Re: The Mind (off topic, but then, is anything off topic on this list?)

From: Eric Hawthorne <>
Date: Fri, 27 Dec 2002 23:03:07 -0800

See response attached as text file:

Joao Leao wrote:

>Both seem to me rather vaccuous statements since we don't
>really yet have a theory, classical or quantum or whathaveyou , of what a
>mind is or does. I don't mean an emprirical, or verifiable, or decidable
>or merely speculative theory! I mean ANY theory. Please show me I
>am wrong if you think otherwise.

If you don't like my somewhat rambling ideas on the subject, below, perhaps try
A book by Steven Pinker called "How the Mind Works". It's supposed to be pretty
good. I've got it but haven't read it yet.


What does a mind do?

A mind in an intelligent animal, such as ourselves, does the following:

1. Interprets sense-data and symbolically represents the objects, relationships, processes,
and more generally, situations that occur in its environment.
      Extra buzzwords: segmentation, individuation,
                       "cutting the world with a knife into this and not-this"
                       (paraphrased from Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
2. Creates both specific models of specific situations and their constituents,
and abstracted, generalized models of important classes of situations and situation
constituents, using techniques such as cluster analysis, logical induction and abduction,
bayesian inference (or effectively equivalent processes).
      Extra buzzwords: "structure pump", "concept formation", "episodic memory"

3. Recognizes new situations, objects, relationships, processes as being instances
of already represented specific or generalized situations, objects, relationships,

The details of the recognition processes vary across sensory domains, but probably
commonly use things like: matching at multiple levels of abstraction with feedback
between levels, massively parallel matching processes, abstraction lattices.

    Extra buzzwords: patterns, pattern-matching, neural net algorithms,
                     constraint-logic-programming, associative recall

4. Builds up, through sense-experience, representation, and recognition processes,
over time, an associatively interrelated "library of symbolic+probabilistic models or
micro-theories" about contexts in the environment.

5. Holds micro-theories in degrees of belief. That is, in degrees of being considered
a good "simple, corresponding, explanatory, successfully predictive" model of some
aspect of the environment.

6. Adjusts degrees of belief through a continual process of theory extension,
hypothesis testing against new observations, incremental theory revision, assessment of
competing extended theories etc. In short, performs a mini, personalized equivalent
of "the history of science forming the evolving set of well-accepted scientific

Degree of belief in each micro-theory is influenced by factors such as:

a. Repeated success of theory at prediction under trial against new observations

b. Internal logical consistency of theory.

c. Lack of inconsistency with new observations and with other micro-theories of possibly
identical or constituent-sharing contexts.

d. Generation of large numbers of general and specific propositions which are
deductively derived from the assumptions of the theory, and which are independently
verified as being "corresponding" to observations.

e. Depth and longevity of embedding of the theory in the knowledge base. i.e.
the extent to which repeated successful reasoning from the theory has resulted in the
theory becoming a "basis theory" or "theory justifying other extended or analogous
theories" in the knowledge base.

7. Creates alternative possible world models (counterfactuals or hypotheticals),
by combining abstracted models with episodic models but with variations generated
through the use of substitution of altered or alternative constituent entities,
sequences of events, etc.

         Extra buzzwords: Counterfactuals, possible worlds, modal logic, dreaming

8. Generates, and ranks for likelihood, extensions of episodic models into the future,
using stereotyped abstract situation models with associated probabilities to predict
the next likely sequences of events, given the part of the situation that has
been observed to unfold so far.
9. Uses the extended and altered models, (hypotheticals, counterfactuals), as a context
in which to create and pre-evaluate through simulation the likely effectiveness of
plans of action designed to alter the course of future events to the material
advantage of the animal.

10. Chooses a plan. Acts on the world according to the plan, either indirectly,
through communication with other motivated intelligent agents, or directly by
controlling its own body and using tools.

10a. Communicates with other motivated intelligent agents to assist it in carrying
out plans to affect the environment:
Aspects of the communication process:
- Model (represent and simulate) the knowledge, motivations and reasoning processes of
the other agents,
- Communicate to the other agents, using conventional symbols.
  Subjects of communication:
     -specific and general knowledge about the environment and its relevant non-optimalities,
     -suggested specific courses of action to remedy non-optimality,
      with logical justifications, and motivational explanations of likely mutual benefits.

    (Evolutionary side effect of need to model the cognition and action planning process of
     assistant agents: The development of ability to reflect on one's own
     thinking process. i.e. some of what consciousness is)

11. Assesses the effects of planned actions, corrects, reassesses, remodels,
plans again, acts again.

12. Prioritizes cognition to meet real-time understanding and planning deadlines,
via techniques such as:
a. Parallel exploration and testing of alternative hypotheses,
b. Parallel associative recall processes
c. Periodic assessment of relative promise of the parallel alternative lines of
   reasoning and different directions of associative recall exploration of memory,
   and pruning of less promising directions to allow redirection of the finitely
   resourced search processes to deeper exploration of more promising directions.
d. Emotion-tagging of episodic memories of "survival-important" aspects of situations,
   and carry-over of the emotion-tags to abstracted general rules. These emotion
   tags serve as a prioritization on all-directions associative recall and on
   all-directions inference during exploration of recalled theories and situations
   and current situation. i.e.
   - If it could kill you now, recall it fast and don't think about anything else.
   - Similarly if it could get you an opportunity to pass on your genes.
   - If it could kill you slowly (hunger, lack of shelter), or make your world safer
   and more comfortable (food, shelter, friends and helpers, money),
   think about it with relatively high priority, and probably quite often.
   - If it is new and unknown, it could kill you now, so think a lot about it now until
   you can learn enough to assure yourself that that is not the case.
   - If it is same old same old, and not one of the above categories, muse on it
   if you have the time. You might learn something new of benefit by mixing it with
   some old thought to generate an important realization.


What is a mind?
Something that does all of the above, and undoubtedly more.

How does it work? F****ed if I know.
Received on Sat Dec 28 2002 - 02:01:29 PST

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