Postulates about mind

Here are eight “mind science” postulates that I consider kosher (none of the below are my original ideas, except possibly postulate #6, which I don’t see anyone else advocate openly; perhaps with good reason):

1. The human mind is not a permanent, homogeneous physical entity (i.e. like a hardwired circuit) functioning as a sort of internal eye that keeps in touch with all our physical behaviors.

2. Thoughts are constructed in different areas of the brain (or rather, brains, since I’m not too hung up on human beings), by the banding together of millions of neuronal circuits “on the fly” in a global workspace.

3. The mechanism for galvanizing these “dynamic thought circuits” in response to external stimuli and “focus our attention” may comprise of chemical and electrical signaling from a largely hardwired neuronal control circuit, perhaps identifiable as a physical structure in the brain. The details of this control mechanism are unknown and yet to be discovered by us. However the fact that vast areas of our memories are searched and “brought into focus”, rather asynchronously, is amply demonstrated by our inability to multitask.

4. Neuronal circuits for thoughts are “plastic”.

5. Qualia are an empirical fact of the universe, a so-called weak-emergence phenomenon, like waves arising from jostling molecules in a medium. We can completely understand the way waves are generated, and we can completely understand how the waves themselves behave, but there is a “behavioral impasse” for us conscious observers between waves and the way the particles that produce these waves behave.

6. The physical structures that generate Qualia (i.e. a primitive subjective experience like pain or discomfort) evolved first from an accidental mutation of the genes that previously represented a qualia-less motor-neuronal circuit. The complex mind with global workspace architecture like that of humans evolved much later.

7. Minds have evolved; i.e. once the first “qualia machine” evolved, it had practical Darwinian survival advantage, and various further adaptations of these primitive motor-neuronal circuits led to the evolution of more complex “thought empowered” brains.

8. The evolved mind is imperfect and full of “tricks” – i.e. imperfect subjective representations of physical realities occur, some of which seem to have evolved to help us survive better then if the imperfections weren’t present. Yet other tricks seem plainly “disadvantageous mutations” that didn’t die out due to insufficient evolutionary time.

9. There exists an objective, statistically verifiable correlation between an individual’s subjective experiences (“reports” a la Dennett) and the Darwinian survival advantages they could offer. E.g. if a substance tastes or smells nasty, it is potentially harmful to your health, at least for substances commonly found on the surface of the earth.

Here are three mind-science postulates that I consider as unseemly, and which ultimately stem from hang-ups from an older “mystical age”:

1. The evolution of human language was the origin, and is the basis of, all qualia and primitive feelings, in addition to more complex thoughts. There is no mind without human language.

2. Thoughts arise from a sort of “strong-emergence”; i.e. when there is an advanced motor-neuronal system that can (for example) recoil from a hot flame – an evolved behavior – the qualia or subjective experience of heat “just arises” due to the vast complexity of the system.

3. No evolved “thought generation brain structures” exist as an accompanying advantage to “reflex producing brain structures”. Instead thoughts are just there simply as an empirical reality of complex systems. In other words, any system that exhibits behavior (i.e. an organism) will experience qualia to support its behavior, as an empirical reality of the universe. Or at least it will, if it spoke and was structurally similar to a human.

Here is one last mind-science postulate that I feel “lies on the bubble”:

1. The basic essence of subjective experience could be produced in an informational state-change machine, once we figure out the “complex” algorithms that cause them.

This latter postulate is an interesting case, and may prove to be the ultimate divider between mind and matter. If this postulate were true, qualia are an informational construct (resonates somewhat with some of the newer theories of the Entropy, oddly enough) and would be easily reproducible on digital computers. If it were false, they would essentially still be reproducible, but not on digital computers. They would be reproducible by copying the exact physical machines that produce them currently.

Incidentally, the latter may not be an unlikely discovery; some spectacular phenomena are just plain physical, e.g. nuclear fusion. You can’t reproduce nuclear fusion on a computer; there is no informational counterpart to it. One can make crude computer models to represent certain quantifiable parameters of a fusion reaction, but one can never make a “computer fusion bomb”.

Reproducing qualia in a man-made machine (qualia as ascertained by behavioral analogy, at least) would be the only immediate proof of our mastery of mind. We are nowhere near this as yet. Here are the hypothetical steps on the ladder to an advanced artificial mind, as I see it:

1. A Learning Machine that “learns” about its physical (or possible virtual) environment.

2. A machine like the previous, that is also able to augment its hardware from its environment, and better its learning capabilities

3. A machine like the previous, that also seemingly experiences qualia, as demonstrated by its behavior to us “advanced observers”

4. A machine like the previous, that is also able to communicate with its counterpart machines, and better its learning capabilities

5. A machine like the previous, that can reproduce its capabilities from resources it finds in its environment

We human machines seem to be at step #4.


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