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Author Topic:   My problem with evolution
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Message 12 of 120 (23072)
11-18-2002 5:20 AM

Evolution suggests that brains when they get complex enough somehow produce "thoughts." But what does complexity have to do with being self-aware? It's like we've made a sudden transformation from the quantitative to the qualititative. 2 + 2 + 3=hate.

Hate the "word" is a symbol that is stored in your speech centers. If you look at a detailed MRI, you can probably see roughly where the nerve firing occurs for this pattern. A slice and reconstruct (if it were technically possible today) would probably be able to trace the particular set of neurons and their synaptic weights and connections which implement the "hate" wiring.

The feeling of "hate" comes from the lower parts of the reptilian brain, and these connections seem to influence a lot of the firing of the rest of the brain. These basal reptilian responses coming from these structures are where we find our strongest emotions and motivations.

And 104 + 97 + 116 + 101 = "hate". The fact that this sequence of numbers also form the word "hate" in ASCII code is an emergent property of the pattern, just as the feeling of hate is an emergent property of the circuitry in your thalmus.

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 Message 13 by robinrohan, posted 11-18-2002 5:00 PM Rationalist has not yet responded

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Message 94 of 120 (24016)
11-24-2002 8:26 AM

Platonic forms are ideas in the mind of God. Mental or spiritual, whatever you prefer. These forms are not constructs but "essences." They are eternal and immutable. That's all I know about it.

Platonic forms are no more than the circuitry in our brain which allows us to generalize the vast amounts of input we recieve.

The brain recieves several terrabytes of information every day. Were it to simply "store" this information, we would almost instantaneously run out of memory space. The storage capacity in our brain, even though it is quite large, is not infinite. There are something on the order of 10^9 neurons, and 10x12 synaptic connections.. so there is a limit.

So how is evolution going to solve the problem of processing, storing, and making informed decisions on this vast amount of information our senses pick up. Well.. as it turns out, the same things keep popping up in the information over and over again. In information science, this is called redundancy. The information the brain recieves through its senses is highly redundant.

So what are these redundancies? Well, oddly enough they're what plato called "forms". They are lines, circles, cubes, spheres, cylinders, solid patches of color, patches of color with highlights and shadows, textures, wood, trees, eyes, faces, arms, water, sky, etc.

So evolution has produced neural circuitry that exploits these redundancies to dramatically reduce the amount of raw "data" that the brain processes while at the same time extracting the maximum amount of meaningful "content". What you call "forms" are recognized in the perceptual centers of the brain in a multi-stage process, where first the basic processing and filtering is done with edge detection, region detection, texture detection, shape and size inference from shadows and highlights, texture, color, etc. Then this information is matched against the set of instinctual or learned sets of basic patterns and sent further up the chain until you percieve a "girl", or an "apple".

The ideal form is an agreggate match pattern stored in the brain that will match a set of qualities of sensory input. In other words, the ideal circle is a neural pattern used to match the various real circles you see and turn the large amounts of data used to represent the pattern of the circle into a single bit of data "circle" that the brain can more easily process.

That plato and other philosophers dimly recognized that something of this nature was going on is clearly evident. However, they misunderstood what was really happening. Instead of a magical world of "Forms" existing somewhere in fairy land of which the rest of the world is shadows.. what we really have here are the products of symbolic data compression and pattern recognition to make the data percieved by the brain useful.

If plato knew what we now know about how the brain works, perhpas the dialogs on "forms" might read a little differently, and mention things like "shannon information", "redundancy", and "symbolic pattern recognition".

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 Message 99 by robinrohan, posted 11-24-2002 10:41 AM Rationalist has not yet responded

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Message 95 of 120 (24017)
11-24-2002 8:40 AM

As an aside.. I read about forms long before I knew anything about information theory or artificial intelligence. Its odd how a magical and obviously fanciful idea such as the idea of "forms" can become so solidly implanted in the consciousness. Certainly there is nothing that would indicate that there is a world of "forms" somewhere.. yet the question as to what forms really are was a puzzling one. If they didn't exist somewhere, then what were they.

I think this is similar to the various other forms of superstitious beliefs about the stars, the moon and sun, and the earth that existed before these were explored empirically. Once we began to learn about information, perception, and how the brain works (including now increasingly detailed knowledge on the visual system), these philosphical fables based on a fuzzy inkling of the truth began to go the way of the rest of the myths.

A large chunk of what is considered part of the philosophical cannon today (or was considered part of it) is likely to go the same way as we use empirical methods to discover more about perception, consciousness, and thought. Not that the debate will ever go away, but many of the questions philosophers have pondered over the years will be (and probably in most cases already are) conclusively settled from a scientific standpoint.

Replies to this message:
 Message 97 by robinrohan, posted 11-24-2002 10:27 AM Rationalist has not yet responded

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