Monday, December 10, 2012

Spaun brain activity and decoding for sample tasks - YouTube

Spaun brain activity and decoding for sample tasks - YouTube

From Science (

A Large-Scale Model of the Functioning Brain

Eliasmith et al
A central challenge for cognitive and systems neuroscience is to relate the incredibly complex behavior of animals to the equally complex activity of their brains. Recently described, large-scale neural models have not bridged this gap between neural activity and biological function. In this work, we present a 2.5-million-neuron model of the brain (called “Spaun”) that bridges this gap by exhibiting many different behaviors. The model is presented only with visual image sequences, and it draws all of its responses with a physically modeled arm. Although simplified, the model captures many aspects of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and psychological behavior, which we demonstrate via eight diverse tasks.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong - The Atlantic

In May of last year, during the 150th anniversary of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a symposium on "Brains, Minds and Machines" took place, where leading computer scientists, psychologists and neuroscientists gathered to discuss the past and future of artificial intelligence and its connection to the neurosciences.
The gathering was meant to inspire multidisciplinary enthusiasm for the revival of the scientific question from which the field of artificial intelligence originated: how does intelligence work? How does our brain give rise to our cognitive abilities, and could this ever be implemented in a machine? 
Noam Chomsky, speaking in the symposium, wasn't so enthused. Chomsky critiqued the field of AI for adopting an approach reminiscent of behaviorism, except in more modern, computationally sophisticated form. Chomsky argued that the field's heavy use of statistical techniques to pick regularities in masses of data is unlikely to yield the explanatory insight that science ought to offer. For Chomsky, the "new AI" -- focused on using statistical learning techniques to better mine and predict data -- is unlikely to yield general principles about the nature of intelligent beings or about cognition. 
This critique sparked an elaborate reply to Chomsky from Google's director of research and noted AI researcher, Peter Norvig, who defended the use of statistical models and argued that AI's new methods and definition of progress is not far off from what happens in the other sciences.

This Is Philosophy - The Books

This Is Philosophy - The Books:

This Is Philosophy: The Books
This Is Philosophy is just starting out as a series, and we will be adding new titles as time goes on.  For the time being, you can find more about the first book in the series, Steve Hales' This Is PhilosophyHERE, where you will find resources for the book that include a glossary of terms, vocabulary/concept comprehension self-assessment exercises, lecture slides, and instructor test banks, and links to primary sources discussed or referred to in the book.Books forthcoming in the series include This Is Philosophy of Mind (Pete Mandik, 2013); This Is Philosophy of Religion (Neil Manson); This Is Epistemology (Clayton Littlejohn); This Is Metaphysics (Kris Mcdaniel); and This Is Ethics (Jussi Suikkanen).We will continue to update the series and this website as more titles are planned and published!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Waking Life - Free will

A monologue from the movie Waking Life (2001) with philosopher David Sosa (UT Austin) speaking
ht: Thanks, Tad Zawidzki, for reminding me of this.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Conscious Entities: The Cambridge Declaration

At the Francis Crick Memorial Conference back in July the participants signed a Declaration (pdf) affirming that animals are conscious. The key passage reads:

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also
possess these neurological substrates.”

Christof Koch: Consciousness Is Everywhere

Christof Koch: Consciousness Is Everywhere:
I've been careful to stress that any network possesses integrated information. The theory is very explicit on this point: Any system whose functional connectivity and architecture yield a phi value greater than zero has at least a trifle of experience. This would certainly include the brains of bees. Just because bees are small and fuzzy does not mean that they cannot have subjective states. So, the next time a bee hovers above your breakfast, attracted by the golden nectar on your toast, gently shoo her away. She might be a fellow sentient being, experiencing her brief interlude in the light.

Friday, October 12, 2012

QualiaSoup videos on Substance Dualism

Youtuber QualiaSoup is a "UK artist and secular humanist discussing critical thinking, science, atheism, philosophy, religion & the natural world." Check out QualiaSoup's two-parter (pun?) on substance dualism.

Part 1 of 2:

Part 2 of 2:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Responsibility and Brains: Your Brain and You

Responsibility and Brains: Your Brain and You
I’ll add here a speculation on a mechanism by which citing brain facts may lead us to assign people less responsibility than we should. Many reports of brain facts emphasize the role of some part of the brain. But we do not think of people as their parts: Jones is not his insula or his amygdala, Smith is not her frontal lobes or her neurotransmitters. So, some reports of background conditions in terms of brain facts may lead us to think of actions as the result of people’s parts, and thus not as the actions of the whole person. A corrective to this kind of mistake is to bear in mind that our encouragements of good behavior and our threats of punishment are addressed to whole persons. Whole persons generally do know what is expected of them, and in most cases knowledge of these expectations offsets deficiencies that may occur in some of our parts. Our brains are organized systems, and the effects of their parts can become visible only when the whole system is mobilized toward carrying out an action.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book review: Giulio Tononi’s Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul | Minds and Brains

Integrated information measures how much can be distinguished by the whole above and beyond its parts, and [phi] is its symbol. A complex is where [phi] reaches its maximum, and therein lives one consciousness- a single entity of experience.

And with that Tononi hopes the “hard” problem of consciousness is solved. However, the intellectual weight of Phi rests on a thought experiment involving a photodiode. A photodiode discriminates between light and no light. But does the photodiode see the light? Does it experience the light? Most people would think no. But the photodiode does integrate information (1 bit to be precise) and therefore, according to the theory of integrated information, has some experience, however dim. The theory of integrated information is therefore a modern form of panpsychism based on the informational axiom of “it from bit”.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Humans are less human than we thought. | MetaFilter

Humans are less human than we thought. | MetaFilter:
Each of the Earth's 7 billion-plus human bodies contains about ten times more microorganism cells than human cells.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Inside the mind of the octopus | Orion Magazine

Inside the mind of the octopus | Orion Magazine:
Only recently have scientists accorded chimpanzees, so closely related to humans we can share blood transfusions, the dignity of having a mind. But now, increasingly, researchers who study octopuses are convinced that these boneless, alien animals—creatures whose ancestors diverged from the lineage that would lead to ours roughly 500 to 700 million years ago—have developed intelligence, emotions, and individual personalities. Their findings are challenging our understanding of consciousness itself.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Consciousness science and ethics: Abortion, animal rights, and vegetative-state debates. - Slate Magazine

Consciousness science and ethics: Abortion, animal rights, and vegetative-state debates. - Slate Magazine:
The most prominent scientific theories of consciousness are converging on the idea that it is related to a certain kind of information processing, in which multiple strands of data are drawn together, and that it is dependent on a certain kind of network architecture. Arguably the most popular theory along these lines, information integration theory by Giulio Tononi, effectively assumes that consciousness is a continuum across the animal kingdom. If so, even the lowly nematode worm, with a few hundred neurons, will have some, albeit minimal, level of consciousness. If something approximating this theory proves correct, it has huge implications for our relationship to all animals on the planet.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Correspondence between Descartes and Princess Elisabeth

The correspondence between RenĂ© Descartes and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, edited by Jonathan Bennett. One of the main things that Elisabeth famously gives Descartes a hard time about is the problem of mental causation.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Humans With Super Human Vision

The Humans With Super Human Vision
An unknown number of women may perceive 
millions of colors invisible to the rest of us. One British scientist is trying to track them down and understand their extraordinary power of sight.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Behaviorism, Philosophical Conceptions of.

Behaviorism, Philosophical Conceptions of. Mandik, P. (in press) In: Kaldis, B. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Why don't we normally hallucinate?

Why don't we normally hallucinate?
In the brain, the firing of a neuron can either encourage or prevent the firing of its connected neighbors, which means that neurons can act as both activators and inhibitors, making Turing patterns possible. In fact, the researchers suggest that if the visual cortex had a slightly different structure, the Turing mechanism would produce spontaneous neural patterns in it all the time, leading to permanent hallucinations. While this might be fun, it would barely let us see our surroundings. "There would be strong selection pressure against people who think they are seeing weird spiral patterns when in fact what is in front of their face is a hungry tiger!" explains Goldenfeld. Instead, the researchers posit that the topology of the visual cortex does not allow the "inhibitor" signals to travel long distances, which is a requirement for the Turing mechanism. This prevents the Turing mechanism from working properly, giving neurons uniform diffusion patterns rather than geometric Turing patterns. Without the Turing mechanism to create interfering neural excitation patterns, the dominant patterns will be based on external stimuli: namely, normal visual signals from the eyes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Iain McGilchrist: The divided brain

Video: Iain McGilchrist: The divided brain
In this new RSAnimate, renowned psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our 'divided brain' has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. Taken from a lecture given by Iain McGilchrist as part of the RSA's free public events programme.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Retro Thing: The Tinkertoy Computer

Retro Thing: The Tinkertoy Computer:
This brilliant Tinkertoy digital computer was built by a team of students at MIT in the 1980s. It's a marvel of mechanical design that apparently plays a "mean game of tic-tac-toe." The idea was born in 1975, when two Sophomores worked on a class project to build something digital from Tinkertoys. It took another few years before they collaborated over the phone to design a working machine for the Mid-America Science Museum:
"A Tinkertoy framework called the read head clicks and clacks its way down the front of the monolith At some point the clicking mysteriously stops; a "core piece" within the framework spins and then with a satisfying "'kathunk' indirectly kicks an 'output duck,' a bird-shaped construction. The output duck swings down from its perch so that its beak points at a number- which identifies the computer's next move in a game of tic-tac-toe."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Boston Review — Alex Byrne: Cheating Death

Boston Review — Alex Byrne: Cheating Death:
Star Trek–style teleportation may one day become a reality. You step into the transporter, which instantly scans your body and brain, vaporizing them in the process. The information is transmitted to Mars, where it is used by the receiving station to reconstitute your body and brain exactly as they were on Earth. You then step out of the receiving station, slightly dizzy, but pleased to arrive on Mars in a few minutes, as opposed to the year it takes by old-fashioned spacecraft.
But wait. Do you really step out of the receiving station on Mars? Someone just like you steps out, someone who apparently remembers stepping into the transporter on Earth a few minutes before. But perhaps this person is merely your replica—a kind of clone or copy. That would not make this person you: in Las Vegas there is a replica of the Eiffel Tower, but the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, not in Las Vegas. If the Eiffel Tower were vaporized and a replica instantly erected in Las Vegas, the Eiffel Tower would not have been transported to Las Vegas. It would have ceased to exist. And if teleportation were like that, stepping into the transporter would essentially be a covert way of committing suicide. Troubled by these thoughts, you now realize that “you” have been commuting back and forth to Mars for years . . .

What goes where after death

From SMBC: