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Brain and Mind are they one and the same?

  1. May 30, 2003 #1
    From the Marrium webster online dictionary

    1 a : the portion of the vertebrate central nervous system that constitutes the organ of thought and neural coordination, includes all the higher nervous centers receiving stimuli from the sense organs and interpreting and correlating them to formulate the motor impulses, is made up of neurons and supporting and nutritive structures, is enclosed within the skull, and is continuous with the spinal cord through the foramen magnum
    2 a (1) : INTELLECT, MIND (2) : intellectual endowment : INTELLIGENCE -- often used in plural <plenty of brains in that family

    2 a : the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons b : the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism c : the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism.

    This one I have never been able to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
    Is the Mind of mankind and the brain the same or is there more to the mind than the physiological workings of the brain?

    In his book "In the Beginning" John Gribbin compared neural cells with binary bits as in ASCI code. He said that in this comparison there are enoughs cells in our brains to fill 1500 libraries of 5000 books of an average length of 400 pages. I'm not exactly sure of the exact figures but the scale is right. This seems to be enough computing power to contain our minds and still do all the other physilogical things that it has to do to keep us alive healthy and still be people too. Yet the mind is so capable of such fantastic imagination and creates such awe inspiring beauty. Can a physiological brain really contain and accomplish all that mankind has accomplished.

    Comments and thoughts please
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2003 #2


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    I think it can.

    Some time ago, one of the arguments you could hear from religious people was that the mind has many characteristics that are "clearly not physical":

    - Thought is not "conserved"
    - Emotions and thoughts are immaterial.
    - The intensity of thought cannot "break" the mind (as intensity of light or sound could damage eyes and ears).

    IMO, the problem lies in the wrong idea that "mind" describes an object (admittedly of a very peculiar kind), an entity that incorporates all these strange features and that therfore has to be of a very different class than all material entities.

    However, as time passes, it has become clear that words do not necessarily describe entities, and that sometimes they apply to behaviors or sets of features that we find easy to interpret as coming from a single thing "behind scenes". "Mind" is one of those words.

    At some point, we may invent a word to describe the overall behavior of robots. It will most probably not be "mind", but it will be needed to talk about development, learning, malfunctioning and maintenance of their behavioral programs.

    Once such word is invented, we could pose the same exact questions, and argue that they do have an "immaterial" entity inside, but we know such is not the case. It would be unfair to say that their set of behavioral patterns is not comparable to ours.
  4. May 30, 2003 #3
    Without sensory imput, the brain is also useless and incapable of thought. The last stage of sensory deprevation is the endless visualization of pure geometric figures. If that is thought, than my computer can think. In other words, the mind and brain both need not only the senses, but the environment in order to think. Thus, the complexity of the human mind is no more or less amazing than existence itself.
  5. May 30, 2003 #4
    'Mind' is what the brain does.
  6. May 31, 2003 #5
    The brain is the physical aspect of the mind. The mind itself is "being."

    What's the difference between a stereo receiver (the brain), and the music we "experience?" (the mind).
  7. May 31, 2003 #6
    It would be quite impossible to seperate brain from the body.
    'Mind' is therefore more likely to apply to the behaviour of the total system, body and brain, that is: the whole human body.
  8. May 31, 2003 #7
    That is interesting thought that I hadn't concidered before. We all know that the body effects the brain as much as the brain effects the body. I know if I,m tired and not feeling well or in pain it's not just my body or brain that suffers but my mood, demeaner and thinking. I wonder how much of our mind is due to the body not just the brain.
  9. Jun 1, 2003 #8
    “Emotions and thoughts are immaterial.”

    I am probably not aware of new inventions and discoveries, but when and by what or whom this amazing discovery that “thoughts” is made of matters have been made? How do you describe ideas, “evil” or “good”, intentions and what is produced from all these complex circuitry as thought? Matter? I don’t think ideas and thoughts are something that is made of matter and the science that I know does agree with that.

    “IMO, the problem lies in the wrong idea that "mind,” describes an object (admittedly of a very peculiar kind), an entity that incorporates all these strange features and that therefore has to be of a very different class than all material entities.”

    I wish I knew what does “IMO” stand for (I guess something like My Opinion), but I think you are saying that Mind is not really that much different than any other material entities around us.

    Again,please correct me if I am wrong but as far as I know, our brain is the most complex object that our universe has produced. Go as far as hundreds of millions of light distances around the four corners of the horizon, there is nothing but darkness, lonely large stars and shadowy planets deprived of life, dancing in an endless hopping around them. The Universe, this amazingly vast universe has worked billions upon billions of years so after many trail and errors and producing nothing but a wasteland nurseries of dead stars and colorful gases has finally produced its masterpiece. Our brain with its stunning multifarious living function made of neurons intertwining in an instant to store memory, to feel sad or to laugh out loud, to suddenly remember something that happened last year, or just feel a momentary physical pain, is this masterpiece. Brain is doing all that and million other smaller and bigger things consuming as little power as a small battery! Do you really believe that our brain is so lowly that can be compared to any other material things? I think our brain is The Universe trying to understand itself.

    About the intelligent of robots, I am quite sure that we never be able to create something like a robot that is our equal in terms of intellect and understanding of life. This is just not logically possible that our brain be able to produce something that is better than it. This is like saying that a toaster someday can invent the oven. Remember, thermodynamics? You can never get more than what you put in. If you program a computer to play chess then logically, that computer could never be able to beat you in chess. The day that robots need to have a mentor to look after wording of their robotics behavioral would never come unless you are talking about science fiction.

  10. Jun 1, 2003 #9


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    My point is that the assertion "thought is not made of matter" does not imply that thought is a result of any kind of supernatural phenomena.

    Neither I, in the same sense that I don't think that behavior is made of matter, or growth, or movement. As those other concepts, "thought" describes the temporal patterns displayed by some material systems.

    (IMO = In My Opinion)

    No. I'm saying that it is a very different kind of entity, but perfectly compatible with a description in terms of purely material interactions.

    I don't see clearly what your point is. My point is that, partly due to that complexity, mind can be completely accounted for by the functioning of the brain.

    IMO, it is just a matter of time. We don't need to provide it with all possible knowledge and skills. It is enough to make it able to learn and to access information.

    Think about how difficult it is for us humans to modify our habits. Robots will not have that problem. Also, their circuitry and architecture will likely be much more reliable, flexible and fast than our carbon-based equipment.

    I don't see why. Even if that was true, all we need is to produce something functionally similar, but with a technology that will run faster with every new breaktrough in chip technology. Then we can ask them to design the next generation, and so on. Just getting to be similar, but faster and more reliable seems to count as better, doesn't it?

    Also, there are most likely many evolutionary remnants in the structure of our brains that we would not need to include on them.

    Yes, I do. It allows local decreases of entropy; it only implies that more heat will be emmited, hence increasing the total ammount.

    Of course not... when we are talking about a bag and candy, or peebles and a box.

    But here we are talking about a system able to gather information from the environment and its interaction with others. Not only that, but also quite possibly better than us to store, retrieve and combine information, and most likely able to have a permanent connection with the internet (and among themselves), which means still more information and interaction from which to learn.

    That has been proven false already. Deep Blue II defeated Kasparov some years ago, and I'm sure its programmers were not able to defeat the world champion themselves.

    I think it is getting quite close. Maybe not 15 years, but I think we'll see things along those lines by the end of our lives.

    Have you seen Honda's "ASIMO"? I think it will begin being commercialized next year (as a first stage, rented to corporations for shows and simple tasks).
  11. Jun 1, 2003 #10
    The study of the brain has cleared out that our thoughts exist as measurable forms of energies / electricity in the brain tissue.

    Stimualate a particular part of the brain, and your arm is lifted.

    Thought don't exist without physical phenomena.
  12. Jun 1, 2003 #11
    Supposedly they work close and tight together.
    The brain reacts to chemical compounds in the blood. A "mood" is based on such chemical compounds, made by the body.

    I don't think we can seperate the two (body and braind).
  13. Jun 1, 2003 #12
    It would be better to ask "what is the difference between a computer and the computer programming?" Or the difference between a calculator and the calculations it makes.
  14. Jun 1, 2003 #13
    Ok, I could have more accurately replaced 'brain' with 'nervous and endocrine systems'...
  15. Jun 1, 2003 #14

    It’s cool; and I do agree with the heart of your argument. However, you are putting too much fate on technology and its journey to perfection. Ok, we have connected some grumpy computers and millions of bottlenecks of networks and called it Internet. So what? Computers process and store information and share it around the world so what is all the hype about? Yes it is great that we can talk and share information across the world but this has come about by ideas and not technology per se.

    It is the brain that has conceived and fashioned some tools to bring about the ideas into reality and not the technology. Technology is just a tool and ideas are what to do what that tool. You can leave a computer in a room for days and days unless you program it otherwise, that computer can never come up with the idea to connect itself to other computers to create networks and hence, Internet. Computers can never do that by themselves no matter how faster you make them to process information.

    Even if you are able to create a perfect android, a Data (STNG), without emotions but then by doing so you also take away its creativity and aspiration. Progress needs conflict and without it there would never be any advancement. Computers without our faults are nothing but advance calculators. We are creating and advancing because we have conflicts and emotional faults. The other thing that computers will never be able to do is the sense of being aware of their own existence the way our brain does. In another word they are avoid of “soul” and they have no idea about their own being. My point in here is that even if humanity figures a way to give “emotion cheap” to its android still all he has done is to create something that is equal to him and nothing more. And if this is the case then we are just creating more misery and ghettos of alcoholic computers along the chips factories.

    About the Deep Blue II defeating Kasparov, first of all as you said, Kasparov did not program the Deep Blue and the bet is that Kasparov must himself to program the computer to prove or disprove what I said. When I say brain I do not mean a particular brain of a particular person only I use it as a general term for the greatest achievement of nature. I have not heard or seen “ASIMO” but I look into it.

    P.S. Do not believe the hypes on mass media, these are just mostly brain washing in the form of commercialization and propaganda without factual notions.:wink:
  16. Jun 1, 2003 #15

    You said “Thought don’t exist without physical phenomena.” I am not arguing with what you are saying; only want to know where you got that information. You also said the “study of the brain”, which study are you talking about? Could you please direct me to your source of information regarding all these amazing discoveries? Web sites do fine. Thank you!
  17. Jun 1, 2003 #16


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    I don't know about perfection. I'm just saying that they are already more reliable and faster than us to do logic. They still are unable to acquire by themselves the data with which to work, but that problem, although hard, is not impossible to solve, and it is closely related to the fact that robots are just starting to be provided with ways to gather information about their environement.

    I mentioned the internet because it will provide them with much more stimuli and information than what we have ever been exposed to.

    Intelligence and creativity thrive on variety. Think of a child living all her life in a small room with only one color, no music and no furniture. Most probably, the same child would be able to develop her intelligence much further if put in contact with colors, nature, music, flavors and different cultures.

    The variety of information (and food for imagination and creativity) that they will have at their disposal will be greatly increased by the possibility of being in direct contact with the global network and among themselves.

    To me, it seems that they will be accessing two extra major additional "senses", together (most likely) with the usual ones.

    "Programming" can be much more general than just "move piece A to position C". Going back to Deep Blue II, none of its move in the game versus Kasparov was explicitely put there. You program general guidelines, some hard rules and a way to evaluate possible alternatives.

    Similarly, you can program a robot with "hard rules" about the laws of physics and probably its allowed interaction with humans, then some guidelines about the trends it should have on its behavior, and ways to evaluate alternatives. They already can divide complex tasks into smaller pieces, and compare alternative ways to achieve what they have to.

    possible actions = {..., connect cables,...}
    objects at hand here = { ..., cables ,...}
    cable properties = {..., transmit electricity,...}
    current task = "send a signal from A to B"

    The sets up there may be huge, but they will manage.

    But I was talking about the programmers, not about Kasparov. I don't think any of them would be able to defeat either Kasparov or Deep Blue.

    I agree about the media. I don't rely on it. I did work on symbolic A.I. and neural networks for some time.
  18. Jun 1, 2003 #17
    Computers still only do what we tell them to do, exactly what we tell them to do, not what we want them to do. That is one of the most frustrating things about computers. It is the programmer that make the computer do anything. The better the programmer the better the computer does. We are starting to program computers to learn but it is still the programmer programing the logic into the computer.
    The reason we think computers are so much better than us at anything is because they are single purpose devices. One cpu can and does only one thing at a time. One single process at any given clock pulse. It can do it very rapidly and never (hopefully) forgets or gets sidetracked. Computers are enormously stupid, idiot savants that can do only one thing; but, it can do that one thing very well.

    There have been countless SF stories and books where computers become so vast and complicated that they develope self awareness and intelligence. They make great reading but I don't think that it will ever happen until and unless we begin working, making circuits at the molecular or atomic level.
    Given that they develope self awareness and intellegence, will they also have a mind or is that all that a mind is?
  19. Jun 2, 2003 #18
    the debate is if the brain and the mind same or are they different.if they are different what then is the mind.there is a tendency to lean to the supernatural,but we must resort to this as a last resort only.
    to understand brain completely we must first understand what it is,what it does and also its function in lifeforms.a lifeform is nothing but a special assembly of chemicals that as a whole can respond to the changes in external(and internal)environment and does so in such a way as to keep the environment within a range suitable for the lifeform(as defined above)to persist.it also has the property to create out of surrounding materials similar but independant chemical assemblages by a process called reproduction.
    to respond to external and internal stimuli it needs special internal chemical assemblages called sensory organs to detect changes.it also needs assemblages to respond and correct for these changes and also another set to decide which are the correct responses.this third part constitutes roughly the brain.
    quite different is mind.it is ambiguous and difficult to pin down.what exactly do we mean by mind?almost everything we do are actions of the mind,some things(but not all)have actions on the mind
    -harsh words,exam results etc.it has been demonstrated that such things influence the brain too,but other things,sharp short lived pains have less influence on the mind than the brain.pain interrupts mind rather than influence it.so two possible conclusions seem probable, a part of the brain is mind or a part of the mind is brain.which way do we go?i will deal with this point in a later post.
  20. Jun 2, 2003 #19
    I stronly disagree with your view of AI. A computer does not need to programmed to have logic, the one hurdle the programmer has to overcome is to give the computer the ability to learn, and a motive to do so. This can be compared to a child growing up. When the child is born, it has no login, very limited if any self awareness, and no knowledge of the external world, but the one thing it does have is the ablility to learn, and it learns through its sences by receiving positive feedback (food, warmth, sleep, a mother's hug) and negative feedback (hot, sharp, or hunger), and overtime it develops logic and is soon able to reason on its own.

    A computer is much the same way. The reason we haven't developed AI is because we've focused too much on programming logic into the computer as opposed to just giving it the ability to learn. If you program voice recognition and the rules of grammar sentence structure into MS Word or a program that passes the Turing test, that is nowhere close to AI. But, if a program "learns" those same rules of grammar and spelling, and is able to communicate with a human being, thats AI.
  21. Jun 2, 2003 #20
    There is hardware and there is software. Hardware once built cannot be changed and is nothing more than a bunch of switches turning on and off. Software is programming and programing is what gives the position of those switches meaning. To learn a computer has to test a hypothosis and change it's programming according to the rules programmed into it.
    Even with external sensors it is still programming that gives any meaning to the inputs. Until computers can modify their own hardware, firmware and software they cannot have, IMO, real intelligence whether artificial or not. Until then they are still carrying out the instructions of the programmer and that is where the intelligence is.
    I am aware that we have computers writing programing code for other computers but somebody had to program the computer to do that.
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