Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cognitive Paradigms

Science is an epistemic technology (not the only one) that allows us to successfully interact with the world. The real issue is what counts as success? Explanation, prediction, control… these could all be part of a successful paradigm. Is simplicity part of the epistemic paradigm? The real reason today we prefer Copernican to Ptolemaic astronomy is that the former makes physical sense because it accommodates gravitational theory. ( Was either a scientific theory? Or where they mathematical or kinematic descriptions only?)

The paradigm for serious science today is mathematical system analysis. It looks as though in the future, really smart things are going to do computational multiphysics and related activities (computational chemistry and biology), to really figure out the external world. But is this the only way- the paradigm of laws, principles, relations and occasionally (only ) heuristics? Can an intelligent system with enough information gathering power, enough memory, enough experience and sensory sensitivity (resolving power?) work on a different paradigm? Can it be intelligent if it only knows that the current situation is like a previous situation and that thus that the future course of the system is likely to be the same?

Really smart things (RSTs), as the future looks now, will be doing simultaneous ( to save time) multiphysics simulations which interact or are combined under or during conditions of peripheral contact or engagement. In other words, they won’t calculate the whole world or even large pieces of it but rather they will work on different relevant sections at the same time and then integrate these pieces of the puzzle. A key problem here is this little word “relevant”. How do the RSTs know what’s relevant? (Think about climate models. City in an earthquake might be the paradigmatic case here).

We know more or less how computational RSTs work, some thing close is around today. Are there any other kind of RSTs?

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Can human psychology be derived from or modeled on a more general theory, a generic theory of agency ( as a derived or normative version of the current concept)? Such a theory would serve as a template or organizational structure for psychological data or sub-theories. But what does a theory of agency look like?. It would have to be a theory of functions and functional relationships rather than a theory of structures or components that support these functions. It is about a defined class of entities, the chief questions concerning which are the defining elements and identifying members of the defined class.

Among the defining functions that would have to be explained are a capacity for action or effect, such as by generating or at least relaying information, information sensitivity and information processing and a cognitive or “intelligent” element. Normative or control elements combined with a motivational or cybernetic modulator elements area also necessary. Roughly, agents are multi-cellular animals or higher up the food chain. Immediately a problem: While the capacity for action or influencing the external world are necessary for agency, this mechanism for doing so has no theoretical importance, could be musculature, hydraulics, pneumatics, electro-mechanical etc.

Maybe agency should be defined in terms of autonomy, of autonomous action, where again “action” may be defined in terms of information control.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Imagining Imagination

Why can’t I see clearly the eagle putt I made on the 2nd ? It was 12’-15’, I don’t keep my head down that long, I should have seen it. Sometimes I think I can see it, but I’m not sure. I can see the second green, I think I can see the putt, a right breaker to the front and on the front of the green. Do I have too many recollections of a putt like this? Why am I not sure that it was “the” putt and not all the putts like that one? Sometimes I imagine that I have this imagination- the recollection of seeing that particular putt, sometimes I’m not sure. I’m very sure of Tiger’s chip, of Seve’s 4 iron into the pond, of Gary Player’s 9 iron from 142 (?) but not my own shots. I can’t even see my own 8 iron hole in one although I can recall I think that the ball mysteriously disappeared on the green. ( I thought initially that it was over, I recall the puzzlement and confusion.) You would think that the emotional tags associated with important personnel events would make the recollection’s content more certain.

If memories were like computer files, each separate even if similar or identical, I should be able to distinguish them and recall them separately, especially if they are time stamped. But it .seems as though if there are potentially too many of a single or similar type we have trouble distinguishing between them. It’s the different content that separates and distinguishes them, which separates the recognition networks. Supports the notion that sensory memory is in the sensory cortex –neural reminiscence.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Visual Imagination

(The theory ((a theory?)) of IMPD is important because this will be the last refuge of serious mentalism (dualism). But the theory –I am the sensation; not I have the sensation- must accommodate other aspects of our mental life.)

I can imagine, “See in my head”, the 12th hole at Augusta National. I see the angled green, but I can’t quite make out its shape. I see the pot bunker on the short right side of the green, the longer bunker on the long left side of the green. As I think about it, I’m sure of the bunker long left, because the shot out of it is dangerous and might get wet (pond in front of the green). The right front bunker is less clear, this shot is easier but is the bunker really there? Tall trees and magnolias to the left, I can imagine nothing past the green on the right. I see the bridge on the left and the steep bank short of the green. I’ve never seen the green in person, but I’ve seen many images of it on TV in April, and I used to have a picture of the 12th in my computer.

How is this possible? Where is the neurological activity that supports this report, what are the driving functions? One would assume that the truly visual reporting aspects of the above recollection were driven by visual memory, by activity in 17, 18, 19 that mimicked the original visual experience. Probably the same networks that were activated during the original visual experiences. But is this enough? The visual recollection seems to have phenomenal aspects! It is something like seeing again but in a weaker, colorless manner. If the phenomenal, qualitative aspects of sensory experience are manifestation of sense organ operation and only exist there, how is imagination possible?

It may be that the description of the 12th was driven by something I’ve heard; certainly I’ve heard about everything I think I recall seeing above. Certainly the identification of the flowers as magnolias is a recollection driven by auditory memory, I can’t tell magnolias from other kinds of flowers on TV, probably not in vivo either. But I am aware of this, I know that I don’t recall seeing magnolias, only seeing flowers and knowing that they are magnolias.

I can see that dangerous shot out of the left rear bunker, I see it from the right rear of the green ( camera position), looking parallel to the line of play to a pin in the right front of the green- the Sunday pin position. I’ve never heard it described like this before, I see it.

I see Tiger’s fist pump after he holed the chip shot on the 16th , I can see Steve Williams holding the pin in his left hand (?), behind Tiger on the left side of the green. Tiger seems to be in black, is this a color recollection or something else? Tiger was probably wearing red. A mistaken visual recollection, but not a hallucination. I’m not sure if this is the fist pump at that time or another one, maybe even a composite. I can even see the arc of the ball, I think I can see the ball hang up on the lip momentarily. Do I really see movies, or just a succession of stills?

Could this be only the activity of complex or hyper-complex cells higher up in the higher levels of the visual system? This is information processing, processing of the phenomenal aspects. Can it contain them in some sense or another? How far back does the retrograde activity go? Can the cortex excite retinal cells? I have visual and auditory sensory recollection, none for the other senses. Why?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The “Game” of Poker

Solitaire is a card game, poker is a card game. But while I play solitaire to kill time, poker is frequently played to make money. Serious poker is hard work, even if it is played for fun. And serious poker is basically boring, a serious player may not voluntarily play a single hand in an hour. Can games be generally boring? If I play a boring game, I must be doing it for something other than entertainment. Is it still a game?

In the $1000 -$2000 hold’em game the other night there were 4 players playing at 2 different tables at the same time with about $900,000 on the tables. The average pot was $10,000. This is (only) a “game”? How would we decide?

The buy in was $40,000, but you probably need $100, 000 the way they were playing – quickly and fast. ( Quick = speed of play. Fast = Amount bet in each hand.) Even if these are trivial amount of money for some people, was this a game? Nobody is too amused when loosing $ 50,000, in the space of a few minutes, regardless of how rich they are. Rich action players do it for excitement, pros do it for money. Are they doing the same thing? Are they both playing a game?

The rules are the same regardless of whether your playing for play chips or real money. Does this make it a game? Hypothesis: Games are rule governed activities engaged in for amusement. (The dictionary thinks competition is involved, but clearly not. ) Children’s play games may have no rules, but must have goals. (?) Revision : Amusing activities with defined goals or end states.

Play chip poker can be semi –serious, we try to acquire play chips, build our stacks. Is acquisition the essential feature of the “game “ of poker? Yes, but this essential feature doesn’t make it a game- other activities are similar, e.g., investing to make money. None of the essential defining features of the poker playing activity make a game, gaming is a matter of attitude, of reasons for engaging in the activity, for “playing” instead of some other type of doing.

If this is correct, how does his become manifest or defining in the English word “game”? Did some members of the English speaking community look at every “game” or putative or potential game and apply these presumed criteria? Did these fathers of the word “game” assess or deduce the mental states of all past players to determine that their motives were as prescribed by the concept in question?

Learning a language is not a conscious, rational activity. Neither is talking generally very reflective or analytical. “Game “ has many driving functions as do most words, the connections between them are tenuous and historical, not principally cognitive.

Language Acquisition as Indoctrination

Much of our conceptual schema is inherited when we learn a language and thus historical in origin. If asked to give a list of games, I might include baseball. But I never decided nor even seriously considered the question of the “gameiness” of baseball. I heard the term ”baseball game” or the phrase “game of baseball” and just went along with it. How much of our categorical or classification language is like this? How many factual or value judgments are inherited in language acquisition?

The mistake here is to think that the “referents of universal terms” are arrived at individually, each speaker decides on his or her own, by their own cognitive acts.. I didn’t decide on my list of games, I didn’t deliberate on the question of whether or not baseball, football, tennis , golf etc., were games or not, the view was inherited, socially inculcated. I might think about the classifications, and change my mind, but generally I do not. I do not judge, I acquiesce to historical precedent..

Is darts a sport or a game? The question of “sport” is more difficult than the question of “game”. Sport seems to inherently involves physical activity in the outcome, the quality or nature of the physical activity is the deciding factor or at least important. Darts is then a sport, although this sounds a little funny.

So you think "game" is an easy word?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Epistemic Terms

“ The mind taking notice of its own operations…” (Hume?) The brain creates driving functions related to transient operational states and other aspects of its own operations –what are they?

The other problematic terms of epistemology: Truth, knowledge, explanation….are themselves nothing but concepts, i.e., words, i.e., noises or marks on paper with their own driving functions. An information based epistemology tells us what driving function they can have, limits due to inherent nature of our neurological machinery.. The philosophical question then becomes not what truth or knowledge is, but what it should be given the possibilities of our cognitive machinery. Not definition but selection among well defined and determined possibilities with a well developed cognitive psychology