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machine brains

ray scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Wed Sep 17 11:50:37 EST 1997

Jim Balter <jqb at sandpiper.com> wrote in article
<01bcc30c$063212a0$e17a61ce at asdf>...
> ray scanlon wrote:
> > I will not be inhibited by some word merchant saying, "Category
> > error".
> The burden is to rebut *specific* charges of category error,
> not to respond to straw men or engage in ad hominems
> (such as that a charge of "category error" isn't valid
> when made by a "word merchant").

I am afraid that I did not make myself clear. The question is not
whether the charge of 'category error' is valid or invalid. The
question is whether someone who is involved in a serious investigation
of the brain has time to play with that charge. The people who say
'category error' tend to be people who mistake words for reality. I
name them 'word merchants'. 

As an example of this charge I quote:

Jim Balter <jqb at sandpiper.com> wrote:
> Whatever thought is, it is *not*
> Wally Nauta's "movement that is not connected to a motor
> neuron";
> that is a category error.

Walle Nauta is a distinguished neuroscientist (retired). I will give my
impression of what was in his mind when he said that.

The neural pulses that, when they arrive at the muscles, cause a
movement (standing up, sitting down, rubbing the jaw) I call a 'motor
program'. If they were charted as multiple channels against time they
should resemble a player piano roll. These pulses are part of the
objective physical universe.

We can envision the case where this motor program is halted on its way
to the motor cortex. (Note that I am referring to the motor program as
an information packet, probably a forbidden usage.)

Dr. Nauta gave it as his opinion that should we view this aborted motor
program subjectively we should be aware of a 'thought'. That if those
neurons were activated, in that sequence, in one's brain one should be
'thinking' of that movement. I am happy to share his opinion.

You categorically disagree. You say that whatever a 'thought' is, it is
not that.

Well, we live in a free country.

In my homepage I have a paper with six hypotheses about how the brain
comes to think. Why don't you criticize one or more of those
hypotheses. God knows they could stand some rigourous criticism.



email: rscanlon at wsg.net

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