Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Monthly Archive November 2021

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bacteria

Would Cognition in Bacteria “Dethrone” Humans?

A cognition researcher’s approach to the question helps account for the growing popularity of panpsychism — as an alternative

Adelaide University cognition researcher Pamela Lyon offered an interesting thesis at Aeon last month: “Cognition did not appear out of nowhere in ‘higher’ animals but goes back millions, perhaps billions, of years.” Given that several scientists have recently made claims for cognition in single-celled entities, her contention is not all that surprising. But her approach to the topic prompts some thought: Lyon, who has little time for doubters, invokes Charles Darwin in calling for a “Copernican” shift in thinking on the subject: In On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin draws a picture of the long sweep of evolution, from the beginning of life, playing out along two fundamental axes: physical and mental. Body and mind. All living beings,…

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Ant action standing.Ant bridge unity team,Concept team work together

For Ants, Building a Bridge Is No “Simple” Task

There is nothing “simple” about designing neural systems and the computer systems to receive and interpret neural sensory inputs

Researching for my previous Mind Matters article about bird and bee biological software, I came across a short piece at Quanta Magazine entitled “The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges.” Really, a “simple” insect algorithm? Intriguing. Eric Cassell’s book, Animal Algorithms (2021), reveals the complex and intricate hardware-software systems enabling bird and insect procedures for migration, building nests and structures, social cooperation, and navigation. Grounded in engineering training and experience, Cassell shows that animal algorithms must be designed top-down starting with a goal, fashioning the data input sensors, developing the necessary procedures, and implementing them in software to direct hardware. Yet the Quanta Magazine piece reported that Panamanian army ants’ procedures for building bridges of living ants is accomplished using a “simple algorithm.” The problem the army…

Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey Resigns from Twitter: “now is the right time”

Some are concerned that his replacement is bad news for free speech

On Monday, Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter CEO, explaining that he has “worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders” and that “now is the right time.” “I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it,” wrote Dorsey in an email to his colleagues that he then posted to Twitter. “It was a tough one for me, of course. I love this service and company… and all of you so much. I’m really sad… yet really happy. There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”…

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iot smart automotive Driverless car with artificial intelligence combine with deep learning technology. self driving car can situational awareness around the car, letting it navigate itself 360 degree

When AI Fails, the Results Are Sometimes Amusing. Sometimes Not.

Robert J. Marks, Justin Bui, and Samuel Haug examine five instances where AI went wrong, sometimes on the world stage

Even if artificial general intelligence (AGI) could be achieved, a problem looms: The more complex a system is, the more can go wrong. If a computer could really match human thinking, a great deal could go wrong. In “When AI goes wrong” (podcast 160), Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks is joined once again by members of his research group, Justin Bui and Samuel Haug, who is a PhD student in computer and electrical engineering. The topic is, what happens if AI starts behaving in bizarre and unpredictable ways? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/f5d26d44-cb33-4736-bc75-f95bd8f3ae5f-Mind-Matters-Episode-160-Haug-and-Bui-Episode-2-rev1.mp3 A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Okay. I want to start out with Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story. Either…

Girls eye with paint and earth

Why Panpsychism Is Starting To Push Out Naturalism

A key goal of naturalism/materialism has been to explain human consciousness away as “nothing but a pack of neurons.” That can’t work

Naturalism, often called “materialism,” posits that nature is all there is. Panpsychism doesn’t dispute that. But the panpsychist also thinks that consciousness is real — present in all nature (or all living nature) but especially developed in humans. Last Monday, writing about a classical atheist naturalist who was attacking panpsychism, I reflected on the difficulties the trend to panpsychism presents him. The naturalist is hostile to the panpsychist because he assumes that human consciousness will, in due course, be explained away. It is either an illusion, or an aid to survival that evolved among early humans. Or perhaps it is a spandrel (in evolution theory, a useless accompaniment of useful traits). In short, what we thought was our means of…

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Quantum Wave

Can Quantum Physics, Neuroscience Merge as Quantum Consciousness?

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser looks at the pros and cons of current theories

Physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser offers some thoughts as to the light that quantum mechanics — as opposed to classical physics — can shed on consciousness. The problem, he thinks, is that both quantum mechanics and consciousness are mysteries. Adding two mysteries together doesn’t produce simple answers: The truth is that despite the tremendous success of quantum physics when it comes to its applications — the digital and nuclear technologies that define much of modern life — its interpretation remains uncertain, a target of heated debate among physicists. We know how to use quantum physics, but we do not know what it is telling us about the nature of reality. Marcelo Gleiser, “Can quantum mechanics explain consciousness?” at Big Think…

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Businessman hand change wooden cube block with TRUST and TRUTH business word on table background. Trustworthy, Truth, beliefs and agreement concept

What Makes Arguments for God Convincing — or Not

Is truth enough? A look at the unfulfilled promise of Christian apologetics

Mathematician and philosopher William Dembski offered an analysis of Christian apologetics (defense of Christian beliefs), “Making Apologetics an Effective Instrument for Cultural Engagement” at the Evangelical Philosophical Society meeting “Reasonable Faith in an Uncertain World” (November 19, 2021). His discussion raises broad issues around how a culture assesses and understands truth. Republished with permission in four parts. The first part is “1 The Unfulfilled Promise of Christian Apologetics” and “2 Truth Is Never Enough.” 1 The Unfulfilled Promise of Christian Apologetics I’ve been writing professionally in the field of Christian apologetics now for over 30 years. In fact, looking at my CV, I see that one of my very first publications in apologetics (an article titled “Inconvenient Facts: Miracles and…

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A free-living dung beetle sits in the forest

When Your Oppressors Are Giant Beetles — Sci-fi Saturday

“Résistance” (2016, animated) by Alex Chauvet et al. (uploaded at DUST November 19, 2021, 6:36 min) Dominated by an Insect’s totalitarian regime, the staff of a restaurant organizes a plot to knock down the established order. Review: Picture a very upper crust French restaurant staffed by humans, whose patrons are giant beetles with temperaments to match. The beetles are very well executed. The sight of the beetles guzzling mini glasses of champagne is not one to miss, so it’s not surprising the film clocked over 150k viewers in fewer than ten days. But yes, the humans are unhappy with all the grossness. They are plotting in the kitchen. And it doesn’t help that one of the drunken beetles starts pawing…

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Another World Far Away

Exoplanets: The Same Laws of Physics Means Similar Life Forms

Even on Earth, life forms of widely differing ancestry, arrive at the same solutions to physics problems, leading scientists note

Famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002) was sure that, if the deck were reshuffled, humans would never evolve — even on this planet — again. As Paul Parsons puts it at BBC’s Science Focus Magazine, His reasoning was that evolution is driven by random sets of genetic mutations, modulated by random environmental effects, such as mass extinctions, and that it would be extremely rare for the exact same set of effects to crop up twice. Paul Parsons, “Could humans be the dominant species in the Universe, and we just don’t know it yet?” at Science Focus (November 19, 2021) But as very large telescopes, capable of peering into exoplanets, are under development, current analysts are rethinking that approach. There are…

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military robot and skulls of people. Dramatic apocalypse super realistic concept. Rise of the Machines. Dark future. 3d rendering.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Just Did Not Load Properly

Although the second part of the Matrix trilogy offers interesting ideas and exciting action, the confusing plot obscures the concepts it should explore

What a mess of a story is The Matrix Reloaded (2003) — the second part of the Matrix (1999) trilogy, in which the world we know turns out to be a simulation created by AI intelligences. We met some of the characters in the first part, The Matrix (1999), reviewed here. But then what happened? First, we’re introduced to the new technician, Link, but no one explains where his predecessor Tank went. Then Zion (“the last human city, the only place we have left”) is introduced and there we find ourselves at the infamous Party Scene: To look at this techno-hedonistic rave, one might think we’ve entered volcano-challenged Pompeii of long ago. But this party is more reminiscent of the…

Businessman and his conscience

A Neuropsychologist Takes a Crack at Defining Consciousness

Frustrated by reprimands for discussing Big Questions in neuroscience, Mark Solms decided to train as a psychoanalyst as well

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. Then Solms pointed to the reality that discussing the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. Egnor and Solms agreed that…

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Young african male programmer writing program code sitting at the workplace with three monitors in the office. Image focused on the screen

Have a Software Design Idea? Kaggle Could Help It Happen for Free

Okay, not exactly. You have to do the work. But maybe you don’t have to invent the software

In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas about what’s happening — and isn’t happening — in artificial intelligence today. The big story turned out to be all the free software you can use to advance your own projects. This time out, Dr. Bui focuses on what open source (free) Kaggle software can do for you, including competitons. Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 12:58 min. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Justin Bui: Kaggle is owned by Google; I…

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Chinese flag and big brother data surveillance

On What Terms Is Co-Operation Between the US and China Possible?

China analyst Miles Maochun Yu thinks that China’s new goal is to become the new global power first, then implement its ideology

A panel at COSM 2021 aired a disagreement between philosopher of technology George Gilder and political analyst Newt Gingrich. Gingrich argued that China is the greatest threat to global freedom while Gilder felt that claims about forced labor, for example, are overstated and that we must co-operate with China for technological advances. In the background is China’s 24/7 surveillance of the entire population, the door-to-door identification of and crackdown on religious believers, as well as on civil rights activists. The situation in China has changed a great deal over the past half decade which marked the Uyghur internment camps and the premature takeover of Hong Kong. As Michael Schuman puts it: China today is in the grip of the most…

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Two female programmers working on new project.They working late at night at the office.

If Not Hal or Skynet, What’s Really Happening in AI Today?

Justin Bui talks with Robert J. Marks about the remarkable AI software resources that are free to download and use

In a recent Mind Matters podcast, “Artificial General Intelligence: the Modern Homunculus,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks, a and computer engineering prof, spoke with Justin Bui from his own research group at Baylor University in Texas on what is — and isn’t — really happening in artificial intelligence today. Some of the more far-fetched claims remind Dr. Marks of the homunculus, the “little man” of alchemy. So what are the AI engineers really doing and how do they do it? Call it science non-fiction, if you like… https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/d4505b4a-de80-40ae-a56c-2636563f3453-Mind-Matters-Episode-159-Justin-Bui-Episode-1-rev1.mp3 This portion begins at 00:44 sec. A partial transcript and notes, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Isaac Newton was the genius who founded classical physics. He…

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Brain mind way soul and hope concept art, illustration, surreal mystery artwork, imagination painting, conceptual idea of success

Materialist Neuroscientists Don’t Usually See Real Patients

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and neuropsychologist Mark Solms find common ground: The mind can be “merely what the brain does” in an academic paper. But not in life

Recently, distinguished South African neuropsychologist Mark Solms discussed the real state of brain research with Stonybrook neurosurgeon Michael Egnor at Theology Unleashed (October 22, 2021) In the first portion, Solms, author of The Hidden Spring (2021), began by asserting in his opening statement that “the source of consciousness in the brain is in fact in the brain stem,” not the cerebral cortex, as is almost universally assumed. Dr. Egnor then responded that his clinical experience supports the view that brain is not mind. But Solms pointed to the reality that asserting the fact that the brain is not the mind can be a career-limiting move in neuroscience — even though clinical experience supports the view. In this portion, Egnor and…

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Black female student in front of chalkboard

If Reality Is Fundamentally Mathematical, Why the War on Math?

Just as physicists are recognizing the mathematical nature of reality more clearly, the basic idea of getting math right is under fire in our schools

Sam Baron, a philosophy prof at Australian Catholic University, whose specialty is the philosophy of mathematics, argues in a new paper that mathematics is not a human invention. It gives structure to the world we live in. We simply observe it. So do many life forms, it seems. He offers an example: There are two subspecies of North American periodical cicadas that live most of their lives in the ground. Then, every 13 or 17 years (depending on the subspecies), the cicadas emerge in great swarms for a period of around two weeks. Why is it 13 and 17 years? Why not 12 and 14? Or 16 and 18? One explanation appeals to the fact that 13 and 17 are…

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Octopus

British Government Moves To Protect Octopuses From Cruelty

The move to protect cephalopods and crabs/lobsters follows from research showing their intelligence and awareness of pain

Following a report from the London School of Economics and Political Science, the British government has decided to extend animal protection laws to include “cephalopods (including octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (including crabs, lobsters and crayfish).” No, this is not just another nut moment along the lines of “Salad is plant murder!” There’s a background: Researchers have discovered in recent decades that some invertebrates, especially those with complex central nervous systems, are much more intelligent and capable of experiencing pain (sentient) than we used to think. As George Dvorsky explains at Gizmodo, the British government introduced the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill in May. The bill defined sentient animals as animals with backbones (vertebrates). However, scientists have known for some…

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Crowd of people walking street wearing masks

Critical Lessons From the COVID Crisis — From a Leading Historian

Niall Ferguson sees the economic impact of the COVID shutdown as comparable to fighting World War II — or World War III

Earlier this month, historian Niall Ferguson spoke to COSM 2021 about the real lessons from the strange year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. A reader might be forgiven for wondering whether, in the cacophony of conflicting claims, opinions, and prophecies of doom, there are any useful lessons to be learned (other than: Turn off the TV). Ferguson thinks there are indeed lessons — if we compare the recent pandemic and how it was handled with pandemics of the past. In his recent book, Doom: The politics of catastrophe (2021), he argues that “All disasters are in some sense man-made” and that — despite advances in science — we are getting worse, not better, at handling them: Yet in…

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Confident Businessman Crossing Arms on Front

Fake It ’til You Make It – The Power Pose Parable Part II

Where does p-hacking and the replication crisis leave the state of scientific studies?

Last time, we explored the findings of a 2010 psychological study, which concluded that assuming a “power pose” for two minutes increases testosterone (confidence) and decreases cortisol (stress). But it turned out that p-hacking affected the results of the initial study, and that subsequent studies debunked the “power pose” findings. Dana Carney, the lead author of the original paper, acknowledged the faults of the original study and updated her views “to reflect the evidence.” Today, we explore the implications: Carney’s willingness to acknowledge the p-hacks and to support efforts to redo the power-pose tests is convincing evidence that the p-hacks were well-intentioned. This was how a lot of research was done at the time. Joseph Simmons, Leif Nelson, and Uri…

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Bright light Developer programming and coding technology. Website design Safety of tahe social world Cyberspace concept.

Jonathan Bartlett: An Interview With the Author

"Learn to Program with Assembly" teaches programmers the language needed for a better understanding of their computer

“Learning assembly language is about learning how the processor itself thinks about your code. It is about gaining the mind of the machine.” Jonathan Bartlett, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, p. 1 Jonathan Bartlett is a man of many talents: an engineer, a software developer, a mathematician, a researcher and writer. He has been a faithful contributor here at Mind Matters News for many years, on topics ranging from programming and coding to math to education to technology. His books have become required reading at Princeton and DeVry Universities. Now, he has written a new book, Learn to Program with Assembly: Foundational Learning for New Programmers, and he sat down with Mind Matters to talk…