[ExI] Brain emulation, regions and AGI [WAS Re: Kelly's future]

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Wed Jun 1 19:52:27 UTC 2011

On Wed, Jun 1, 2011 at 8:59 AM, Richard Loosemore <rpwl at lightlink.com> wrote:
> Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> If I understand what you're saying, the cortex is structurally uniform
>> (other than perhaps connection patterns in the dendrites, which is
>> what I think you may be saying about within-column) but that different
>> functions somehow manage to navigate themselves into similar areas
>> across individuals. That's extremely interesting.
>> The cortex is just one brain area. If you look at the brain,
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Human_brain_left_dissected_midsagittal_view_description_2.JPG
>> it seems pretty clear that there are structures or regions that are
>> quite distinct. One would have to be crazy to assume that they did not
>> have distinct purposes.
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainstem
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Putamen
>> etc.
>> So, if I'm understanding right, what you are talking about is just in
>> the cortex, right?
> Yes.  As far as I can see, the cortex is where most of the higher-level
> action occurs, while the other stuff (admittedly, a lot of other stuff) is
> either specialized support machinery (e.g. hippocampus) or more primitive
> autonomic mechanisms.

I know the Limbic system (which is not in the cortex) is involved in
regulating emotion, but I'm not sure if it is the seat of emotion.
Given that, it seems probable that a purely cereberal cortex based AGI
would probably not be particularly human... at least from an emotional

>> That's extremely interesting. I've heard that the brain has three
>> overall structures, the reptile brain (roughly the brain stem), the
>> mammalian brain (cortex), and the distinctly human part of the brain
>> (neo cortex). Are you talking about the mammalian part, the human part
>> or both?
> I think the basic functionality is common to the mammals.  Quite what it is
> that we humans have that is extra, I am not sure:  it looks to me like a
> souped-up version of the same basic design.  So when I talk about the
> columns, I mean the cortex generally, rather than the neocortex in
> particular.

Ok. Maybe ours is just bigger? I dunno.

> It is worth me being balanced here and saying that not everyone accepts this
> type of interpretation.  Even the whole idea of columns is sometimes
> controversial.  For a perspective, see
> http://www.pnas.org/content/105/34/12099.full

Interesting article. Just proves how little we know at this point...

>> And would it not make sense that part of our thought processes take
>> place outside the cortex?
> Yes, that is true.  But it does depend on what you mean by thought process.
>  Example cases:  when people are overtaken by anger (or other overwhelming
> emotion) they are quite probably being driven by modules below the cortex.


>  Also, the state known to psychologists as "romantic love" is pretty much a
> state of total insanity controlled by some structures whose only purpose is
> to subvert the reasoning faculty and make the person becoming obsessed with
> a single other individual.  And so on.

But these processes ARE part of what make us human.

> Motor control, also, can be disturbingly autonomous.

Ah yes, I remember well that day in 5th grade when I peed my pants in class...

>>>> Aren't there fully functional computational models of parts of the
>>>> brain now? Aren't those models based on bottom up analysis, rather
>>>> than top down?
>>> There is a model of the cerebellum, but that really is a separate, fairly
>>> simple function.
>> Oh, I wish I understood more about all this.
> For the cerebellar model, you should grab Marr and Nishihara or Marr and
> Poggio (can't remember which it is).  From the point of view of a
> mathematician, it is very elegant.

I found some stuff on that, will read it.

>> Even if it is a cheat, it might be useful. Time will tell.
> I don't know.  Try to imagine that you were trying to understand how a
> complex floating-point math engine worked (silicon-chip level), and someone
> gave you a randomly wired network of transistors that had similar
> statistical activation patterns to the real thing.  To my mind, I don't
> think I could learn anything at all from that.  I think it might just
> confuse me and distract me from trying to understand the true functionality.

That is certainly a potential outcome. As long as some people are
working at the problem from the top down, I don't see how it hurts.

>> Kurzweil talks about areas of the auditory channel that have been
>> fully emulated, among others. Do you have any comment along those
>> lines?
> I don't know about that work, but the general rule is that if it is
> peripheral processing (input or ouput pathways) it is probably good science.

Yes, I've seen some good work related to the visual input pathways in cats...

>  So I would not be surprised if they had good models of that stuff.  The
> availability of meaningful signals coming in (or going out) means that it is
> easier to do a trace and understand the next few levels of processing of
> those signals.  The difficulty comes when you get deeper in ..... which
> means that success in projects like deciphering the auditory processing
> layers is not an immediate harbinger of success for more abstract stuff.

Absolutely. I hope we win though.

> What seems to happen is that the neuroscience folks get some success with
> the periphery processing, then they try to understand deeper structures and,
> lacking a fundamental grasp of the psychology, they seem to revert to the
> only kind of psychological theory that they can get their heads around in a
> hurry.  Which, alas, is the stimulus-response kind of theory .... aka
> behaviorism or conditioning.  This is sad, because there are good reasons
> why behaviorism was killed off as a viable approach to psychology, some
> fifty years ago.
> Pity you're not near upstate NY, because I am writing a brand new course on
> Neural Nets and Cognitive Systems, to be given at Wells College in the fall
> semester.  I'm going to be hitting them with as much state of the art as I
> can, so it should be fun.

Sounds like a blast. Have fun with it.


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