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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Braaaaaaaaaaaaains! or How I Learned to Relax and The Remember that the Meta is Not Always Imaginary.

Braaaaaaaaaaaaains! or How I Learned to Relax and The Remember that the Meta is Not Always Imaginary.

Logic and language are not the same thing

It’s difficult for us to imagine what our mental lives would be like without language. Some theorists have even gone so far as to argue that language and logical thought are one and the same thing. A new brain imaging study challenges this notion by showing that logical inferences based on simple “not”, “or”, “if”, “then” terms activate a separate, though overlapping, network of brain regions compared with logical inferences based on grammatical judgements.

Martin Monti and colleagues scanned the brains of fifteen participants while they judged the accuracy of conclusions flowing from two kinds of logical argument. One kind was a more pure form of logic, such as “If both X and Z then not Y”, whilst the other kind was based on grammatical rules, such as “It was X that Y saw Z take”. The two types of inference were intended to be of comparable difficulty and to be equally valid (or invalid) but crucially only the grammatical version involved the interpretation of language-related roles such as “object” and “subject”.

Well, there goes my theory of symbiotic language virii that use humans as hosts and are the ‘source’ of our intelligence. A very neat.

Monti’s team said their findings were hard to reconcile “with the claim that language and logic are a unitary phenomenon”. Rather, they argued their results are consistent with language and logic being separate processes.

This will be in your psych 101 textbook next year.

Why Minds Are Not Like Computers

People who believe that the mind can be replicated on a computer tend to explain the mind in terms of a computer. When theorizing about the mind, especially to outsiders but also to one another, defenders of artificial intelligence (AI) often rely on computational concepts. They regularly describe the mind and brain as the “software and hardware” of thinking, the mind as a “pattern” and the brain as a “substrate,” senses as “inputs” and behaviors as “outputs,” neurons as “processing units” and synapses as “circuitry,” to give just a few common examples.

I don’t think they’re taking scale or complexity into consideration. Synapses don’t operate in a binary fashion and there are trillions of them in a human brain – computer processors only have a fraction of that.

Computers, then, have engineered layers of abstraction, each deriving its capabilities from joining together simpler instructions at a lower layer of abstraction. But each layer uses its own distinct concepts, and each layer is causally closed—meaning that it is possible to understand the behavior of one layer without recourse to the behavior of a higher or lower layer. For instance, think about your home or office computer. It has many abstraction layers, typically including (from highest to lowest): the user interface, a high-level programming language, a machine language running on the processor, the processor microarchitecture, Boolean logic gates, and transistors. Most computers will have many more layers than this, sitting between the ones listed. The higher and lower layers will likely be the most familiar to laymen: the user interface creates what you see on the screen when you interact with the computer, while Boolean logic gates and transistors give rise to the common description of the computer as “just ones and zeroes.”

The brain has more layers of abstraction and they probably aren’t mutually exclusive. But different areas of the brain are tuned to process specific things, and it operates in a very logical way. From the first article we can see that the prefrontal lobes handle logic, but language relies on other specific areas. When confronted with a grammar-logic problem, both areas are used.

I don’t have a link handy, but some scientists built a super-computer to simulate a single cortex of a rat’s brain. The thing is massive and uses a whole desktop cpu to simulate a single synapse. The brain is a computer, but on a much different scale. I think remembering the difference between a circle and a sphere is appropriate right now and remembering the adventures that took place in flatland (and flatterland) would be good.

Something tells me that the author of this article believes in dualism -that the brain and the mind are separate entities, which is a pleasant thought anyway.

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