On 7/24/2010 12:55 AM, Jason Resch wrote:
In the case of a digital camera, you could say the photodectors each map directly to memory locations and so they can be completely separated and their behavior remains the same. That isn't true with the Mar's rover, whose software must evaluate the pattern across the memory locations to identify and avoid objects. You cannot separate the mar's rover into components which that behave identically in isolation.

     Thank you for replying.

Doesn't the rover's software run on hardware that is functionally similar to the photodetectors, in that the memory locations could be separated yet still behave the same?

That quote reminds me of the Chinese Room thought experiment, in which a person is used as the machine to do the sequential processing by blindly following a large set of rules. I think a certain pattern of thinking about computers leads to this confusion. It is common to think of the CPU reading and acting upon one symbol at a time as the brains of the machine, at any one time we only see that CPU acting upon one symbol, so it seems like the it is performing operations on the data, but in reality the past data has in no small part led to this current state and position, in this sense the data is defining and controlling the operations performed upon itself.

For example, create a chain of cells in a spread sheet. Define B1 = A1*A1, C1 = B1 - A1, and D1 = B1+2*C1. Now when you put data in cell A1, the computation is performed and carried through a range of different memory locations (positions on the tape), the CPU at no one time performs the computation to get from the input (A1) to the output (D1), instead it performs a chain of intermediate computations and goes through a chain of states, with intermediate states determining the final state. To determine the future evolution of the of the system (The Machine and the Tape) the entire system has to be considered. Just as in the Chinese room thought experiment, it is not the human following the rulebook which creates the conscious, but the system as a whole (all the rules of processing together with the one who follows the rules).

I'm sure I have confused patterns of thinking where computers are concerned. I haven't spent very much time with the Chinese Room thought experiment, either. I followed your instructions, with the spread sheet. Still, I don't understand how this can explain consciousness.

Forgive me for my lack of knowledge in the subject, but what is it that neurons in the corticothalamic area of the brain that is different from what other neurons do or can do?

I apologize, I really should have explained this in post you've quoted from. Reading it back to myself now, it seems out of context. The mention of it again comes from my understanding of Tononi's work. I have a very brief overview of the thalamocortical region, which I believe applies just as well (For illustrative purposes) to the corticothalamic system. (I think the term "thalamo-cortico-thalamic system" refers to both as a single entity.)

   "There are hundreds of functionally specialized thalamocortical
   areas, each containing tens of thousands of neuronal groups, some
   dealing with responses to stimuli and others with planning and
   execution of action, some dealing with visual and others with
   acoustic stimuli, some dealing with details of the input and others
   with its invariant or abstract properties.  These millions of
   neuronal groups are linked by a huge set of convergent or divergent,
   reciprocally organized connections that make them all hang together
   in a single, tight meshwork while they still maintain their local
   functional specificity.  The result is a three-dimensional tangle
   that appears to warrant at least the following statement: Any
   perturbation in one part of the meshwork may be felt rapidly
   everywhere else.  Altogether, the organization of the
   thalamocortical meshwork seems remarkably suited to integrating a
   large number of specialists into a unified response." (From the book
   "A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination"
   written by Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi.)

The important aspect of this, from my perspective with IIT in mind, is that it produces a great deal of what Tononi calls effective information, measured with the Kullback-Leibler divergence. If you haven't read Tononi's work, I think this sums up that part I'm referring to very well:

   "Informally speaking, the integrated information owned by a system
   in a given state can be described as the information (in the
   Theory of Information sense) generated by a system in the transition
   from one given state to the next one as a consequence of the causal
   interaction of its parts above and beyond the sum of information
   generated independently by each of its parts." (Alessandro Epasto,
   Enrico Nardelli 2010 - "On a Model for Integrated Information")

An example (A very good example, I think.) can be found in both of the articles which I linked a the bottom of my original post, found in the sections "A Mathematical Analysis" --> "Integration" or "Model" --> "Integration", respectively.

Do you consider a neuron receiving input from several other neurons as integrating information? Computers have an analogous behavior where the result of a memory location is determined by multiple other (input) memory locations. I am very familiar with Tononi's definition of information integration, but if it is something that neurons do it is certainly something computers can do as well.

I've taken this question out of the order you posted it, because I believe the quote above (From Epasto and Nardelli) is relevant. I do not believe your neuron example would be considered integrated information, because a single neuron receiving the input of several neurons doesn't necessarily generate information beyond the input itself. What I mean is, it doesn't generate information from "causal interaction of its parts". I'm really just thinking about Tononi's photodiode example, and I don't think the neuron example is an analogous process.


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