…

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A moody science fiction concept, of a figure standing in a field with UFO lights glowing in the sky. On a foggy spooky night. With a vintage, grunge edit

The UFOs Carl Sagan Was Convinced Of But Couldn’t Talk About

Sagan had already been denied tenure at Harvard, a sci-fi screenwriter reflects, and he couldn't afford to take more chances

Sci-fi screenwriter Bryce Zabel recalls a memorable dispute with cosmologist Carl Sagan (1934–1996) in a parking lot forty years ago: The Voyager II unmanned spacecraft had been launched in August of 1977. Now, four years later, it was due to make its closest approach to Saturn on August 25, 1981. It was even going to send back photos in almost real time. I got an idea. Bryce Zabel, “Cosmic Collision: My UFO Debate with Carl Sagan” at Medium (August 24, 2021) His idea was to interview Sagan (remember the insignificant Pale Blue Dot that Earth is supposed to be?). I got to host Saturn and Beyond, and it was going to be Carl Sagan and me “live,” without commercial interruption,…

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Robot eyes closeup

Sure, AI Could Run the World — Except for Its Fundamental Limits

But many of the basic errors, problems, and limitations have no easy solution

We are told that not only will AI take our jobs but it will take our bosses’ jobs and their bosses’ jobs and pretty soon., AI will be running the world… We can see those films on Netflix any night. Science writer and science fiction author Charles Q. Choi offers, in a longish piece at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ online magazine, Spectrum, talking about the real world where “Neural networks can be disastrously brittle, forgetful, and surprisingly bad at math.” AI frequently flubs and it is not clear how to make it flub less. Here are brief notes on three examples of the seven he offers: ➤“Brittle” 97% of AIs could not identify a school bus flipped…

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Chess Pieces on Board for Game and Strategy

3. Atheist Dillahunty Spots Fallacies in Christian Egnor’s Views

“My position is that it’s unacceptable to believe something if the available evidence does not support it.”

“Does God exist?”Earlier this month, Christian neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty began to debate the question at Theology Unleashed. As they briefly explain in the first episode, Egnor was an agnostic and became a Christian, based on his experiences; Dillahunty went the opposite route. In the second episode, Egnor set out his position briefly, offering ten proofs of the existence of God. Now it is Matt Dillahunty’s fifteen minutes — to spot weaknesses in Egnor’s arguments and offer his own, beginning at 20:30 min. He begins by remarking on Egnor’s speed of presentation: A partial transcript and notes follow: Matt Dillahunty: Never in the entire history of doing debates has someone come in and, in 15 minutes,…

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Printed circuit board

“Listen to the technology; find out what it’s telling you…”

That’s the motto of CalTech’s Carver Mead, who will speak at COSM 2021

A COSM 2021 speaker that tech watchers won’t want to miss is CalTech’s Carver Mead (1934–), best known in computer history for pioneering the automation, methodology and teaching of the integrated circuit design used in microprocessors and memories. According to the Lemelson–MIT Student Prize program, “Carver Mead has made many of the Information Age’s most significant advances in microcircuitry, which are essential to the internet access and global cellular phone use that many people enjoy and take for granted every day.” Mead is also honored as a teacher. Forty years at CalTech, he advised the first female electrical engineering student there, Louise Kirkbride, who went on to become a tech developer and inventor in her own right. He has helped…