Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Therefore p!

While I was skimming around the web reading some stuff on cognition, consciousness and the brain as well as psycholinguistics, I came across something much better, Philosopher Jokes. :-) Yippee.

There were a bunch of good ones but here is the best and it has a food component!

A boy is about to go on his first date, and is nervous about what to talk about. He asks his father for advice. The father replies: "My son, there are three subjects that always work. These are food, family, and philosophy."

The boy picks up his date and they go to a soda fountain. Ice cream sodas in front of them, they stare at each other for a long time, as the boy's nervousness builds. He remembers his father's advice, and chooses the first topic. He asks the girl: "Do you like potato pancakes?" She says "No," and the silence returns.

After a few more uncomfortable minutes, the boy thinks of his father's suggestion and turns to the second item on the list. He asks, "Do you have a brother?" Again, the girl says "No" and there is silence once again.

The boy then plays his last card. He thinks of his father's advice and asks the girl the following question: "If you had a brother, would he like potato pancakes?"

Note: When I read this, I thought the punch line was "If you had a brother, would you like potato pancakes?" which, I feel, is even funnier.

And the second best:

An engineer, an experimental physicist, a theoretical physicist, and a philosopher were hiking through the hills of Scotland. Cresting the top of one hill, they see, on top of the next, a black sheep.

The engineer says: "What do you know, the sheep in Scotland are black."

"Well, *some* of the sheep in Scotland are black," replies the experimental physicist.

The theoretical physicist considers this for a moment and says "Well, at least one of the sheep in Scotland is black."

"Well," the philosopher responds, "on one side, anyway."

This last one reminds me of my favorite joke:

An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician (or linguist) are staying in a hotel for a convention. The hotel catches on fire. The engineer wakes up, calculates the time it would take for the building's structure to fail, sets his alarm, goes back to sleep and wakes up in time to get out of the building. The physicist wakes up, calculates the time it will take for the smoke to fill up the room and choke him to death, sets his alarm and goes back to sleep. He wakes up in time to flee the building. The mathematician wakes up, sees that there is a solution and goes back to sleep.

Another one of my favorites. The can opener joke. Suitable for mathematician, philosophers and theoretical linguists: ;-)

An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are stranded on a deserted island without food except a create of baked beans. The engineer grabs a can and says, "I'll save us!" He rigs a lever to lift a heavy rock and drops it on the can of beans. The can bursts open spilling most of the beans on the sand, getting metal shards in the rest of the beans.

The physicist scornfully laughs and says, "I'll save us." He builds a big fire and roasts the can over the fire causing the contents to expand blowing the top off the can, spilling some on the ground and charring the rest.

The mathematician calmly takes a can of beans, walks into the forest and a half hour later returns with it open.

The other two are amazed. "How did you do that?," they ask.

"First of all," says the mathematician, "assume a can opener."



Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

For those of you that care, this is what I sent Yehouda. I CC'ed my old friend, Bernie Baars and my brother Randy to see their opinion.

Hello Yehouda,


OK, I give. Neurons can't implement symbolic systems but that doesn't mean that our models, see LaPolla, M.V., Baars, B.J. A psychologically implausible architecture that is always conscious, always active. BBS 1992 15 (3): 448-449, for example, is implementing brain behavior solely but rather whole mind behavior, which, as you have noted, "the person as a whole is different qualitatively from the components of the brain, by two fundamental properties (at least)." And then you list them.

Neurons may be stochastic in nature, I wouldn't disagree with that, but that doesn't mean that they aren't the basis for a symbolic system, as you point out. So, symbolic systems model the behavior of the whole person and not just of the brain. This means that it's a step backwards for neurobiology but a step forward for psychology.

Interesting article. Now you need to propose a model. Connectionist without back prop that actually works in real time? Genetic? What would you now use to describe either the mind, that is, the behavior of the whole person, as opposed to the brain, or to model just the brain? Obviously, the brain is its own model and the only reason we would want to model it ourselves would be to better understand its behavior. This means our models have to be greatly reduced in complexity since we don't understand the brain right now.

So one of my questions would be, would the brain be able to function without a hook up to the peripheral systems? That is, would there be a symbolic mind without the sensory systems? You imply no. Even though you say "We don't know much about the details of this system, but we know it works." Which to me says that you are implying no, without these extra brain systems, the brain could not implement symbolic systems. You have spent the rest of your paper showing that this is probably the case.

My next question is, for psychology and philosophy and computer science, is it even relevant to implement a model of the brain without these peripheral systems? I'd say no. Psychology does not deal with the brain but the whole person. Or as you put it, "Since components of the brain do not have sensory input and the learning capabilities of the whole person, there are many tasks that the whole person can do that components cannot do. Thus, that the person can perform some task (e.g. written communication, symbolic operations) does not prove that components of the brain can do it."

However, I would want to see this model of the brain that does not rely on symbols because it might provide insight into our behavior. Or it might not. However, I'm interested.

Thanks for an interesting read,

Mark LaPolla
Life By Chocolate
PO Box 659
Greenville, NY 12083
518 966 5219

September 13, 2008 at 11:33 AM  

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