Modeling the Brain

At least two, possibly three, future posts will make reference to this model of the brain:

2012-07-15 20:24ZCanvas 1Layer 1AutonomousIntrospectionGoalFormationGoalAttainment

The "autonomous" section is concerned with the functions of the brain that operate apart from conscious awareness or control. It will receive no more mention.

The "introspection" division monitors the goal processing portion. It is able to monitor and describe what the goal processing section is doing. The ability to introspect the goal processing unit is what gives us our "knowledge of good and evil."
See What Really Happened In Eden, which builds on The Mechanism of Morality. I find it interesting that recent studies in neuroscience show:


But here is where things get interesting. The subjects were not necessarily consciously aware of their decision until they were about to move, but the cortex showing they were planning to move became activated a full 7 seconds prior to the movement. This supports prior research that suggests there is an unconscious phase of decision-making. In fact many decisions may be made subconsciously and then presented to the conscious bits of our brains. To us it seems as if we made the decision, but the decision was really made for us subconsciously.


The goal processing division is divided into two opposing parts. In order to survive, our biology demands that we reproduce, and reproduction requires food and shelter, among other things. We generally make choices that allow our biology to function. So part of our brain is concerned with selecting and achieving goals. But the other part of our brain is based on McCarthy's insight that one of the requirements for a human-level artificial intelligence is that "All aspects of behavior except the most routine should be improvable. In particular, the improving mechanism should be improvable." I suspect McCarthy was thinking along the lines of Getting Computers to Learn. However, I think it goes far beyond this and explains much about the human mind. In particular, introspection of the drive to improve leads to the idea that nothing is what it ought to be and gives rise to the is-ought problem. If one part of the goal processing unit is focused on achieving goals, this part is concerned with focused on creating new goals. As the arrows in the diagram show, if one unit focuses toward specific goals, the other unit focuses away from specific goals. Note that no two brains are the same -- individuals have different wiring. In some, the goal fixation process will be stronger; in other, the goal creation process will be stronger. One leads to the dreamer, the other leads to the drudge. Our minds are in dynamic tension.

Note that the goal formation portion of our brains, the unit that wants to "jump outside the system" is a
necessary component of our intelligence.

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Sproul and Bradbury on Hedonism

After reading The Consequences of Ideas by R. C. Sproul, in remembrance of the recent passing of Ray Bradbury, I read Dandelion Wine.

Concerning hedonism, Sproul wrote:

Epicureans sought to escape the “hedonistic paradox”: The pursuit of pleasure alone ends in either frustration (if the pursuit fails) or boredom (if it succeeds). Both frustration and boredom are kinds of pain, the antithesis of pleasure.

I noticed the same idea in Dandelion Wine. Leo Auffmann succeeds in building a "happiness machine," but it ultimately fails in delivering on it's promise. Leo's wife, Lena, observes the same paradox of hedonism:

  "Leo, the mistake you made is you forgot some hour, some day, we all got to climb out of that thing and go back to dirty dishes and the beds not made. While you're in that thing, sure, a sunset lasts forever almost, the air smells good, the temperature is fine. All the things you want to last, last. But outside, the children wait on lunch, the clothes need buttons. And then let's be frank, Leo, how long can you look at a sunset? Who wants a sunset to last? Who wants perfect temperature? Who wants air smelling good always? So after awhile, who would notice? Better, for a minute or two, a sunset. After that, let's have something else. People are like that, Leo. How could you forget?"
  "Did I?"
  "Sunsets we always liked because they only happen once and go away."
  "But Lena, that's sad."
  "No, if the sunset stayed and we got bored, that would be a real sadness. So two things you did you should never had. You made quick things go slow and stay around. You brought things faraway to our backyard where they don't belong, but they just tell you, 'No, you'll never travel, Lena Auffmann, Paris you'll never see! Rome you'll
never visit.' But I always knew that, so why tell me? Better forget and make do, we'll make do, eh?"
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