Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Brains Gone Wild...

As I get to be a (dirty) old man, it is incumbent upon me to find new pornography to keep me stimulated. I've been pretty open about my watch habit. But my latest favorite is genius porn, i.e. reading interviews between smoking hot scientists, intellectuals, philosophers and other supersmartypants. The key word is "between" - you've got to pit to Mensa members against each other for the real brain on brain effect to kick in.

This month's Wired Magazine has the usual geeky fare, but there's a very naughty little article on page 92 that reveals one of my all time favorites, Daniel C. Dennett, going at it hard with artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky. They're talking about the organizational structure of human consciousness and why slavish computers can't take it. Mind you this stuff is not for those that blush easily, so I'm only going to put a couple of lines here. For crying out loud people it's a family time of year! OK, here goes:

Minsky: Physics gives us about five laws that explain almost everything. So we keep looking for those kinds of simple laws to apply to the brain. But we shouldn't be looking for a simple explanation of how thought works. Evolution has found hundreds of ways to do things, and when one of them fails, your mind switches to another. That's resourcefulness!

Dennett: Computer programmers have the luxury to create hierarchies of control. The systems, the subsystems, the sub-subsystems are complete slaves. They never rebel. This gives you a model of the mind with the highest echelons of logic at the top. But if you think about a brain as a community of individually semi-autonomous, even independently evolved agencies, as Marvin has, you realize that the agencies have to be browbeaten and they have to form alliances. Emotions aren't an add-on, but rather the politics of the whole system.

Shiver me timbers that's good... You want more? You'll just have to get the magazine. It's the one in the brown bag right next to "Astronomically Expensive Homes For Sale Quarterly."


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