RE: computer pain

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 16:44:20 +1100

Colin Hales writes:
> There's a whole axis of modelling orthogonal to the soma membrane which
> gets statistically abstracted out by traditional Hodkin/Huxley models. The
> neuron becomes geometry-less (except for when the HH model is made into
> 'cable'/compartmental equivalents for longitudinal transmission). The new
> modelling I am doing undoes what HH did. There's nothing wrong with it -
> it just throws away all the experience components, which are physics
> occurring at right angles to the HH propogation.
> The electric field, which is massive and intricately choreographed, cannot
> be eliminated. It must be fully expressed in space just as a neuron does.
> All the chemical complexities don't matter except insofar as they serve to
> manipulate the electric field in space. My EC calculus says 'why it's like
> something' to be these fields (again I am still working on this!).
> In my model, for very specific reasons of physics, computationalism,
> functionalism, representationalism, eliminativism are all false. This does
> not mean that there is no 'abstract computation', no 'functional
> structure', no 'representation'.... it just means that these things are
> not _causal_ of phenomenal consciosuness - they merely serve to manipulate
> it appropriately for the purposes of cognition.
> So - 'action potentials' will be an emergent feature of the physics, not
> modelled. All the chemistry manipulating the membrane conductance (and
> therefore its effectiveness as a dielectric) are eliminatable in favour of
> simpler gating mechanisms. You do not have to have a cytoskeleton - merely
> a dielectric. Synapses are all irrelevant. They are constructed so as not
> to interfere with the overall soma fiald expression (by the way -
> astrocytes are more important in this than neurons!)...... except that in
> some heavy mass-synaptic firing conditions - maybe in the cerebellum there
> may be field effects in the dendritic trees that are 'like something'....
> not sure yet.... but my bet is no.
> Also, by implementing 'virtual circuits' orthogonal to the membrane
> dependent on synchrony/asynchrony in 3D space, the soma fialds have a role
> in learning in that they maintain channels down which (along with other
> sources of chemistry) chemistry flows to modify synapses and build new
> neural hardware/shape changes.
> So overall: unless the computational substrate has this stuff built into
> it there will be no experiences. End of story. My PhD will eventually
> contribute to an experiment to prove this. I have to build new chips tho.
> Nature has made a wonderful, amazing piece of kit in the neuron/astrocyte.
> We have barely begun to get it what it is really doing. Unjustified
> computationalist/functionalist hubris and assumption based on simplistic
> models from >50 years ago will not do.
So you are saying the special something which causes consciousness and which
functionalism has ignored is the electric field around the neuron/astrocyte. But electric
fields were well understood even a hundred years ago, weren't they? Why couldn't
a neuron be simulated by something like a SPICE model? Even if there is some new
physics involved, once the equations are worked out then either with pencil and
paper or with the aid of a computer you should be able to model the neuron: given
starting parameters, work out what it is going to do in future. Do you disagree that
this would be possible?
Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Fri Dec 15 2006 - 00:44:37 PST

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