Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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…


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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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…

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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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…

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When the AI Call Center Can’t Handle Crises —Sci-Fi Saturday

It’s not clear whether this is a bug or a feature but it is certainly something that could happen.

“Lifeline” at DUST by Harry Jackson (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: It’s a very good story. It illustrates the huge problem that any electronics-run system faces: Problems that only human intelligence can resolve. Gwyneth Keyworth, as Jess, sees that her co-worker Nathan Bryon is apparently collapsing at his desk. But she cannot call an ambulance because the high-tech call center does not allow that option. It’s not entirely clear why Jess does not use a private cell number…

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Ancient Philosopher: There Might Be Life Forms Not Bound to Earth

Surprisingly, a philosopher may have thought of it first over 2500 years ago

Wade Roush, author of Extraterrestrials, discusses the views of Anaximander (c. 610—546 B.C.E.) Anaximander, a philosopher who lived in Miletus in modern-day Turkey, contributed one key idea. He was the first to propose that Earth is a body floating in an infinite void, held up by nothing. For someone who lived 2,200 years before Isaac Newton, this was a stunning insight. The philosopher Karl Popper called it “one of the boldest, most revolutionary, and most portentous ideas in the whole history of human thought.” Anaximander also thought Earth was a cylinder with the continents arrayed on one flat end, so he wasn’t right about everything. But he did invent the idea of space, a place with no absolute up or…

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Isn’t It Time for an Artificial Intelligence Reality Check?

Why do we think we’re so close to artificial general intelligence (AGI) when there are so many obstacles to overcome?

The Singularity is coming! The Singularity is coming! If you’re getting tired of hearing that “strong AI” is just around the corner, you’re not alone. The Stephen Hawkings, Ray Kurzweils, and Elon Musks of the world have been putting humanity on notice with predictions of machines overtaking humans for decades. It’s either the dawn of utopia or the start of a nightmare, depending on who’s talking. And every time they’re issued, the media jumps on them, because being on the cusp of a new era of intelligent beings is news. What’s missing from these confident claims, however, is a realistic assessment of the problems that rank-and-file computer scientists wrestle with every day — namely, the problem of intelligence. In their…

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Philosopher Ed Feser Distinguishes Matter From Materialism

Feser, of Pasadena College, California, asks us to consider what materialists are really saying

Edward Feser explains the problem by starting with what the materialist is not saying: The matter to which he would reduce everything is not the matter of common sense, not the hard earth of daily experience. It is instead a highly abstract theoretical construct which – just like Descartes’ res cogitans – is not and indeed cannot be known directly via perception (nor, unlike the res cogitans, by introspection either). Moreover, it is a conception the materialist has inherited from Cartesian dualism itself. And it is that conception of matter, rather than the Cartesian’s commitment to a non-empirical res cogitans, that has made it so difficult for Cartesians and materialists alike to account for how conscious awareness relates to the…

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Danaylov: Right on Technology, Wrong on AI

Danaylov's confidence in the future of AI super-intelligence is exaggerated

Our future is determined by the stories we tell ourselves. So says futurist Nikola Danaylov in his online series exploring the years and decades to come for humanity. In our previous posts, we introduced you to Danaylov and examined his perspective on science. Now we will turn to his treatment of technology and artificial intelligence. The Technology Story Like his perspective on science, Danaylov brings a balanced understanding to technology. Technology “is not an end-in-itself,” he says. “Instead, technology is merely a means-to-an-end, a tool.”  Jonathan Bartlett has also written about technology as a tool. In 2019, Elon Musk and Jack Ma shared a stage to debate the future of technology and artificial intelligence. Here’s what Bartlett had to say about it: For Ma,…

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The New Internet: Reclassify Political Opponents as “Hate Groups”

Maybe this is something to talk to legislators about

You don’t want your tax money spent in a certain way? Maybe you are a “hater.” Increasingly, bad things can happen as a result. Even from corporations you trust. A friend has pointed out that many American corporations are not nearly so interested in making money these days as they are in politically correct positioning. Consider the current trend toward depublishing books the public wants to read and “de-newsing” news stories people want to hear. But the trend is growing beyond books and news. It could affect your right to bank and use credit institutions. Successful entrepreneur David Sacks has the story at Substack about how concerns about “hate speech” can further an agenda: Just as there is no set…

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The Science “Advances” Disproving the Mind Are Ever More Elusive

A friendly interview with an important neuroscientist makes that starkly clear

University of Sussex neuroscientist Anil Seth, author of Being You: A new science of consciousness (October 2021), is quite determined to stamp put consciousness as an immaterial idea. It’s “stubbornly mysterious,” according to Tim Adams for The Guardian. But, we are assured, “Advances in understanding how the brain functions undermine those ideas of dualism, however.” But those advances prove increasingly elusive. From the interview: Anil Seth: It’s the boring answer of continuing to do rigorous science, rather than proposing some eureka solution to “the hard problem” [the question of why and how our brains create subjective, conscious experience]. My approach is that we risk not understanding the central mystery of life by lurching to one or other form of magical…

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Ours Is a Finely Tuned — and No Free Lunch — Universe

Mathematician Ola Hössjer and biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón explain to Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks why nature works so seamlessly

Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks had a chance, recently, to talk with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and University of Miami biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón on the many ways in which the universe is finely tuned for life. This is Part 1. Part 2 will shortly follow. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-150-Hossjer-Diaz-.mp3 This portion begins at 00:00 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Today on Mind Matters news on the podcast, we’re going to talk about fine-tuning of the universe for life. Scientists know that Earth is is finely tuned for life to come into existence. For example, pronounced atheist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001). Hoyle was a great astronomer, maybe known best for his coining the term, Big…