Thursday, September 18, 2008

Association and Logic

Some thoughts: Visual and auditory systems came first in humans, much before language. The ability to gather information about the environment and to react to or act on it was something humans could do long before they could speak, just as animals do now. I started thinking about a multi-stage process with respect to the evolution of cognition and how information might be organized and accessed in the human mind.

If we imagine there are pools of information mapped in the mind of a human, gleaned from perceptual experience (perhaps based on Gestalt Principles of Perception) -- a collection of images and sounds, and then we introduce verbal language with syntactic structure, we can begin to imagine how structure and rules might be applied to enforce a layer of organization on top of (or virtually onto) all the pools or clusters of information recorded in the mind of a human.

The raw data 'objects' are the visual images and verbal components that are organized locally or by association, based on similarity, proximity, good continuity, etc. It's like a big clustered database, a cloud.

Manipulation of these information objects can be achieved in a more sophisticated fashion by applying syntactic rules. Language is linear and directional. I --> go --> there. I --> give --> you --> food. It identifies a subject (me), an action, and a place (in the first example). It identifies a subject (me), an action, another subject (you) and another object (food), in the second example.

I think human logic may have arrived with the dawn of verbal language ability. The principles of linguistics may act to order and structure associated information, if desired, into a logical form. By 'logic', I mean causal, or propositional. If -- > then. With logic, there is also a concept of cause and effect, and time.

In summary, this would mean that information in the mind is initially grouped based on Gestalt Principles. It is associatively mapped and looks like a big cloud, or a collection of information molecules (where the nucleus is the concept and the atoms are attributes). The database of information is grouped based on shared attributes (colour, shape, size, behaviour, proximity in time). Then logical rules are applied across the associated categories, which can manipulate and change the shape of the information, to organize it in different ways.

But where do the patterns come in to play? This is the question. Are the pattern frameworks below the level of the logical rules? Do we average information into pattern structures?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mind is Literally Life-like

I came across this great quote from Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor of philosophy at Harvard:

"Life and mind have a common abstract pattern or set of basic organizational properties. The functional properties characteristic of mind are an enriched version of the functional properties that are fundamental to life in general. Mind is literally life-like."

Godfrey-Smith, P. (1996)
Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

In other words, if we could ascertain the organization properties of nature, we could perhaps also apply these to cognition. While I want to investigate further 'environmental complexity theory', the issue for me is that of course the mind evolved in response to a complex environment, and that the environment has helped to shape it, but this doesn't really explain the unique qualities of the human mind. Animal minds, too, evolved in response to a complex environment, and yet animals don't (to our knowledge) share our language, memory and predictive abilities. So there must be more to this story. I suppose I'm more interested in determining HOW our minds are organized, their intrinsic structures, rather than finding out WHY they evolved at all. Asking WHY we have minds is something else entirely.

Another quote I've always loved is from Back to Methuselah, by George Bernard Shaw (which I first read in 1983):

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. "

George Bernard Shaw Irish dramatist & socialist (1856 - 1950)

This quote eludes to Lamarckian theory
1. Evolution can occur as a consequence of the 'inheritance of acquired characteristics'
2. A property of life is that it generates increases in the complexity of organization

Searching on 'self-organizing complex systems in nature' returned something to the effect that such a system would be non-linear with a stochastic driver (fractal statistics, chaotic behavior, localized, bottom-up, additive, cumulative -- makes me think about ant-behaviour; communication only with your nearest neighbour).