Craig, no one would ever claim that the brain is a perfectly discrete
system (at the neuronal level at least) such as the sort represented in
Boolean models. But continuous neural networks can still be modeled (with
varying degrees of error) by discrete ones, without much loss of insight.
(Researchers study both continuous and discrete networks all the time!)

Moreover, continuous functions can be represented in computers just like
discrete ones can, without even using rational approximations. For example,
sqrt(2) can be represented and manipulated as the number 2 with the square
root operation next to it, and not just as 1.414 (say).

You will soon learn not to take on faith everything you read in university
press releases, which are not different in kind from fast food
advertisements on TV :)

Also, modularity in this context does not refer to the discreteness of
neuron states, or synapse firing, etc., it rather refers to the (not total,
obviously) relative isolation of certain subsystems in performing certain
tasks.

On Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 9:00 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com>wrote:

> On Dec 22, 7:13 pm, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > This is because of the modularity of our brains:
> > Different sections of the brain perform specific functions.  Some neurons
> > may serve only as communication links between different regions in the
> > brain, while others may be involved in processing.  I think that the
> > malfunction and correction of a "communication neuron" might not alter
> > Alice's experience, in the same way we could correct a faulty signal in
> her
> > optic nerve and not expect her experience to be affected.  I am less
> sure,
> > however, that a neuron involved in processing could have its function
> > replaced by a randomly received particle, as this changes the definition
> of
> > the machine.
> >
> > Think of a register containing a bit '1'.  If the bit is '1' because two
> > inputs were received and the logical AND operation is applied, this is an
> > entirely different computation from two bits being ANDed, the result
> placed
> > in that register, then (regardless of the result) the bit '1' is set in
> > that register.  This erases any effect of the two input bits, and
> redefines
> > the computation altogether.  This 'set 1' instruction is much like the
> > received particles from the super nova causing neurons to fire.  It is a
> > very shallow computation, and in my opinion, not likely to lead to any
> > consciousness.
>
> This study suggests that the mind should not be modeled in that way:
> http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/June05/new.mind.model.ssl.html
>
> "For decades, the cognitive and neural sciences have treated mental
> processes as though they involved passing discrete packets of
> information in a strictly feed-forward fashion from one cognitive
> module to the next or in a string of individuated binary symbols --
> like a digital computer," said Spivey. "More recently, however, a
> growing number of studies, such as ours, support dynamical-systems
> approaches to the mind. In this model, perception and cognition are
> mathematically described as a continuous trajectory through a high-
> dimensional mental space; the neural activation patterns flow back and
> forth to produce nonlinear, self-organized, emergent properties --
> like a biological organism."
>
> Their findings support my view that consciousness is biological
> awareness, not modular computation.
>
> Craig
>
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-- 
Joseph Knight

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