[Paleopsych] Intelligent Bacteria
shovland at mindspring.com
Sat Apr 23 15:55:55 UTC 2005
I can't say why, but I am uncomfortable with trying
to use the neural net model to describe bacterial
I hope that the people doing this work will approach
the problem in a model-free state of mind, absorb the
information, and then generate a new purpose-built
model for this part of reality.
From: HowlBloom at aol.com [SMTP:HowlBloom at aol.com]
Sent: Friday, April 22, 2005 11:02 PM
To: paleopsych at paleopsych.org
Subject: Re: [Paleopsych] Intelligent Bacteria
Eshel--Thanks for the papers. And you're very, very right. You didn't get
the credit you deserve for your work, which in many ways is light years
beyond most of the research that's cited in the World Science article on
And, Todd, many thanks for posting the article. It supports the underlying
arguments of The Lucifer Principle and Global Brain--that all of us
individual social animals from bacteria to humans are modules in a collective
intelligence that follows the laws of a neural net.
The article you posted even supports the notion of "inner judges" and
"self-destruct mechanisms" when it says, "some network elements can boost the
strength of their own interactions." This vaguely implies that network elements
can also turn their strength down.
It's unfortunate that Jeff Hawkins' model of the way the brain works hasn't
been added to the concept of the neural net. Hawkins says that individual
modules and groupings of modules in a learning machine have to extract the
repeating patterns in their environment. They have to spot repeating themes,
repeating strings of signals that come in one note at a time like music.
Hawkins compares these temporal sequences, these strings of beads strung out on the
thread of time, to songs.
When a neuron or a neural grouping gets the hang of one of these songs, it
names that tune, sends the name upward to higher layers of cells, then watches
out for weirdness, for signs in the stream of inputs flowing past that hint
that the tune it called out was not the right one after all. As long as the
melody goes the way it should, the grouping of cells keeps quiet and lets
the higher layers of cortical cells go about their business, confident that
their inferiors have got a handle on the key facts of the moment.
When the tune shows signs that it's NOT the one the lower cells named, then
the mistaken cells send up distress signals and bring the higher cortical
elements in to help figure out just what tune it is. Once that puzzle is solved
and the tune has been properly re-identified, the higher level cells are
free to go about more lofty business--like thinking.
A practical example. You're laying in bed with the lights out and the
window open, pondering Descartes and Pascal. You know the room well, so there's
norhing going on to distract you. The closet door is slightly open. A gust
of wind slips comes through the window. You suddenly notice a really weird
shadow moving where the shadow of the closet door should be. But it looks
nothing at all like the proper shadow of a closet door. You're alarmed. You
drop your airy thinking and try to figure out just what in the world may be
intruding on you-- a break-in artist, a Munster, a monster, or any of a dozen
other frightening possibilities that flick through your brain. Your hair
stands up on the back of your neck. You are scared witless, but you force
yourself to go over to the closet door to check. It turns out that someone .left a
bathrobe on a hanger dangling from the top of the closet door and a bag
you've never seen before leaning against the door's edge. The bag and the
wind-swayed bathrobe have made the shadow of a very strange creature, of a bizarre
bigfoot or worse, of something you've never seen or even imagined before.
Now that you've named that tune (bag, bathrobe, wind, and door), the lower
levels of your cortex can go back to silently looking for other potential
oddities, leaving the upper layers of your cortex free to agonize over how
powerless mankind seems in the face of Pascal's immense, empty universe. And
other brain bits can try unsuccesfully to console you with the meager fact that
you think, therefore you am.
This picture, badly as I've put it, adds a bit more depth to the elements of
the neural net that were first explicated back in the 1980s, the model I've
used since 1986. Hawkins can upgrade your view of learning machines whether
you're using my quintet of learning machine elements or Klaas J.
Hellingwerf's quartet of properties of a neural net.
What I've left out is something Hawins mentions only in passing--lateral
inhibition, the competition that uptweaks some elements and down-tweaks others.
Lateral inhibition is important because it's one of the wrinkles of
Hawkins' system in which I suspect the inner judges and resource shifters--the
windfalls that hit those who've got a handle on the problem and the horrors that
descend on those who don't get it--are hidden.
My quintet of learning machine elements, by the way, is:
Hellingwerf's four elements of a neural net are:
multiple sub-systems that work in parallel.
components that carry out logical operations
auto-amplification (inner judges)
The odd thing is that these lists of characteristic are not mutually
exclusive, they're additive. Each grabs a handful of the skin of a very big
elephant. It's an elephant I suspect Eshel has often gotten both arms at least
half way around.
In a message dated 4/22/2005 7:13:27 P.M. Pacific Standard Time,
eshel at physics.ucsd.edu writes:
Hi to all,
The new paper in trends in microibiology is quite interesting but is limited
in scope (and references) it does not give a reference to our paper on
Bacterial intelligence published in Trends just 8 months ago. He also does
not give reference to any of Bassler papers.
Attached are both papers. All the best, Eshel
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core
Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society,
Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org;
executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see:
for two chapters from
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History,
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big
Bang to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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