Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final two lectures

Lecture 10
Before we summarize the vista afforded by this course, we need to visit two cognitive theories of mind, those of Jean Piaget and Jerry Fodor.

Piaget is perhaps wrong in all his findings, but he asked critical questions about how the development of knowledge informs us about the nature of knowledge. We are after all primates who think they originated in a Savannah; how is it we know about Quantum mechanics, the structure of the cosmos and so on?

While Piaget makes a valiant attempt to root knowledge in biology, Jerry Fodor is more in line with Noe et al by speaking in a mechanistic way about “modules” whose ensemble functioning are in some sense the mind.

Lecture 11
We end this course as we started it; with speculation about the nature of consciousness, and how this relates to the historical search for our own true nature.

First of all, there is a classic split often construed as between the left hemisphere “analytical” and right hemisphere “intuitive”. Perhaps of more interest is the extent to which we confabulate. In fact, conscious events occur much more slowly than neural process in general, and we are getting just a sketchy sample.

Several explanatory frameworks are then explored, including that of LaBerge. We end by looking at what we've learned about ourselves from this course; how will, self, and consciousness are interrelated

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lecture 9

We now come to one of the most complex lectures stressing this part of the syllabus;

“The interaction of spatial and temporal codes. Topographic maps that go point-to-point into higher-level maps and retinotopic mapping  from the retina to LGN, from there to V1, and in the other "V areas" up to IT.  How do these spatial maps interact with spectral codes of Karl Pribram?

  Multimodal mapping. Spatial location and information integration. What other binding mechanisms are there, for example in Martin's LIMSI work? ;Filling ; mechanisms and change blindness”

These topics require an introduction to non-Euclidean geometries and the higher-order tensors that reflect them. We then proceed to issues relating to maps in the brain, starting from the simplest case, and binding.  
The lecture proceeds to distinguish conscious versus unconscious processing. It may be the case that the latter is due to sampling limitations as well as other neural damage. Blindsight is a cogent topic here.

The idea that consciousness is related to gamma synchrony is compatible with the notion that it is a “blackboard system”

This is the longest and central lecture and needs a lot of attention and  - well. Consciousness!

Please use these resources;
Most recent resource

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lecture 8

We continue with the work of Noe and his colleagues before progressing on to Ramachandran and others in this lecture;

The first point is about synestheia, the attested ability to “see” odours, “smell” colours” and so on. Can Noe and his colleagues handle this? In any case, Noe et al press their attack on NCC's – and by implication on much consciousness “research” - by arguing that the situation is infinitely more complex than the “hard problem” scenario we have considered. In a rather Gothic experiment, a ferret's brain was cross-wired to show what they call “intermodal deference” (Since I recorded these lectures in 2009, my enunciated skepticism about the stats involved have been amply confirmed by Vul et alia as 2010 paper originally titled “Voodoo correlation...” and the ethics are suspect in the extreme)

However, Noe et al have a critical point; there are explanation gaps wrt “intermodal deference” and “intramodal deference” as well as the “hard problem”.Working in the same paradigm as Noe et al, Ramachandran managed to attest a cure for “phantom limb” phenomena. The lecture ends with speculation about 2 data highways in the brain

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lectures 6 and 7; The noetic and the cognitive

This next lecture is covered in the final chapter of my "search for Mind" (2003)

You can find a previous take on the ideas here;

Seán Ó Nualláin: Some Consequences of Current Scientific Treatments of Consciousness and Selfhood. AI Soc. 8(4): 305-314 (1994)

The first issue in lecture 7 is that of methodology. It is my view that the focus on the so-called “hard problem” has retarded our area. This works on the assumption that “consciousness” will somehow yield itself to study when proper attention is paid to phenomenology and its interaction with the neural data. This statement is either wrong or trivial; I have a forthcoming paper in “New ideas in  Psychology” called “”The noetic and the cognitive”

The lecture focuses on a set of sophisticated replies. The most impressive is that of Alva Noe and his colleagues. For them , there is no problem of “consciousness”; there is a set of expectations lined up in the loop that Freeman identifies as “preafference”. The differential fulfillment of these expectations is what constitutes our experience. Yet this work really addresses only the sensorimotor level, and does not handle our symbolic and advanced social behaviour.

Sue Hurley and others work informatively on change “blindness” which, along with our continual narrations to ourselves, give us the impression of having much richer experience of the world than we actually have. Block parses consciousness into a- and p- categories. This also works to some extent.

The question should be left open in your heads of whether we really can remain in the academy – and that's where we are in this class- and expect full solutions about “consciousness”.