question: job of a neuron

Tyler Sherkin t_sherkin at hotmail.com
Thu Sep 6 20:04:17 EST 2001

> The concept is that of "emergent properties".  That is, the whole is
> greater than the sum of the parts.
> A good example is a negative feedback regulatory system -- the classic
> example is the heating/air conditioninig system in your house.  It
> keeps the temperature inside quite constant regardless of how hot or
> how cold it gets outside.  The combined action of the system --
> thermostat with temperature sensor, set point, and error calculator,
> plus the machinery of the furnace and the air conditioner, results in
> maintaining a constant temperature -- regulation.  This is something
> that no component alone can do.

Ah.  This, at least, I understand.

> The system is actually greater than the sum of the parts.  It is the
> sum of the parts combined with the specific way they interact with
> each other.  Changing the pattern of interaction without changing any
> of the parts can convert the negative feedback to positive, resulting
> in catastrophically hot or cold conditions.

I follow.

> In mathematics, a set of coupled or linked equations has a behavior
> that is determined by its "characteristic values" or "eigenvalues".
> These are properties of the ensemble of equations, not of any one
> specific equation.  Again, the behavior of the system can be very
> different from the behavior of all of the separate pieces.

OK.  I think I grasp the basics of this, kind of.

Thank you,


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