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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Thu Feb 18 20:17:33 EST 1999

Michael Edelman wrote in message <36CC5FF6.192B7226 at mich.com>...

>Your model may work for the mechanistic model of mind you propose, one that
>no place for conciousness, but it may not be complete enough to model
>aspects of
>mind that many of us think are central to the brain's purpose.

Rather than purpose, say "function". The central function of the brain is to
maintain homeostasis of the DNA in an unfriendly universe. To this end it
seeks food and water and a safe resting place. It avoids the predator and,
in the interest of long term homeostasis, it seeks a mate. If these needs
are satisfied, the brain is idle. It's output, such as metaphysics or
mathematical demonstrations, are pretty but unneeded.

>Why not? You've got perhaps 2x10^11 cells in the brain, give or take a
>factor of
>2x10^2, which is certainly not a number inconceivable of realizing in
>given that today's chips have something like 6x10^6 discrete devices, and
>fine-grained processors are being designed with 10^4 or 10^ processing
>each of whihc can model another 10^6 or more virtual elements. So we're not
>far off.

That chip can model a net of three or four neurons fairly well. Do the

>What I'm objecting to here is your conception of the brain as a device with
>very predictable, top-down sort of structure. Of course my central issue
>here is
>your rejection of mind, putting you solidly in the behaviorist/positivist
>school. You're seeking to build (metaphorically, lest you think I'm tying
>to hardware) a brain that to me is just an automaton, with a rather large
>count. What do you hope to explain with such a model? What is the purpose
>your model, and how does it differ from an ordinary computer, apart from

In my opinion the purpose of the model is to show that a brain without a
soul (mind) is possible in a materialistic universe. I think this will be
carried out in the first half of the next century. When this project is
complete, man will say, "This is not enough, there is a spiritual universe
to consider". Man will turn to religion.

My complaint is that you are premature by fifty years.

>That's silly. We're all self-aware. You aren't an automoton. Who am I
>with? What are dreams?

If you were debating with a machine brain, such as Hal, how could you
possibly tell the difference? This is just Turing's Test. A dream is a
sequence of constellations that shows up under long term activation of the
reticular nucleus by the locus coeruleus.

>You'll never explain brain without explaining mind. Can you describe the
>function of a computer in the absence of the existence of any software?

A properly designed computer simply spins on a no-op sequence in the
micro-program, awaiting the arrival of an instruction. In earlier times
(prior to the middle fifties) there were no micro-programs. The computer, on
being powered up, simply stood by until an instruction was keyed in. This
can be embroidered but I think you get the point.

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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