Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for November 2, 2019

in rsslog •  10 days ago 

An edge.org Possible Minds talk on communal intelligence by MIT's Seth Lloyd; 50,000 year old Neanderthal tool suggests complex thinking; A robot that gains agility by teleoperation with a human operator; A study finds that octaves are learned, not inherited; and a Steem essay on the topic of mental overload


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  1. Communal Intelligence - Here's another post in the edge.org "Possible Minds" series. This talk is by Seth Lloyd. As with previous links in the series, Lloyd talks for about 25 minutes, then the discussion is followed by a Q&A session with participants like Steven Wolfram, David Chalmers, Freeman Dyson, Caroline Jones, and others. In the beginning of his talk, Lloyd surveys some of the information from previous talks, noting that Moore's Law basically ended about 15 years ago, for processor speed, and it has been replaced in a new form by advances in parallelism. He also resists the temptation to say that computation is either analog or digital, saying that at the quantum layer everything is both analog and digital. Pointing at both actual history, and historical science fiction, he rejects the idea of "the singularity" in any close time frame. After all, people have been searching for immortality for many millennia. He argues that the raw numbers don't support the idea that a large number of conscious minds could be uploaded into "the cloud." Instead, he favors the idea that our devices will get increasingly smarter, and increasingly enmeshed in our lives. Echoing Chalmers, he says that people already treat our unintelligent digital devices as if they were conscious. As he sees it, there will be a long period of coevolution in a symbiotic loop, where people create newer and better forms of intelligence, and these creations change the way people do things. He also says that people are not successful because of individual intelligence, but because of something he calls "communal intelligence" - and it's important to note that "communal intelligence" is enhanced by progressively smarter and smarter devices, so it's a moving target for machines to outperform humans. Interesting footnote: Lloyd agrees with Wolfram that the entire universe should be thought of as a giant computer. He notes that both of them have written books making that argument.

    This edge.org series has also been covered here:


  2. Neanderthal 'glue' points to complex thinking - A Neanderthal tool that spent the last 50,000 years burried under the North Sea has been found in the Netherlands. The surprising thing about the tool is that it contained traces of a sort of glue that was made out of birch tar. The difficulty of making this glue shows evidence of forward planning, and suggests that archaeologists may have been underestimating the capabilities of our Neanderthal cousins. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. h/t archaeology.org

  3. This MIT Robot Wants to Use Your Reflexes to Walk and Balance - MIT researchers have developed the Little HERMES robot as a device that borrows its agility from a human operator. The device is described in this month's issue of Science Robotics, and it was created by João Ramos and Sangbae Kim. According to the researchers, this capability brings robotocists a step closer to developing a more capable robot for use at disaster sites.

    Here is a video:

Click through for another video and a more detailed description.


  • Perceptions of Musical Octaves Are Learned, Not Wired in the Brain - Researchers played musical notes for trial participants in the US, and in Bolivia. Bolivia's Tsimané people live in remote villages without access to electricity, and with little exposure to Western society. The study participants were asked to sing the notes back after hearing them. On notes within the piano's range, all participants did comparably well, but when notes went hire, an interesting difference was observed. According to the study, Americans tended to shift the note that they sang down by an octave. The Tsimané participants did not, even when researchers issued encouraging prompts like, "excellent" or "very good." One of the researchers, Josh McDermott said "We need to understand that interplay between our genes and our experience". In the study, researchers acknowledged that the differences might be due to the way people sing, and not to differing perceptions about note equivalence when notes are an octave apart, but they believe that a perception difference is the most likely explanation.

  • STEEM What happens when our brain is overloaded with thoughts? - Mental overload - In this post, @ideas-abstractas discussed the problem of "Mental overload" and offers some types of thoughts that we should purge from our mental processes because they serve no useful purpose. These types of thoughts include: accusatory thoughts; thoughts of self-pity and pity for others; self-doubt; and guilt. To free our minds, @ideas-abstractas suggests changing the way that our conscious thoughts are formed, and also changing our environments to eliminate sources of bad thought habits. Finally, when we recognize that these thoughts have formed, the post suggests asking questions like: "Who am I to judge others? Why do I doubt? Why instead of feeling sorry I do not do something to help?" (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @ideas-abstractas.)


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    Hello @remlaps-lite, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!