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machine brains

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Tue Feb 16 14:07:39 EST 1999

Ray Scanlon wrote:

> We know a great deal, a very great deal about the brain. Why not talk about
> what we know?

Because it takes us away from the only interesting question- i.e., what is mind,
and how does it arise out of a physical decice like the brain?

> 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.

The problem with this strictly physiological approach is that it ends up
defining a perception mechanism, a memory storage, peripheral control, etc., and
you end up with a robot with a little homunculus sitting somewhere watching the
perceptions and operating controls. Where's mind? You've got a computer sitting
there humming away and no program.

Using computers as a model for the brain isn't really productive unless you have
a real theory of AI to explain it. Otherwise you may as well build your model
from hydraulics for all it'll reveal about mind.

> Is this part of what we are subjectively aware of
> as thinking?

Big question: WHO is aware? When you say we're aware of some neurons or
activation or whatever, you're simply moving mind back another level.Unless you
talk about mind, you're not going to answer any interesting questions.

-- mike

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