In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Unusual Animal Intelligence

Before 1960 most of the work surrounding animal intelligence was centered around behavior, with famous experiments such as Pavlov’s dogs and Thorndike’s operant conditioning. After 1960, the field began to shift to understand animal cognition and there has been much debate whether animals have an actual consciousness.

The full extent of what animals think may never be known, but we already have seen amazing intelligence from some unlikely sources.

Crows

Crows are insanely intelligent creatures. They are able to recognize human faces and hold a grudge against the ones they don’t like. In order to study the crows they had to be collected and properly tagged. The scientists who handled the birds quickly fell out of favor with the crows. The next time the researchers entered the enclosure they were greeted by the crows divebombing and attacking them. If the same researchers came back wearing a mask that the crows hadn’t seen before, they were left alone. It also appears that the crows conspire with one another and share information about which humans they don’t like. Crows who were absent when a particular researcher had handled the other birds would still respond with hostility upon seeing the scientist at a later date.

Their amazing intelligence is not always used to start fights - they are skilled at using tools in order to retrieve food or solve problems. Crows readily use sticks, rocks, and wires to retrieve food from hidden places. If the proper tool is not at their disposal, they can actually make one to suit the job. What’s more, these crows can use tools better than many primates.

Aesop’s “The Crow and the Pitcher” fable describes crows’ ingenuity. A crow wanted a drink of water, but was unable to reach down into the pitcher. Rather than give up, it dropped pebble after pebble into the pitcher until the water rose high enough for it to have a drink. It is a 2600-year-old story of tenacity. Modern scientists have decided to test the fable and found that it was scientifically accurate.

Dolphins

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Dolphins have long been celebrated as some of the most clever animals in the world. Their brains are extremely large for their body size, have a neocortex (where higher function takes place) much more intricate than humans and the region of the brain that is in charge of self awareness is enlarged when compared to other animals.

Dolphins live in social societies and communication is integral to its success. They do not have vocal cords as humans do, but use a combination of clicks, squeaks, creaks, and buzzes to talk to their fellow cetaceans, though scientists have not been able to discern an actual language yet. Body language is also an important communication tool Dolphin whistles are unique to individuals and are developed in the first month of life.

It was recently discovered that dolphins remember the signature call of their friends, even if they hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years. This might help explain how dolphins can leave and join different pods so easily over the course of their lifetime.

Dolphins are so intelligent that India has recently put a ban on their captivity. India’s Ministry of the Environment and Forests has labeled cetaceans as “non-human persons” and released a statement saying they are not to be captured for entertainment purposes by any person or institution, whether they are public or private.

Pigs

While it might be surprising to some pigs are quite intelligent and many would compare that intellect to be on the same level as dolphins and higher apes.

Part of this intellect might be because large chunks of pig genome are virtually identical to humans, though our last common ancestor died out 100 million years ago. Pigs love to become couch potatoes and would rather eat, drink, smoke, and watch TV than be active; not unlike many people.

When introduced to a mirror, they were initially fascinated by the pig in the reflection and tried to interact by nudging and vocalizing. While they could see food in the mirror, they tried looking behind the mirror only to end up hungry. The next time the mirror was presented, they were not interested in their own image, but instead used the reflection to find the bowl of food behind them in under 30 seconds.

Pigs can also be trained to learn tricks fairly easily. However, if at first they don’t succeed, getting the courage to try again is a long process, especially if the pig got hurt in the attempt. Researchers speculate that the memory of the failure is a big hurdle to overcome for many pigs. Failures in training and living conditions can affect a pig’s mood, as the animals are capable of having and expressing complex emotions.

Elephants

Elephants are the largest mammals on land, and it turns out that they have the brains to back up the brawn.

It was recently discovered that with absolutely no training elephants understand when humans point. While standing in between two identical buckets, but one was filled with food, the elephants immediately chose the one that the human had gestured. While it is remarkable that elephants are able to spontaneously understand this body language, it becomes even more impressive since many great apes are not capable of the same level of understanding.

Captive elephants had no greater advantage than wild elephants with little human interaction, leading the scientists to believe that this is an innate response, and pointing on some level may exist in elephant populations.

In a different study highlighting the intelligence of these pachyderms a group of elephants competed against a group of humans in a teamwork exercise. Not only did the elephants beat the humans in the exercise, but they were able to do it using techniques that the researchers had not previously considered.

Source

The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.

Vasudev (via felicefawn)

Exhibit one: Sarah Palin.

(via progressivepost)

(Source: onlinecounsellingcollege)

Software company ScIAM develops ‘Human Intelligence Emulation’?

paradoxicalparadigms:

B. J. Murphy
Ethical Technology

Posted: Aug 14, 2013

Near the end of May of this year I came into contact with Russell Swanborough, Managing Director of ScIAM (Science of Informational Management), a software company located in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Swanborough is also a member of the Lifeboat Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging scientific and technological advancements, while helping humanity survive from any possible existential risks said technological advancements may incur.

I first became aware of ScIAM through an obscure blog, claiming the company to have developed what is known as “Human Intelligence Emulation” (HIE). Essentially the blog argued that the company was paving the way towards the Singularity via HIE. Rather strong claims, I thought. Too strong for me to simply toss it to the side, thinking it to be another bogus misunderstanding of what the Singularity actually purports to bring about. So I went on Google, typed in a search query of the company’s name*, and came across their website. “Website under construction,” it says next to it. Not a good sign for a company claiming to have developed HIE.

Fear not though, I located their email address and decided to contact them immediately, hoping to better understand the company and what they actually claim to have designed. 24 hours later, I receive a response.**

One of my very first questions I’d sent to the company was whether or not the obscure blog’s claims of their company developing software that acts like a human was true. In which the company’s Managing Director, Mr. Swanborough, responds, “the HIE claims are true. We have developed and tested the architecture and the functionality and can apply HIE in any situation where a human is normally found.”

Curiosity is at an overwhelming level by now, as I’m subconsciously battling myself between “This is fascinating!” and “What a load of bullshit!”

Either way, I couldn’t stop here. I had to continue my questioning until Mr. Swanborough gave me what I was searching for. His remarks of what the HIE supposedly achieves struck a chord in me, because one of the more popular thinkers of the Singularity, Ray Kurzweil, has constantly noted that technology like this wouldn’t show up for another 2-3 decades, as his exponential growth charts on information technologies show. So how then has a software company not many have heard of, located in South Africa, developed a technology not expected to arise until much later?

“We have worked on this for nearly four decades,” Mr. Swanborough says. “Whilst I respect Mr Kurzweil – despite attempts to engage him on this subject – he is not working on a similar architecture. HIE is based on the unique science of ScIAM. I think (and this is my opinion) that he is attempting to simulate a human brain at the neuron level whereas we are emulating the human mind at a functional level. His appears to be a bottom-up approach, so to speak, whereas ours is a top-down approach.”

In other words, the software developed mimics human thought and actions. Advanced A.I., indeed, but is it true? Fortunately, Mr. Swanborough was kind enough to send me the company’s overview document, “For the new ScIAM Human Intelligence Emulation user,” which goes into how HIE operates.

Since I’ve provided the entire document, I won’t go into how HIE works in its entirety, but I will provide you the basic gist. Essentially, HIE operates through human-like thought processing and decision making. It scans the information and resources available, builds up a thought construct using the information and resources available, and then develops an efficient and intelligent solution. Not only that though, it also supposedly responds to whatever objections you may attain, or even additional information you may acquire at a later period, and then accommodates these to further its decision making’s efficiency and accuracy. Memory storage is also another big advancement in which ScIAM’s HIE supposedly adheres to. Anything it works on, it remembers.

​Figure 1, as was originally provided in ScIAM’s overview document, operates as followed: “The Sensorium gathers and scans inputs (Steps 1 to 7) for extremes of good and bad (like a sensory radar) and passes appropriate interpreted Intelligence (Step 8) to the Apices for comparison with existing Knowledge (Step 9) and the derivation of appropriate Strategy (Step 10) and then to manage (Steps 11 to 13) any resulting suitable good Action (Steps 14 to 18) and correct any anomalies (Steps 19 and 20), whilst learning from the results (Steps 21 to 23) and keeping stakeholders informed (Step 24).”

This intelligent software isn’t yet available to the general populace it would seem, but will in the next few months, along with an actual demonstration by the company itself. When exactly is not yet known.

When I decided to further my investigation, Mr. Swanborough was again kind enough to send me his company’s foundation document, which as I’ve come to find out was the final publication by the late author Victor Serebriakoff, who was also a member of the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world known as Mensa. The foundation document is titled, The Future of Intelligence: Biological and Artificial. Apparently Mr. Swanborough and Mr. Serebriakoff were good friends and partners in ScIAM company’s activities in developing HIE.

Through this publication, you’ll come to understand the company’s reasons for developing HIE and their goals for such a technology. Whether or not it’ll be a success, or even whether or not it exists, depends on the company’s transparency and promises of actual, tangible demonstrations of this new technology.

As for their website, in which is still under construction, during my first email exchange Mr. Swanborough had informed me they were re-modeling a new website to better accommodate the software they’ve developed, in which was planned to be done by the end of June. Now that we’ve reached August, and still no functional ScIAM company website, I’ve since been reassured by Mr. Swanborough that the website will be up and running soon, though is currently delayed due to “priority issues”.

While I remain skeptical of ScIAM’s HIE development, the ideas alone presented in both their overview and foundation documents are fascinating enough to make me want to believe that HIE is real and is coming very, very soon. The implications for such a technology is beyond what we could possibly imagine, making it all the more exciting and terrifying! Though, as an optimistic tech junkie, I lean more closely to exciting than terrifying. As their overview document concludes in what HIE could provide for the world:

“Suitable uses might include the control of robot spacecraft, the monitoring of intelligence, the identification of alien intelligence, the controlling of fusion reactions, the running of multi-national corporates and, literally, any other applications.”

So has the Technological Singularity arrived? ScIAM company’s next move may just provide us the answer.

*When searching for the company’s website, I had to use their old company name ‘Sciam Solutions’.

**You can also access me and Mr. Swanborough’s email exchanges herehere, and here.

References

“For the new ScIAM Human Intelligence Emulation user,” ScIAM

Serebriakoff, V. and Swanborough, R. The Future of Intelligence: Biological and Artificial. ScIAM, 2013.

http://oi40.tinypic.com/2h3cyfs.jpg


B.J. Murphy is a socialist and Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He is a news blogger at redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com and laospdrnews.wordpress.com and co-editor for Fight Back! News and also writes for Transhumanity.net.

deconversionmovement:

Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, analysis of over 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades concludes
Study found ‘a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity’ in 53 out of 63 studies
A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.
A piece of University of Rochester analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.
Continue Reading

deconversionmovement:

Religious people are less intelligent than atheists, analysis of over 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades concludes

Study found ‘a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity’ in 53 out of 63 studies

A new review of 63 scientific studies stretching back over decades has concluded that religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.

A piece of University of Rochester analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, found “a reliable negative relation between intelligence and religiosity” in 53 out of 63 studies.

Continue Reading

wildcat2030:

Animals know more than you think
Chickens have better numeracy and spacial awareness skills than young children, and pigs use mirrors. Who knew?
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the animals we think of as being the most stupid – pigs, chickens, sheep – are also the ones we don’t always treat too well. However, humans might be the ones who have to rethink the definitions of “bird-brain” and “pig ignorance”.
According to a new report, chickens appear to be much more intelligent than previously thought, with better numeracy and spacial awareness skills than young children. “The domesticated chicken is something of a phenomenon,” Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, told the Times. “Studies over the past 20 years have revealed their finely honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead.”
When we underestimate the intelligence of animals we already consider clever – for instance, last year, researchers at the University of Manchester who had been studying orangutans in Indonesia found the apes built complex nests in trees, using a wide variety of specially chosen materials – it is hardly surprising that those considered to be at the low end of the smart scale can surprise us.
We know that flies can remember their destination, even when a distraction is put in their path. Researchers have found that fish can be trained to associate a sound with feeding times, and even remember this when released into the wild; an earlier study suggested the idea that a goldfish had a three-second memory was unfounded – goldfish could learn to press a lever for food, something they would be able to recall months later. (via Animals know more than you think | Science | The Guardian)

wildcat2030:

Animals know more than you think

Chickens have better numeracy and spacial awareness skills than young children, and pigs use mirrors. Who knew?

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the animals we think of as being the most stupid – pigs, chickens, sheep – are also the ones we don’t always treat too well. However, humans might be the ones who have to rethink the definitions of “bird-brain” and “pig ignorance”.

According to a new report, chickens appear to be much more intelligent than previously thought, with better numeracy and spacial awareness skills than young children. “The domesticated chicken is something of a phenomenon,” Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, told the Times. “Studies over the past 20 years have revealed their finely honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead.”

When we underestimate the intelligence of animals we already consider clever – for instance, last year, researchers at the University of Manchester who had been studying orangutans in Indonesia found the apes built complex nests in trees, using a wide variety of specially chosen materials – it is hardly surprising that those considered to be at the low end of the smart scale can surprise us.

We know that flies can remember their destination, even when a distraction is put in their path. Researchers have found that fish can be trained to associate a sound with feeding times, and even remember this when released into the wild; an earlier study suggested the idea that a goldfish had a three-second memory was unfounded – goldfish could learn to press a lever for food, something they would be able to recall months later. (via Animals know more than you think | Science | The Guardian)

The Brains of the Animal Kingdom - WSJ.com

fuckyeahneuroscience:

New research shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Primatologist Frans de Waal on memory-champ chimps, tool-using elephants and rats capable of empathy.

Who is smarter: a person or an ape? Well, it depends on the task. Consider Ayumu, a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University who, in a 2007 study, put human memory to shame. Trained on a touch screen, Ayumu could recall a random series of nine numbers, from 1 to 9, and tap them in the right order, even though the numbers had been displayed for just a fraction of a second and then replaced with white squares.

I tried the task myself and could not keep track of more than five numbers—and I was given much more time than the brainy ape. In the study, Ayumu outperformed a group of university students by a wide margin. The next year, he took on the British memory champion Ben Pridmore and emerged the “chimpion.”

How do you give a chimp—or an elephant or an octopus or a horse—an IQ test? It may sound like the setup to a joke, but it is actually one of the thorniest questions facing science today. Over the past decade, researchers on animal cognition have come up with some ingenious solutions to the testing problem. Their findings have started to upend a view of humankind’s unique place in the universe that dates back at least to ancient Greece.

Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Racism & Prejudice

ikenbot:

There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

“Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” he said.

Controversy ahead

The findings combine three hot-button topics.

“They’ve pulled off the trifecta of controversial topics,” said Brian Nosek, a social and cognitive psychologist at the University of Virginia who was not involved in the study. “When one selects intelligence, political ideology and racism and looks at any of the relationships between those three variables, it’s bound to upset somebody.”

Polling data and social and political science research do show that prejudice is more common in those who hold right-wing ideals that those of other political persuasions, Nosek told LiveScience.

“The unique contribution here is trying to make some progress on the most challenging aspect of this,” Nosek said, referring to the new study. “It’s not that a relationship like that exists, but why it exists.”

Brains and bias

Earlier studies have found links between low levels of education and higher levels of prejudice, Hodson said, so studying intelligence seemed a logical next step. The researchers turned to two studies of citizens in the United Kingdom, one that has followed babies since their births in March 1958, and another that did the same for babies born in April 1970. The children in the studies had their intelligence assessed at age 10 or 11; as adults ages 30 or 33, their levels of social conservatism and racism were measured.

In the first study, verbal and nonverbal intelligence was measured using tests that asked people to find similarities and differences between words, shapes and symbols. The second study measured cognitive abilities in four ways, including number recall, shape-drawing tasks, defining words and identifying patterns and similarities among words. Average IQ is set at 100.

Social conservatives were defined as people who agreed with a laundry list of statements such as “Family life suffers if mum is working full-time,” and “Schools should teach children to obey authority.” Attitudes toward other races were captured by measuring agreement with statements such as “I wouldn’t mind working with people from other races.” (These questions measured overt prejudiced attitudes, but most people, no matter how egalitarian, do hold unconscious racial biases; Hodson’s work can’t speak to this “underground” racism.)

As suspected, low intelligence in childhood corresponded with racism in adulthood. But the factor that explained the relationship between these two variables was political: When researchers included social conservatism in the analysis, those ideologies accounted for much of the link between brains and bias.

People with lower cognitive abilities also had less contact with people of other races.

“This finding is consistent with recent research demonstrating that intergroup contact is mentally challenging and cognitively draining, and consistent with findings that contact reduces prejudice,” said Hodson, who along with his colleagues published these results online Jan. 5 in the journal Psychological Science.

Full Article: Recommended Full Read

I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Stephen Jay Gould (via feministpizza)

NICE

(via nodamncatnodamncradle)

(Source: peapodkid)

wildcat2030:

As director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich, Dr. Rolf Pfeifer has long argued that embodiment is one of the best methods for attaining artificial general intelligence (AGI). The embodiment hypothesis, is based on the idea that human intelligence is largely derived from our motor abilities, and therefore to create artificial general intelligence, a robotic body that interacts with the physical environment is crucial. Previously Pfeifer worked to this end via the humanoid robot ECCEROBOT, that was also referred to as Cronos. Now Pfeifer and his team of of researchers, have stated the ambitious goal of building a new humanoid robot, Roboy, in a record nine months. (via 33rd Square | Rolf Pfeiffer And His Team Working On Crowd Funded, Open-Source Humanoid Robot)

wildcat2030:

As director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich, Dr. Rolf Pfeifer has long argued that embodiment is one of the best methods for attaining artificial general intelligence (AGI). The embodiment hypothesis, is based on the idea that human intelligence is largely derived from our motor abilities, and therefore to create artificial general intelligence, a robotic body that interacts with the physical environment is crucial. Previously Pfeifer worked to this end via the humanoid robot ECCEROBOT, that was also referred to as Cronos. Now Pfeifer and his team of of researchers, have stated the ambitious goal of building a new humanoid robot, Roboy, in a record nine months. (via 33rd Square | Rolf Pfeiffer And His Team Working On Crowd Funded, Open-Source Humanoid Robot)

Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change - slime molds redefine intelligence

spaceweaver:

See on Scoop.it - Global Brain

Something scientists have come to understand is that slime molds are much smarter than they look. One species in particular, the SpongeBob SquarePants–yellow Physarum polycephalum, can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu—and all this without a brain or nervous system. “Slime molds are redefining what you need to have to qualify as intelligent,” Reid says.


See on nature.com