Michela Massimi has a long article at Aeon defending scientific realism. The time for a defence of truth in science has come. It begins with a commitment to get things right, which is at the heart of the realist programme, despite mounting Kuhnian challenges from the history of science, considerations about modelling, and values in contemporary scientific practice. … Continue reading Being committed to truth means admitting the limitations of what we can know
There are few things that everyone who ponders consciousness can agree on. It's a topic where debates on the very definition of the subject are common. The only definitions that seem to command near universal assent are the ones oriented toward phenomenology, such as "subjective experience" or "something it is like." And even then, the … Continue reading Consciousness lies in the eye of the beholder
One of the things that I think is often not appreciated about petroleum oil, is that it's essentially stored solar energy. Energy that was originally captured by life forms that died, sank to the bottom of oceans or lakes where under stagnant water they couldn't decompose, and were eventually covered and put under pressure. This … Continue reading Manufacturing liquid fuel
Eric Siegel at Big Think, in a new "Dr. Data Show" on the site, explains Why A.I. is a big fat lie: 1) Unlike AI, machine learning's totally legit. I gotta say, it wins the Awesomest Technology Ever award, forging advancements that make ya go, "Hooha!". However, these advancements are almost entirely limited to supervised machine learning, … Continue reading Is it time to retire the term “artificial intelligence”?
Warning: neuroscience weeds. Every so often we get into discussions about where in the brain consciousness lies. Sometimes it's asserted to be in the brainstem, other times in the thalamus, sometimes in the parietal lobe, and yet other times in the prefrontal cortex. Myself, I've concluded that conscious perception requires activation of a network including … Continue reading Blindsight explained and conscious perception
I've recommended Neal Asher's books before. He writes epic space opera where the stories take place over a vast scale, most of the characters are superhuman or alien entities, and the forces involved are titanic. That was the motif of his Transformation series that I recommended back in 2017. Like that series, The Soldier, which … Continue reading Recommendation: The Soldier
Lux Alpstraum at Undark argues against "Our Irrational Fear of Sexbots": When most people envision a world where human partners are abandoned in favor of robots, the robots they picture tend to be reasonably good approximations of flesh-and-blood humans. The sexbots of “Westworld” are effectively just humans who can be programmed and controlled by the … Continue reading The dangers of artificial companionship
Rebecca Brown has an article at Aeon on how philosophy can make the previously unthinkable thinkable. She starts with a discussion of the Overton window: In the mid-1990s, Joseph Overton, a researcher at the US think tank the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, proposed the idea of a ‘window’ of socially acceptable policies within any … Continue reading What positions do you hold that are not popular?
Sean Carroll on his podcast interviewed Lisa Aziz-Zadeh on embodied cognition: Brains are important things; they’re where thinking happens. Or are they? The theory of “embodied cognition” posits that it’s better to think of thinking as something that takes place in the body as a whole, not just in the cells of the brain. In … Continue reading The implications of embodied cognition
Over the weekend, Sean Carroll put up a blog post to address common misconceptions about cosmology. I understood most of his points, but was confused when I saw this one: Dark energy is not a new force; it’s a new substance. The force causing the universe to accelerate is gravity. Carroll was referring to the accelerating … Continue reading Dark energy and repulsive gravity