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machine brains

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Thu Feb 11 08:25:31 EST 1999

Joe Kilner wrote:

> I thought that the Human brain had the greatest ammount of redundancy built
> into it (but that may just be me being misinformed...)

Basically, yes. There's no functional redundancy.

> ....- I don't think we
> need to get bogged down in trying to understand conciousness before we try
> to build a mechanical brain for the simple reason that we have a model to
> work from.

Hm. Well, one function of a model would be to try to understand how conciousness
arises. But then, would we be able to recognize it?

Wittgenstien says that you can't have language without a community of speakers
exchanging symbols about a common experience- so if you have one smart machine,
how would it tell you it was?

>  We can replicate human brains without necesarily understanding
> *how* they work, and through this replication may gain more insight than we
> ever could through direct study.

How do you suppose we do that? We can't even replicate a human heart, a much
simpler device, despite 50 years and countless millions of dollars. You have to
understand all the functions of the brain to replicate it. We're just now
learning about the function of nitrous oxide as a wide-area neurotransmitter.
There may be other communication modes in the brain we have yet to understand.

> All we need are electronic neurons and
> some way of determining the precise positions, states and connections of all
> the cells in a human brain.  Simple really.... ;)

Ah, identity theory! But see my previous statement.

> ...What exactly do you mean when you say that a brain could fool itself
> into thinking that it was concious and in what way exactly would this differ
> from the brain being concious?

Good point. Back in grad school a friend used tell me "I'm a strict
behaviorist!" and I'd always reply "Says who?" ;-)

Michael Edelman     http://www.mich.com/~mje

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