Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


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…

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…

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…

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…

Hype word card

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…

Piano tuning process. closeup of hand and tools of tuner working on grand piano. Detailed view of Upright Piano during a tuning

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…

Young woman looking on the black board with mathematical formulas and calculations. Bright idea, way of thinking, discovery and challenge concept.

If You Fear High Tech Debates, Stay Away From COSM 2021

COSM 2021 will be held in person. You will interact with the real movers and shakers.

Recently, George Gilder and Jay Richards enjoyed a wide ranging discussion on the topics and people converging for the COSM 2021 Technology Summit: From Life After Google to Life After Capitalism. In the first portion, they discussed life after capitalism. Who can still innovate? In this portion, they talk about innovations that will make a difference: This portion starts at about 10:30 min. Here is a partial transcript and notes: George Gilder: Kai-Fu Lee will be there to talk about his new book, Ten Visions, about artificial intelligence. We hope that he can give us some ideas that are relevant to the new environment for US-China relations… But people like Kai-Fu Lee are keeping world of knowledge and wealth, then…

door choice

What Do We Need To Know About Life After Capitalism?

At COSM 2021, a number of thinkers will discuss and debate the pressing questions

Recently, George Gilder and Jay Richards enjoyed a wide ranging discussion on the topics and people that will converge for the COSM 2021 Technology Summit: From Life After Google to Life After Capitalism. They cover the paradoxes of the future of technology. Here is a partial transcript of the first ten minutes: Jay Richards: The theme of COSM 2021 is Life After Capitalism, which is also the name of your forthcoming book. What does that mean exactly? What are you referring to, this idea of life after capitalism? George Gilder: In the last few months, literally trillions of dollars of new money has been printed. Money has been deprived of its informational content. It’s now merely an expression of government…

Business Leadership Attributes and Features in Literature

What Does Super-Investor Peter Thiel Think You Should Read?

Some books to consider include history as well as business strategy. The two cannot be separated

Peter Thiel, whose name is practically synonymous with successful high-tech investing, will be speaking at COSM 2021. He has also offered some thoughts on books worth reading: Here are three of them, courtesy Kevin Rooke: ➤ The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz (Harper Business 2014): From Thiel: “Every management guide presumes that all great companies follow a formula. But successful startups don’t imitate; they build innovations that can’t be copied. Ben Horowitz knows no recipe guarantees success. He has written the first true guide for protecting a startup from self-sabotage.” ➤ Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder (Basic Books, 2010) From Thiel: “He tells how…

Ultrasonic transducer
Ultrasonic transducer on the blue background

A Neuroscience Theory That Actually Helps Explain the Brain

Robert Epstein’s “transducer” theory is an instance of getting something right

Many of my posts here at Mind Matters News entail debunking nonsensical materialist theories of the mind–brain relationship. It is altogether fitting and proper that I do so. But, at times, thoughtful and very promising ideas are proposed by modern neuroscientists. One of those ideas is discussed in an essay in Discover Magazine by neuroscientist Robert Epstein. Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Magazine, is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California and holds a doctoral degree from Harvard University. He proposes that we re-examine a theory that has had a number of prominent proponents over the past several centuries. It is the theory that the brain is a type of…


It’s AI Art — But Is That Really Art?

Much depends on the claque that agrees that it IS art

There are reports that AI has created wonderful music and great paintings. But who judges whether a creation is or isn’t art? 19th century writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford claimed that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”1 So any analysis of AI art or music will be subjective. One person’s modern art masterpiece can be viewed by others as like a child’s finger painting. The same is true for music. The delightful chaos of Charles Ives music is interpreted by some as noise. The value of all art can cannot be quantized but, indeed, “is in the eye of the beholder.” The degree to which art is held in high regard can be emotionally manipulated. A great example is…

AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. Deep learning. Mindfulness. Psychology.

Is Brain Science Helping Us Understand Belief in God?

To the extent that materialist researchers are still looking for a God switch in the brain, no, it doesn’t

A recent article about a Harvard neuroscientist’s research on the correlates of religious experience in the brain raises many familiar questions about the relevance of neuroscience to religious experience. Michael Ferguson is a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. He grew up as a Mormon and was quite religious. But, he reports, his beliefs have changed. That’s probably fairly common at Harvard –- there is a pervasive and palpable bias against serious religious beliefs in many of our leading universities. Nonetheless, Ferguson thought, As a scientist, I can’t help but wonder what it is about these types of [religious] experiences that made them feel so rich and so profound. Emma Yasinski, “Religion on the Brain” at The Scientist (Jul 13, 2021)…

Wildfire under transmission power lines

Eminent Historian Niall Ferguson To Speak at COSM 2021

Ferguson’s new book, “Doom: The politics of catastrophe” is considered timely reading in the COVID-19 era

Historian Niall Ferguson, will be speaking at COSM 2021 in Seattle on Doom: The politics of catastrophe (November 11, 12:00 pm – 12:45 pm.) His talk will be based on his new book, Doom (Penguin, 2021), which offers a disturbing but timely thesis: “Disasters are inherently hard to predict. Pandemics, like earthquakes, wildfires, financial crises. and wars, are not normally distributed; there is no cycle of history to help us anticipate the next catastrophe. But when disaster strikes, we ought to be better prepared than the Romans were when Vesuvius erupted, or medieval Italians when the Black Death struck. We have science on our side, after all.” (from the Publisher) But we are not better prepared. Any thoughtful person who…

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Peter Thiel Speaking in Person at COSM, Seattle, November 10

As a world class venture capitalist, he is known for bluntness about what works and what doesn’t

COSM 2021 is the place to be, November 10–12, to get the inside track on the converging technologies remaking the world as we know it. This year, iconic Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel will be speaking in person, addressing the question “Is Technology Soaring or Slumping?” At the first COSM in October 2019, Peter Thiel spoke by interactive video. Not one to mince words, he told the attendees bluntly that Silicon Valley is losing its touch and compared universities today to the Catholic Church at its worst. He has a remarkable history in both areas. He has been a prime mover in PayPal, Facebook, Palantir, Airbnb, Lyft, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX. And he had intended to found a university. But,…

Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, mental health concept

Epilepsy: If You Follow the Science, Materialism Is Dead

Continuing a discussion with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, Dr. Egnor talks about how neurosurgery shows that the mind is not the brain

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnordid a recent podcast with Arjuna Das at Theology Unleashed, “where Eastern theology meets Western skepticism.” In the previous segment, they discussed the way in which people’s minds sometimes become much clearer near death (terminal lucidity). Dr. Egnor suggested that that may demonstrate that the brain constrains the mind (rather than creating it). In this segment, they look at objections raised to the view that epilepsy provides evidence for the mind as not merely a function of the brain. Dr. Egnor begins by focusing on the work of Wilder Penfield, the founder of epilepsy surgeries, who worked in Montreal in the mid-twentieth century, “a wonderful scientist, one of the best scientists that neurosurgery has produced”: Here is a…

Dozens of Drones Swarm in the Cloudy Sky.

EMPs Could Combat Vast Drone Swarms Better Than Weapons

Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that knock out electronics could be weaponized to disable swarms of enemy drones, a predicted new warfare development

In “EMPs from the sun can wipe computers — and streetlights,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks spoke with electrical engineer Sarah Seguin about electromagnetic pulses (August 12, 2021). Whether natural or designed, these surges can wreck unexpected havoc with electronics. In this third podcast, “EMPs and Warfare,” engineers Marks and Seguin talk about the national defense implications of, for example, using EMPs to knock out key electronics systems in submarines or drone swarms, thus dooming them (August 19, 2021): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-Episode-148-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 09:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Okay. Well, let’s talk a bit about EMPs and warfare. Clearly anybody that has a capability of doing a thermonuclear…

burning wires on the computer power on a black background, close-up, burnt computer equipment

EMPs From the Sun Can Wipe Computers — and Streetlights

Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) can do that as accidents of nature. But they can also be weaponized. Russia and China both have the technology to detonate at EMP from space.

In “Are your electronics protected against sudden surges?, Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks spoke with electrical engineer Sarah Seguin about electromagnetic pulses. (August 5, 2021) Whether natural or designed, these surges can wreck unexpected havoc with electronics. In this second podcast, “EMPs. Be afraid. Be very afraid,” Marks, himself a computer and electrical engineer, and Seguin delve further into the risks (August 12, 2021). For example, in 1989, an electromagnetic coronal mass ejection from the sun infiltrated power plants across North America and northern Europe and destroyed a nuclear power plant’s transformer: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-147-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 00:13 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: Welcome to Mind Matters News. I’m your…

woman with gray hair in green jumper talking to the digital virtual assistant at home, asking a question or requesting to switch music. Smart AI speaker concept and voice command control

Automated “Caring”: The Limits of Talking to a Machine

Are there situations where a person would simply prefer to talk to a machine? Some researchers think so

“Just get me to a human!” Those were my words just a few weeks ago, the last time I can recall speaking directly to a machine. It was the Xfinity phone system assistant. I get that there’s a need for large national corporations to effectively manage interactions with their customers, especially with the labor shortages and spikes in internet usage brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. But leaving me to fend for myself with a machine – especially a stubborn, unhelpful one! – isn’t my idea of superior customer service. Eventually, the Comcast assistant got the drift and passed me on to a human being, who quickly and kindly helped me out by doing exactly what the machine said could…

Lightning over field

Are Your Electronics Protected Against Sudden Surges?

Electrical engineer Sarah Seguin discusses with Robert J. Marks an under-recognized risk for sensitive electronic devices

In a recent podcast, “Sarah Seguin on EMPs and How to Protect Your Data” (August 5, 2021), Sarah Seguin, talks with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. Protecting data became a much bigger issue for typical employees during the COVID-19 lockdowns when many were working from home on a computer usually used to surf entertainment vids or shopping sites. Hackers have found the displaced workers a tempting target. In any event, hacks of governments, health care facilities, and big firms are on the increase. Seguin offers some thoughts about a quite different but very relevant data protection issue: Protecting data from degradation from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs): https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-146-Sarah-Seguin.mp3 This portion begins at 02:12 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and…