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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Fri Feb 12 20:15:17 EST 1999

Joe Kilner wrote in message <7a1vk3$51l$1 at pegasus.csx.cam.ac.uk>...
>Ray Scanlon wrote in message <36c471bb.0 at ns2.wsg.net>...
><snippety snip>
>>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).
>As I too am getting rather tired of this discussion and so I am inclined to
>agree and just turn to a rather more interesting discussion - but the point
>I was trying to make was simply that I feel viewing the brain as a meat
>machine may be a little short sighted.  I am not viewing the mind/brain
>the point of view of a philosopher trying to explain mind, but from the
>point of view of a scientist / philosopher of science with regards to how
>fits into the empirical model etc.  My basic point is that I think your
>will explain the brain scientifically, but that this is not necesarrily the
>same knowledge as you might expect someone to possess if they said "I know
>how the brain works.".  I feel that the brain is pushing the limits of
>science as a knowledge system - not through any fault of neuroscience but
>a property of what it is we are trying to understand.   Still - only time
>will answer that question.

To the contrary, the brain is simple enough to understand, the difficulty is
in the details. When food is brought to the mouth, the brainstem takes over,
chews the food, and swallows it. The problem lies in identifying the neurons
that work the jaws and how they are sequenced. What neurons start the
peristaltic action in the esophagus, how they sequence themselves, and how
they are turned off.

A great deal has been done (and remains to be done) with aplysia. If we say
that the mammalian brain is much the same with the addition of the
recticular nucleus of the thalamus to give the particular hesitation that we
flatter ourselves in calling thinking, we are on our way to understanding.
Others would say no, the reticular nucleus is just another agglomeration of
neurons in the nervous system that started in the jellyfish with the
appearance of the interneuron.

When the interneuron appeared the nervous system gained the capability of
endless synaptic events between sensory input and motor output. In the
human, a pathological condition appears in which decision is impossible, the
brain dithers endlessly. Lucky for them, most animals escape this natural

The difficulty with "thinking" is in identifying those neurons that activate
(and inhibit) the neurons in the reticular nucleus. This is difficult, not

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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