Sunday, March 04, 2007

the mind body problem

ASPECTS OF THE MIND BODY PROBLEM (the relationship between mind and the physical world, which has been thought about at least since the time of Plato ...)

I was thinking of trying to open up these questions for discussion at the TALO swap meet later this week. I put myself down to discuss, "What is knowing"? The format is informal, its an "unconference". I thought it would be best to raise a few "big questions" for discussion and just see what happens.

three contradictions:

1) difficult / easy contradiction

Hard problems are easy to solve and easy problems are hard to solve. It has been easier to get computers to play good chess and solve calculus problems than to build a robot to navigate a crowded room.

possible resolution: Evolutionary approach and situated / embodied AI

2) parallel / sequential contradiction

Our parallel processing pattern recognition brains have also somehow become competent, even excellent, at language based linear, sequential thinking

possible resolution: With the help of language have built a serial processing virtual machine on top of our parallel processing brains

3) meaning /materialism contradiction

"the brain is a meat machine" - Marvin Minsky

We are material beings who search for the meaning of life. Our brain is a meat machine and yet we have strong beliefs that make up our personality, the thing that sometimes seem most important to us

possible resolution: Dennett argues that it is legitimate to discuss in terms of the intentional stance, to assume for discussion purposes that we have beliefs, that we can think about our thinking etc. He elaborates more on the philosophical question of freedom in Freedom Evolves, but I haven't read enough of it to summarise

I have mainly been influence by these authors:
  • Daniel Dennett (philosopher) - more information at the behaviourism and consciousness pages of learning evolves wiki
  • Andy Clark (cognitive scientist) - more information at enactivism page of learning evolves wiki
  • Rodney Brooks (AI researcher) - more information at the AI_behaviour page of the learning evolves wiki


alexanderhayes said...

Great meeting with you Bill. Hopefully one day we'll meet face-to-face again and swat ed-teach anecdotes and further philisophical nuances.

Till then I'll keep speaking of what makes things tick in this side of the woods.

Bill Kerr said...

thnx alex

from both the TALO session and (earlier) the connectivism conference it became clear to me that people do want to talk about the big philosophical questions, such as what is knowing? or the mind / body problem

this despite the fact that such discussions tend to be half baked and sometimes go off on tangents, don't have definitive conclusions and usually raise more new questions

it's encouraging when people respond with curiosity and engagement to big questions such as the above