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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Fri Feb 12 13:28:45 EST 1999

lesterzick at earthlink.net wrote in message
<79husi$7eh$1 at nnrp1.dejanews.com>...
>Admittedly, much of philosophy has been little more than wordplay. Of
>neuroscience sees nothing more than neurons, any more than an auto mechanic
>sees nothing more than pistons, valves, and spark plugs. The real issue is
>to see the architecture involved in the parts used rather than to declare
>that there is nothing but the parts. It is the architecture that matters
>whatever parts are employed.

Let us look at the "real issue". Of course, the neuroscientist values
neurons, it is his trade, but he also has a great interest in molecules. One
of those who have a little interest in neuroscience is the physician. The
physician is interested in the whole man but he is also aware of the neuron.
When a patient presents with no particular complaint but on examination is
seen to be disregarding things to his left, the physician will probably
refer the patient to a neurologist.

But you say you see the "real man" better than the physician, possibly so.
At least you will admit that the physician is trying.

My objection is against those who have no real knowledge of the brain but
want to talk, to engage in wordplay. They are quick to shift any discussion
of "machine brains" to a discussion of the soul (mind) of which they know as
much as anybody. Hasn't there been enough talk of the soul (mind)? Hasn't
there been enough of "When I look out the window" and "When I decide to stop
in the store for a quart of milk"? I think so.

We know a great deal, a very great deal about the brain. Why not talk about
what we know? Look at the reticular nucleus of the thalamus that is in
position to halt the inflow of signal energy through the medial and lateral
geniculate bodies and through the basal ventral complex of the thalamus. It
can also halt motor programs at the ventral lateral-ventral anterior nuclei
on their way to the motor and premotor cortex. Here is a mechanism for
interpolating extra synaptic events between incoming signal energy and
outgoing motor programs. Is this part of what we are subjectively aware of
as thinking? Which neurons are in position to activate, or inhibit,neurons
in the reticular nucleus?

These are the sort of things we should be talking about when we talk of
machine brains, not our subjective experience of the soul (mind).

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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