Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagJohn Horgan

walk into fog
Man with his back walking through the fog street

Is a Science Writer’s “Agnosticism” a Futile Pursuit?

John Horgan, a creative thinker and able writer, is agnostic about quantum mechanics, consciousness, and God. But let’s look at the bases for that.

If science writer John Horgan had merely said that agnosticism is the only sensible stance regarding God, there would be little surprise. That view is over-represented in popular science writing. But he says the same thing about quantum mechanics and consciousness too. Some brief snippets from his article (with brief responses): He’s not happy that quantum mechanics, a well-established branch of science (our computers would not work if it were not real) cannot eliminate the role of the conscious observer: Quantum mechanics Introducing consciousness into physics undermines its claim to objectivity. Moreover, as far as we know, consciousness arises only in certain organisms that have existed for a brief period here on Earth. So how can quantum mechanics, if it’s…

people on chip.jpg
Tiny people betwixt logic board

Why Did a Prominent Science Writer Come To Doubt the AI Takeover?

John Horgan’s endorsement of Erik J. Larson’s new book critiquing AI claims stems from considerable experience covering the industry for science publications

At first, science writer John Horgan (pictured), author of a number of books including The End of Science (1996), accepted the conventional AI story: When I started writing about science decades ago, artificial intelligence seemed ascendant. IEEE Spectrum, the technology magazine for which I worked, produced a special issue on how AI would transform the world. I edited an article in which computer scientist Frederick Hayes-Roth predicted that AI would soon replace experts in law, medicine, finance and other professions. John Horgan, “Will Artificial Intelligence Ever Live Up to Its Hype?” at Scientific American (December 4, 2020) But that year, 1984, ushered in an AI winter, in which innovation stalled and funding dried up. By 1998, problems like non-recurrent engineering…

artificial-intelligence-and-future-technologies-mixed-media-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Artificial intelligence and future technologies. Mixed media

#10: Big AI Claims Fail To Work Outside Lab

A recent article in Scientific American makes clear that grand claims are often not followed up with great achievements

As the year winds down, our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviews fellow computer nerds (our Brain Trust) Jonathan Bartlett and Eric Holloway about 12 overhyped AI concepts of the past year. Hey, as we like to say, great stuff happened in AI this year. But well, lots of “stuff” happened too and it’s time to have some fun! So here’s #10: Replication problems tarnish the image of rapid AI progress: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-113-Eric-Holloway-Jonathan-Bartlett.mp3 #10 starts at about 12:44 A partial transcript and Show Notes follow, along with Additional Resources and the entire transcript. Robert J. Marks: # 10, Will artificial intelligence ever live up to its hype? The subtitle to the article with that name in this month’s Scientific…

vintage-tone-beautiful-pedestrian-stone-bridge-and-knee-wobbling-vantage-point-over-the-second-tier-69-foot-drop-of-multnomah-falls-lower-in-winter-time-natural-and-seasonal-waterfall-background-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpg
Vintage tone beautiful pedestrian stone bridge and knee-wobbling vantage point over the second tier 69-foot drop of Multnomah Falls lower in winter time. Natural and seasonal waterfall background

How Do You Know You Are Not the Only Human Who Ever Existed?

Can evidence or logic help you decide? You might be surprised…

Solipsism is the belief that you are the only human being who has ever existed; all others are the inventions of your imagination. G.K. Chesterton famously received a letter from a reader who commented (I paraphrase), ‘Solipsism is a compelling metaphysical position. I’m surprised more people don’t believe it.” At Scientific American, columnist John Horgan describes solipsism as a central dilemma of human life. In a recent essay, “How do I know I’m not the only conscious being in the universe?”, he writes, It is a central dilemma of human life—more urgent, arguably, than the inevitability of suffering and death. I have been brooding and ranting to my students about it for years. It surely troubles us more than ever…

the-creative-brain-stockpack-adobe-stock.jpeg
The Creative Brain

Is There a Creativity Module in the Brain?

Both hemispheres are important for creativity, according to recent research, but the adventure lies beyond

What we are really learning is that minute mapping of the brain is not likely to give us a complete explanation of creativity. Let alone a means of control. Answers, when they appear, lie in the immaterial world of the mind.

Read More ›
jaroslav-devia-715052-unsplash
Hoodie with smoke in front of face

Has Science Shown That Consciousness Is Only an Illusion?

Using clever analogies, Philosopher Daniel Dennett argues that consciousness is all smoke and mirrors
British philosopher Papineau recommends taking Dennett’s theories “with a pinch of salt.” American essayist David Bentley Hart is less charitable: “Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness” Read More ›