Jonathan Bartlett

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence

Jonathan Bartlett is a senior software R&D engineer at Specialized Bicycle Components, where he focuses on solving problems that span multiple software teams. Previously he was a senior developer at ITX, where he developed applications for companies across the US. He also offers his time as the Director of The Blyth Institute, focusing on the interplay between mathematics, philosophy, engineering, and science. Jonathan is the author of several textbooks and edited volumes which have been used by universities as diverse as Princeton and DeVry.

Archives

Intelligent Design Is Not What Most People Think It Is

Widespread confusion about Intelligent Design leads us to address the question: What exactly is it?
When I tell people that I do work in Intelligent Design (ID) research, either the person I’m talking to has no idea what Intelligent Design is, or they have quite a faulty idea of what Intelligent Design is. This isn’t their fault — media reports don’t seem to be able to make sense of what we are doing either. Some people have attributed this to malice, and, while I’m sure there’s plenty of that to go around, I think that it is in large part actually the result of Intelligent Design doing something genuinely new, making it difficult for people to shove us into existing boxes. Intelligent Design, at its core, says that agency is a distinct causal category in the world. That…

An Unlikely Collaboration to Elucidate Life’s Blueprints

Joining together the forces of biology and engineering to improve both fields
What happens when you get sixty biologists and engineers together in a conference for three days? That’s the question asked by Steve Laufman, head of the Engineering Research Group at Discovery. In the recent “Conference on Engineering in Living Systems,” biologists and engineers of every stripe got together to see how the two disciplines could benefit each other. For biologists, learning how engineers examine, design, and plan projects was eye-opening. Traditionally, biologists focus on individual interactions, not whole-systems approaches. For engineers, discovering the details of cellular architecture and control mechanisms was especially enlightening.  The conference had a diverse set of presentations, covering numerous areas of overlap between the two fields. One presentation discussed biologically-inspired robots, as well as how they can…

Ford Calls Out Exaggerated Musk Claims in Epic Twitter Troll

Automakers are beginning to respond to Musk with mockery and satire
Elon Musk has long been making strange claims about Tesla’s future plans for vehicles. At Mind Matters News, we have documented extensively his continually-changing claims about Teslas being able to be used as robotaxis. This is especially important to consumers of these products, as Tesla is charging customers $10,000 for future functionality that may never exist. We have largely ignored other claims from Musk as it is sometimes difficult to tell when Musk is being serious or when he is just joking around. This can be problematic, however, since Musk has listed his Twitter account as being a source of official company communications. Not being able to tell if a given message is an official corporate communication or just a funny…

Phrenology: The Pseudoscience That Just Won’t Give Up

Are we arguing about this AGAIN?
Phrenology is the detailed study of cranial sizes and shapes as a proxy for brain size and shape. Practitioners believed themselves to be able to use this information as an indicator of both the character and the mental abilities of the person whose brain was being investigated. Phrenology has been widely discredited, and is thought by many today to be pseudoscience. However, the vestiges of phrenology remain with us today, and are still used to justify various common beliefs and inferences, even by otherwise very educated people. The most common way that this happens is the use of brain size in the evaluation of the character of human evolution. It is often supposed by researchers that brain size can be…

“Sentiment Analysis”? Why Not Just ASK People What They Think?

My computer science professor always told me,”Never solve a problem you can eliminate.”
AI researchers are trying to develop algorithms that pick up on cues within a written text that reveal the writer’s emotional state (sentiment analysis). Recently, Mind Matters News reported on a new algorithm for processing sarcasm in social media posts — a good example of trying to infer sentiment from text. My computer science professor always told me,”Never solve a problem you can eliminate.” It seems to me that a lot of machine sentiment analysis can be bypassed by simply asking the users to report their feelings when writing the posts. That may seem obvious but, these days, obvious answers are in short supply. Many people insist on finding the most complicated way to solve problems. Asking a user for…

Consensus Gives Us Information Only If We Are Free to Doubt

There are so many credentialed people on the internet with sufficiently differing views that it sometimes seems as if we could find an expert somewhere to support almost any harebrained idea. So how does a non-expert figure out the truth? Most of us lack the time, training, and inclination to investigate most subjects sufficiently so we are often urged to adopt the consensus opinion. While an individual expert may have wild and crazy ideas, the consensus will most likely be an average informed view. But it’s not that simple. Most of the time it is impossible for the public to determine the consensus opinion. What is usually labeled as consensus opinion is what media believe it to be. And the…

Tesla Continues to Walk Back Full Self-Driving Claims

In 2016, Tesla (TSLA) couldn’t tell enough people that its cars would soon drive themselves
In 2019, Tesla raised billions of dollars on the prospect of a fleet of a million robotaxis by the next year. However, starting on the Q3 2019 earnings call, CEO Elon Musk started walking back some of those claims. To begin with, in that earnings call, Musk started saying that “feature complete” really just meant that the “City Streets” version would be operable, not that it could actually drive without assistance. A year later, in regulatory filings with the California DMV, Tesla said, “As such, a final release of City Streets will continue to be an SAE Level 2, advanced driver-assistance feature.” In the accepted terminology around levels of self-driving, truly self-driving vehicles are classed as SAE Level 5. Level…

Will Popularity Spell Doom for Bitcoin?

How is that possible? Well, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have a hidden weakness…
Cryptocurrencies, from Ethereum to Bitcoin to Dogecoin, seem to be all the rage these days. Altcoins (i.e., lesser-known cryptocurrencies) have become increasingly mainstream. The increasing fracturing and pluralism in the cryptocurrency space has meant that few people are directly trading with any particular currency. Most users go through trading and wallet platforms where the platform —not their own computers—hosts the cryptocurrency. Additionally, transactions are increasingly processed via third parties as well, not directly on the cryptocurrency platform. This separation between the user and the direct cryptocurrency platform has enabled a new option: a payment gateway for a website that collects payments in a number of different cryptocurrencies using a single set of tools. PayPal, one of the top gateways, recently…

Do Not Be Fooled: The “Self-Driving” Car Doesn’t Drive Itself

Over-reliance on technology that is not intended to be used without human attention can be deadly
Two people died in a car crash in a Tesla on Sunday morning. While many details are yet to be confirmed, the investigators have confirmed that no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of impact. Additionally, the resulting fire required more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish because the batteries continued to reignite. Here at Mind Matters, we want to reiterate to our readers that even though Tesla’s driver assistance system is officially named “Full Self-Driving”, no one should take that to mean that the car can drive itself. We have been fully documenting the problematic nature of Tesla’s self-driving claims for many years. Recently, the hype coming from Tesla has been so problematic that many other outlets have begun…

The Fundamental Problem With Common Core Math

Intuition relies on skill, not the other way around
In 2010, a bold effort to reform math curriculum was adopted by the majority of the United States. Known as “Common Core Math,” the goal of this endeavor was to establish a common foundation of mathematics education across the country, and to help bolster not only students’ mathematical abilities, but also their mathematical intuition. The goal was to help students think about math more deeply, believing that this will help them work with mathematics better in later years. Before discussing problems with this approach, I want to say that I appreciate the idea of helping students think more deeply about mathematics. After years and years and years of mathematics education, many students wind up thinking about mathematics as merely a set…