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What Is Thought? By Eric B. Baum, 2004

  1. Dec 25, 2004 #1
    Here are some of my favorite excerts from the new book "What Is Thought?" By Eric B. Baum, 2004

    "Looking at mind from this evolutionary point of view makes natural something that some authors defending strong AI seem skeptical about: the unity of self. Daniel Dennett and Marvin Minsky, for example, have emphasized that the mind is a huge, multi-module program with lots of stuff going on in parallel. They doubt there is any single individual, any single interest; rather, they see a cacophony of competing agents. But, as we found in our economic simulations, the coordination of agents is crucial in exploiting structure. The program of mind was designed for one end: to propagate the genome. The mind is indeed a complex parallel program for reinforcement learning, but it comes equipped with a single internal reward function: representing the interest of the genes. Thus, the mind is like a huge law office with hundreds of attorneys running around and filing briefs but with a single client, the self. Because we are designed for complex and long-range planning—representing our genes' interests over generations and in widely different circumstances—exactly what the interests of the self are differs from individual to individual and over time. Suicide bombers, mothers, and capitalists are all striving to advance the interests of their genes as their respective minds compute those interests. But for all the modules in the mind and all the many computations going on in parallel, there is one central self focusing all the computation—one central reward being optimized—the resultant of the interests of the genes."

    "Incidentally, if we are going to understand the mind as an interaction of many subprocesses, there is no reason to be surprised that we might have multiple personalities, and indeed there is some question about what it means to have one personality. In each of us, there might be multiple agents with different goals. At one time one wins, at another time another wins. The mediation process is then of some interest. I discuss why these different agents typically act in consort: they are programmed by genes for the benefit of the genes, and the genes' survival ultimately benefits from the interest of the one body they control. Therefore it makes sense that they compute some notion of 'self' and coordinate their actions so as to act in 'the self's' interest. Later I also discuss how these different agents are coordinated and how the hard computational problems are factored into such interacting modules and solved. For now I want to stress only that the picture muddies Searle's implicit assumption that there is one unique 'me' that can be isolated clearly."

    "Now, it is true that the human mind is by no means rational, logical, or always right, even when it is completely convinced it is. Our errors come from at least two distinct sources. One source is that the evolution process that produced us does not select for rationality, it selects for survival and propagation. But logic and survival can actually work at counter-purposes. Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth. I discuss the proposal of Trivers that we have been evolved to consciously believe as fact things that are not only untrue but which are known to be untrue at some level of mind, simply for the purpose of better lying to others. It is quite plausible that we have likewise evolved other counterfactual beliefs: there is some evidence for an evolved module for religious faith, which might well exist whether or not there is in actuality an anthropomorphic god. Evolution has, in many ways, selected precisely for nonobjectivity: our beliefs reflect what is good for us or our kin, not necessarily objective truth…."

    "Consciousness has many aspects. We are aware of our world and our sensations. We have a sense of self. We have goals and aspirations. We seem to have free will and moral responsibility. Yet, as I've said, the mind is equivalent to a Turing machine. Moreover, we have arisen through evolution and are descended from microbes by a smooth chain of evolution, with more complex mental processes at each stage evolved from the processes at the one before. Where in this process did consciousness enter? Why are we conscious? What is consciousness?"

    "The conclusion that we do not really have free will, discussed earlier in the context of classical physics, quantum physics, and algorithmic information theory, is after all a very abstract conclusion, of interest only to philosophers and stoned college students late at night. Whether all my actions are completely predictable given the quantum state of my brain is of no practical interest to my genes or to any ordinary person. For all practical purposes, we have free will. There is no experiment I can propose that will show directly, and simply that we don't. The lack of free will only follows from lengthy, complex, abstract arguments. These arguments are almost surely correct: the physical arguments make a vast number of verified predictions along the way, the mathematical arguments have been scrutinized and seem airtight. But who really cares, for all practical purposes? It's much more reasonable and practical for my genes to build me believing in free will, and for me to act and think as if I have free will."


    I would then suggest the book "The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin," 2004, written by Keith E. Stanovich

    Stanovich divides the brain into three parts:

    1) The primitive brain [limbic system], evolved to bring in information, decipher it, and keep the organism alive to pass on the genes to the next generation.

    2) The autonomous brain [cerebral cortex] sitting on top of the primitive brain most developed in humans, which can reflect on past, present, and future states of affairs and may not fully comply with the primitive brains goals and desires.

    3) The broadly rational brain [abstract], one that uses not only one's own knowledge, but the collective knowledge of science to understand the internal conflicts taking place between the primitive brain and the autonomous brain. This level requires not only intelligence, but also a desire to understand and question belief systems that inhabit and mediate between the primitive brain and the autonomous brain

    Thank you
  2. jcsd
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