Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive October 2021

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Philosopher: Panpsychism Is Not in Conflict With Physics at All

Responding to criticism from physicists Sabine Hossenfelder and Sean Carroll, Philip Goff points out that panpsychism is not a dualist perspective

At IAI.tv, University of Durham philosophy prof Philip Goff tells us that “The world of academic philosophy has been rocked by the conversion of one of the most influential materialists of the last thirty years, Michael Tye, to a form of panpsychism (panprotopsychism) in his latest book. And the main annual UK philosophy conference held a plenary panel on panpsychism this year for the first time in its history.” That’s part of a pattern in which philosophy and science are warming to panpsychism, the belief that either all entities or all living entities participate in consciousness. Dr. Goff, author of Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness, offers some thoughts on what panpsychism is and isn’t: Panpsychism is the…

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Man in front of the universe with his arms raised

Physicist: If Humans Died Out, the Galaxy Might Lose All Meaning

Ahead of a big climate change conference, Brian Cox assesses the prospect of other habitable planets or their civilizations much more soberly than we often hear

Ahead of the big climate change conference COP 26 (31 Oct – 12 Nov 2021), physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox offers an ominous warning which also raises some questions. Speaking in connection with his new series, Universe, he presents a starkly different picture from much that we hear: Humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, so destroying our civilisation could be a galactic disaster, Prof Brian Cox has warned leaders in the run-up to Cop26. Speaking at the launch of his new BBC Two series Universe, the physicist and presenter said that having spoken to the scientists around the world advising the show, he thought that humans and sentient life on Earth “might be a remarkable, naturally…

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Arizona Desert Ladscape

The Wild West Seen From Another Cosmos — Sci-Fi Saturday

Jane Montana must rescue a hostage from three villains. But is Montana what she seems?

“Cosmo” at DUST by Thomas Thomas (October 29, 2021, 6:58) Jane Montana, a rough and tough law-woman, is in a pickle. A gang of outlaws led by a man named Buford has kidnapped a helpless damsel. Worse, Jane has two bullets and three bad guys to confront. Review: A Wild West scenario is not usually mixed with sci fi but this short gets the Wild West atmosphere right. Montana (La Trice Harper) and the hostage Gwen (Kaylin Zeren) look very Western and the bad guys — Buford (Jeremy John Wells), Slick (Andrew Stroud), and Bart (Tony Nunes) — are straight out of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly tradition. At least one commenter felt that “Cosmo” wasn’t really sci…

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Mars Base

Theoretical Physicist: Colonizing Mars Is a Ridiculous Idea

Making Mars habitable (terraforming) has been kicking around engineering circles for decades. What are the chances, given Moore’s Law-level increases in technology?

And so what does a theoretical physicist know about it, you ask? Well, when it’s Sabine Hossenfelder, she is alwaysworth listening to: The biggest problem is not that Mars is “minus 60 degrees Celsius or minus 80 Fahrenheit,” she explains, but that it has no magnetic field so the atmosphere was blown away by the solar winds. So to form Mars into a second Earth, we would first need to give it a magnetic field. How easy is that?: In a paper that was just published in April in the International Journal of Astrobiology, two physicists explain that all you have to do put a superconducting wire around Mars, simple enough, isn’t it? The circle would have to have a…

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sci-fi scene of the creature machine invading city, digital art style, illustration painting

Worst Case: AI Robots Invade to “Help” Us — Sci-fi Saturday

A well-meaning AI attempts to “rescue” an impressionable child from the coming wipeout of humanity

“Cera” (2021 ) at DUST by John Robinson Irwin (October 20, 2021, 7:33 min) An 11-year old girl’s loyalty to her parents is tested after an attack by her caregiver hints to a greater violent upheaval beyond their rural surroundings. Review: The story opens with Hailey (Cali DiCapo)and her father John (Jason Isaacs) finding her mother Maria (Maria-Elena Laas) stabbed, though not dead. Minimal dialogue does a good job at filling us in on an, at first, nameless horror without breaking the suspense. Thus, we sense that “Cera” is an intelligent caregiver but not a human being and that the child’s devotion to her could be fatal or… It gets creepier from there. Minimal spoilers but it’s not clear, in…

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Exoplanets with moon

How Exoplanets Have Made the Search for ET Respectable

Recent years have seen a marked change from official skepticism to official curiosity, which includes more generous funding for the search

Exoplanets were first confirmed in 1992. Before that, it was easy to simply mock the search for the flying saucers and the little green men. After that, the obvious question became: If planets, why not habitable planets? If inhabited, why not by intelligent life forms? It was the naysayers who had more to prove. More recently, astrobiologists looking for signals from intelligent extraterrestrials (technosignatures) have started to doubt that the old standby, radio, is the best choice, as science writer Corey S. Powell reports, ‘I was never a big fan of what might be called “beacon SETI”,’ the astrophysicist Adam Frank from the University of Rochester tells me. ‘The idea is that you’re waiting for somebody to send you a…

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Indian ethnicity woman wearing headphones listens educational course studying online

Is Online Learning Poised To Replace Universities?

Perhaps sooner than we think, if present trends continue. A degree may confer only social status — which depends on others’ acceptance

In 2019, freelance writer Allen Farrington wrote an insightful piece, asking a question many have avoided. Does the acceptance of Cancel Culture signal the irretrievable decline of universities? He begins by discussing a short documentary on the Bret Weinstein affair at Evergreen State College in Washington State in 2017. Weinstein, along with his wife Heather Heying, was driven from the campus by angry students because he spoke out against racial exclusion policies. Both were biology teachers with fairly liberal views: No matter how closely you followed the debacle at the time, there is really no substitute for this fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Evergreen academics can be seen meekly and repeatedly submitting to ideological manipulation, and on a number of…

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Competition between humans and robots in tug of war concept

Robots Will NOT Steal Our Jobs, Business Analysts Show

Doomsayers typically do not factor in all components of the job that a robot would have to replace or all of the true costs of trying, they say

At Fast Company, data analyst Jeffrey Funk and business prof Gary N. Smith dispute the claim that robots are coming for all our jobs. They point to a history of overblown claims: In 1965, Herbert Simon, who would later be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Turing Award (the “Nobel Prize of computing”), predicted that “machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do.” In 1970, Marvin Minsky, who also received the Turing Award, predicted that, “in from three to eight years we will have a machine with the general intelligence of an average human being.” The implications for jobs were ominous, but robotic-takeover predictions have been in the air for a…

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Seattle Skyline at Sunset with Space needle

Venture Capital Manager at COSM 2021 to Listen and Learn

The Managing Director of Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group will moderate two panels on new technologies that can shake things up

In 2019, Madrona’s Matt McIlwain moderated a panel at the COSM 2019 Technology Summit, “AI’s Role in Unlocking Human Potential.” The panel followed tech pioneer and prophet Ray Kurzweil’s livestreamed address in which he predicted that we will merge with our computers by 2045 — The Singularity: “Our intelligence will then be a combination of our biological and non-biological intelligence,” he explained. We will be apps of our smart computers. Or will we? And if that happened, would it be progress? Already, we freak out when we can’t find our phones, or our computers crash, or the internet is down. Or the power goes off. Yet Isaac Newton changed physics with a pen and paper. So did Albert Einstein. McIlwain…

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一个人漫步在故宫中,你能感觉到自己内心的宁静,倾听历史的声音。历史中的记忆,我们无法完全的复刻,但是建筑带给我们的震撼,却历久弥新。

China Brief: Xi Jinping Is a Techno-Utopian

Is his optimism in fix-all technological solutions actually a weakness?

I attended a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies on Xi Jinping’s New Policy Framework. Jude Blanchette and Andrew Polk of CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies laid out their take on Xi Jinping’s governance model, the goal of which is to make China into a “great socialist nation” by 2035. This is a change from the Deng Xiaoping goal of making China into a “moderately prosperous society” and includes his common prosperity initiative. For those interested in some of the ins-and-outs of macro-economic policy, you can read the CSIS report, “Chinese State Capitalism: Diagnosis and Prognosis” here. Two key takeaways from the webinar are 1) Xi Jinping’s model is not a rehash of Mao or Lenin, although both…

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multiverse and alternative universes concept

Why Just Anything Can’t Happen via Infinite Universes

We can see why not, using simple mathematical reasoning in this universe

Can anything happen if there are an infinite number of universes each with an infinite number of possibilities in each? Can you be bald in one universe and fully haired in another? Can you have two eyeballs in this universe and three in another? The answer is no. In a nutshell, the reason is that some infinities are bigger than other infinities. (And this is not a claim like infinity plus one is bigger than infinity. Infinity plus one is still infinity.) The number of points on a line segment from, say zero to one, is a bigger infinity than the number of counting numbers {1,2,3,…}. We can label the infinite number of universes in the multiverse as universe #1,…

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Brick through Window.

15. Debate: How Can a Cause and Effect Occur at the Same Time?

In the broken window analogy, the brick becomes a cause simultaneously with the shattered glass becoming an effect

In the “Does God exist?” debate at Theology Unleashed between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), a questioner asks, are singularities really a part of science? Readers may recall that the debate 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 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…

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new life, 2d echo

How a Theory of the Soul Drives Abortion Activism

Descartes’ theory that the soul and the body are utterly distinct, while mostly rejected in philosophy, is still part of popular culture

Every now and then, it’s useful to look at the philosophical underpinnings of current thought and what implications they have for engineering ethics. In a recent post on the website of the journal First Things, professor of biblical and religious studies Carl Trueman noted that Cartesian dualism — a way of looking at the human person promulgated by René Descartes (1596-1650) — is enjoying a comeback in the popular mind, although modern philosophy has long since discarded it as an inadequate model. (This article by Karl D. Stephan originally appeared at Engineering Ethics Blog (October 11, 2021) under the title “Against Cartesian Dualism,” and is reprinted with permission.) If you know anything about Descartes, you will probably recall his most famous saying: “I think,…

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Small brain between fingers

Researchers Still Puzzled: Why Did Human Brains Shrink?

Human brain volumes decreased by 10% in the last 40,000 years, coinciding with spectacular intellectual achievements

We conventionally associate big brains with intelligence. But the evidence from the present day and from history is uncertain: It’s something of a well-known secret among anthropologists: Based on measurements of skulls, the average brain volume of Homo sapiens has reportedly decreased by roughly 10 percent in the past 40,000 years. This reduction is a reversal of the trend of cranial expansion, which had been occurring in human evolution for millions of years prior… For instance, a 1988 Human Biology paper analyzed more than 12,000 Homo sapiens crania from Europe and North African. It showed cranial capacity decreased in the past 10,000 years by about 10 percent (157 mL) in males and 17 percent (261 mL) in females. A similar…

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Illustration of spiral arrangement in nature.  Golden Ratio concept

New film: C.S. Lewis as a staunch defender of the mind’s reality

Lewis started out thinking that “the findings of science have concluded that human reason” resulted merely from “natural selection with random mutations… to confer upon humans a reproductive advantage.”

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to spend an evening with famed writer C. S. Lewis, now’s your chance. On November 3, theaters around the United States and Canada will premiere a film titled The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis, and it may be the next best thing to meeting the real Lewis, who died in 1963. Adapted from a one-man stage show by New York actor Max McLean, The Most Reluctant Convert portrays Lewis’s intellectual journey from scientific materialism to idealism to theism to Christianity. It’s a cerebral and “talky” film, but that doesn’t mean it’s slow or boring. Clocking in at just 73 minutes, the film moves briskly and includes plenty of emotion and humor.  (This…

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silicon valley traffic sign

George Gilder Asks Silicon Valley Again: What’s It All About?

As the author of Wealth and Poverty (1981), Gilder hopes to challenge both the boosters and the doomsayers on why we are doing high tech

If you make it to COSM 2021 (November 10–12, Bellevue, Washington), you won’t want to miss George Gilder, the tech philosopher whose approach to technology is COSM’s inspiration: We do technology if it helps us, not just because it helps Silicon Valley. His bestseller, Wealth and Poverty (Basic Books, 1981) probed basic questions like why we work and how we decide something has value. His Life after Google (2018) looks at what we can do with sophisticated tech when Silicon Valley no longer micromanages everything. At COSM 2019, Gilder asked Big Tech pioneers, movers, and shakers, where all this is going. What is the value? He got some good answers on, for example, the real life prospects and limits of…

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shocked woman holding laptop being picked blamed by many people in the Internet

Silicon Valley: From Laid Back Hippies to Top Cops…What Happened?

A political science prof traces the steps by which the naive assumptions of the early Valley morphed into shadow banning, outright banning, and so forth

Political scientist Jon Askonas offers a grim but somehow strengthening look at how Silicon Valley morphed from Apple’s revolt against 1984 to an increasingly comfortable relationship with totalitarian China. We must, he says, go back to the beginning. First, this is how Apple saw itself in 1984: Most of Silicon Valley saw itself that way — liberating people from authoritarianism. So what happened? In an incisive essay at The New Atlantis, Askonas offers some thoughts on what’s changed: ➤ First, he says, the Valley was very much influenced by 1970s California hippie beliefs about human nature that did not long survive realities like this: Faced with deadly riots in unstable societies caused by Facebook posts, Facebook tweaked its algorithms in…

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ethernet cable on network switches background

Bob Metcalfe, Mastermind Behind Ethernet, to Speak at COSM 2021

An engineer and entrepreneur, he considers his work on Ethernet his "good fortune"

This November, COSM 2021 will feature some of the best minds in business, science, and technology to tackle questions about and problems with the future intersection of these fields. Bob Metcalfe is an engineer and an entrepreneur, most famously known for his involvement in the invention of the Ethernet in the 1970s, what he has called “the plumbing of the internet to customers.” For this work, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in addition to the IEEE Medal of Honor. He went on to co-found 3Com, formulate a law named after himself (more on that later), and become the Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin where he teaches today. “The story…

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Pinocchio

14: Debate: Is Morality a Mere Emotion That We Project On Others?

Theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty continue their conversation about basic issues at Theology Unleashed

In the “Does God exist?” debate at Theology Unleashed between theist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and atheist broadcaster Matt Dillahunty (September 17, 2021), a questioner asks, what underlies morality? Readers may recall that the debate 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 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). Then, turning to…

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money, piggy bank, finance

Destructing the Creative Destruction Myth

Debunking the argument that the Fortune 100 list is evidence of the productive vitality of capitalism

Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalist economies are not stagnant and calcified but, instead, by nature a form or method of economic change and not only never is but never can be stationary. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1950 He believed that embedded in capitalism is an engine of change that revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, 1950 Schumpeter was no doubt influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin had written that the “extinction of old forms is the almost…