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machine brains

Ray Scanlon rscanlon at wsg.net
Fri Feb 19 20:29:47 EST 1999

Michael Edelman wrote in message <36CD92D9.16F2B716 at mich.com>...
>Ray Scanlon wrote:
>> ...Rather than purpose, say "function". The central function of the brain
>> 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
>> in the interest of long term homeostasis, it seeks a mate. If these needs
>> are satisfied, the brain is idle.
>The brain is *never* idle.

Agreed. All the neurons are alive and working at all times. Would it be
better to say that the brain is temporarily not needed by the organism for
important work?

>> It's output, such as metaphysics or
>> mathematical demonstrations, are pretty but unneeded.
>Yet they exist, and if they are unneeded, why would an organism directed
>homeostasis expend energy on unneeded activities? That would be the
>of an animal running in circles when it's not hunting or feeding.

Exactly. Many people would lay this tail-chasing to the advent of

>> 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
>> to consider". Man will turn to religion.
>> My complaint is that you are premature by fifty years.
>So you're actually a hard-edged dualist. You're looking to show that living
>organisms are all automotons, and only privileged ones- humans- may be
>by souls. Or so it seems.

You overreach slightly. I am more or less a soft dualist, ready to shift my
ground if needed for the argument.

On one thing I am firm, I am NOT an anthropocentrist. I argue against this
position at all times. I feel that soul (mind) goes wherever there are
neurons. Ant, turtle, rat, all are aware, the degree of awareness is another

>> >That's silly. We're all self-aware. You aren't an automoton. Who am I
>> >debating
>> >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.
>You cite Turing's thought experiment as if it were some proof of
>It's not. It's just an idea he came up with that defines intelligence
>operationally, which does fit in with your notion of brain.

I hold no brief for Turing's Test.

>> A dream is a
>> sequence of constellations that shows up under long term activation of
>> reticular nucleus by the locus coeruleus.
>That's like saying life is a continuous autocatylizing reaction, or that a
>is a large metal device that turns hydrocarbons into heat and complex
>It descibes some aspects of intelligence without identifying what's
>about those aspects. Why is it meaningful to have certain nuclei active?
>I say that language is a series of arbitrary symbols with production rules.
>that tell you what language actually is?
>> >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,
>> being powered up, simply stood by until an instruction was keyed in. This
>> can be embroidered but I think you get the point.
>Yes, but I think you're glossing over mine. Computers were designed with
>idea that they would run programs. What is the meaning of a computer in a
>universe without a program?

I think it a mistake to use the computer as an analogy. But if you insist,
the neurons are the computer, the strength of the synapses is the software.
What of the wiring, the interconnections? Shall we have this as part of the
computer or part of the software.

Those, who would say that the software is the mind, waste their breath.

The main thing is that when we look at the neurons we have no need of soul

Those interested in how the brain works might look at

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