Alpha's Manifesto

A black and white figure's thought-hive

The Creation of a Conscious Machine

La destrucción de una buena idea

The Creation of a Conscious Machine Book Cover

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The Creation of a Conscious Machine – Definition of a Sentient Artifact es un libro publicado por J. E. Tardy que se propone explicar la teoría detrás del proyecto Meca Sapiens. Este proyecto busca la formalización de conceptos como conciencia propia, inteligencia, ser propio y demás similares, con una aproximación casi matemática, que permitirá implementar sistemas que cumplan con estas especificaciones. De esta forma, aclara, se logrará aquello que hace mucho tiempo se está escapando de las manos de las ciencias.

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The Emotion Machine

I have finally finished reading Marvin Minsky‘s The Emotion Machine. As I read the different chapters, I had written some reviews about it ([1][2]), but I decided not to do that anymore as I was missing the point of the book into the details. My assumption was correct: the final chapters do provide some sort of global vision of the rest of the book that explains the whole theory and provides a good wrap-up of Minsky’s theory.

In short, my previous reviews and summaries are still valid, but what’s new is, in laymans terms, that being a difference-identification machine, the mind analyzes itself and detects internal changes so that it can react based on its own approaches, and that gives us the ability of changing strategies when solving problems, of analyzing things in different aspects (Minsky calls them “levels”) and knowing at the same time how to work with itself. The model sounds very consistent, and regardless of the original statements, it does seem like a simple model of the mind that allows to explain its complexities.

I do see, however, certain points that were not covered in the book and would have been very enlightening. But it probably is my fault, as I have read Minsky’s draft on his page and not the actual published, revised and edited book. I’ll try to avoid reading drafts in the future, as you can really tell that there’s content missing or further explanations that will be missing from these unfinished versions. On this particular example, I would have wanted to see how Minsky’s theory explains what other psychology theories can explain, and be the explanation that no other theories could give. I could only find some references to Freud and the Self on the last chapters, and Jung on the first ones.

Also, I saw that the evolutionary arguments for explaining that the brain has developed in the way that it is right now were quite weak. I can’t really argue against them as I’m not biologist nor close to one at all, but I haven’t read in there any real good explanation of how brains evolved and to assume that they just did is not a proof to the theory, but part of the theory itself. In such a way, I don’t feel disbelieve in it, but I think it should be polished a little more. I wonder if further editions of the book (or maybe other Minsky’s books) do contain the necessary background to cover all of my doubts. I guess I’ll have to find out. ;)

As a general reading, I liked the way Minsky used to introduce several points of view and dialogues in the explanations itself. It seems that he could be actually having a dialogue with the reader, and in such a way, it was really easy to follow and natural to understand. The end of the book needed some more revisions as it was clearly unfinished and with Minsky’s personal notes, but that’s what I get for reading a draft.

I really look forward to read more of the Society of Mind saga.

La máquina de emociones – Capítulo 4: Conciencia

Continuando con mi lectura del libro de Minsky, el capítulo 4 se titula “Conciencia”, y definitivamente trata sobre eso.

La primera sección del capítulo intenta definir lo que la conciencia es, por supuesto, fallando por el hecho de que “conciencia” no es más que una palabra describiendo algo que somos capaces de percibir. Al igual que nuestra mente, no puede ser lo suficientemente simple como para ser definidia por solo una palabra (o solo un proceso), de modo que Minsky deduce que la conciencia es de hecho la interacción de diferentes recursos mentales. Él propone la idea de que nuestras mentes tienen un detector de conciencia que se activa cuando ciertos recursos están involucrados o activados. En esta idea podemos explicar comportamientos complejos inconscientes a la vez de comportamientos simples conscientes (y por supuesto, los opuestos también.)

Consciousness Detector (Minsky)Minsky también describe cómo las redes de conectividad o redes neurales no pueden describir completamente los secretos de nuestra conciencia, pero las redes semánticas sí. (¿Qué tan de acuerdo se encuentra esto con la neurobiología?) Esto se debe a que nuestros procesos de conciencia deben tener al menos cuatro características:

  • Memoria: necesitan involucrar la memoria debido a la ilusión de la inmanencia – la ilusión de que todo lo que percibimos, pensamos y sentimos está ocurriendo ahora mismo, y de que poseemos toda la información que podemos obtener de nuestros sentidos. Lo que pensamos no se debe a lo que está ocurriendo en este preciso momento, sino a lo que acabamos de ver o hacer.
  • Procesos seriales: parece que para procesos complejos o para procesos que requieran un recurso en específico, solamente podremos ejectuar una sola tarea a la vez, y esto explicaría conceptos como la “atención”.
  • Descripciones simbólicas: necesitamos construir modelos abstractos y representaciones semánticas de nuestros mundos y de nosotros mismos incluídos en él.
  • Modelos del propio-ser: también necesitamos una forma de modelarnos a nosotros mismos y poder predecir nuestras propias reacciones ante ciertas situaciones, en varios modelos (no sólo uno) de nosotros mismos.

Minsky también propone que existe otro detector que activaría ciertos recursos para hacernos concientes de un problema específico que debemos resolver cuando el comportamiento instinctivo no lo resolvería.

Luego trata sobre nuestra capacidad de reflexionar sobre nosotros mismos como si fueramos espectadores del Teatro Cartesiano, un concepto similar a la metáfora de Sócrates de la caverna y las sombras en la pared. Sin embargo, el teatro cartesiano es más una idea de Daniel Dennet, y podría ser descripta brevemente como si nuestra conciencia fuera un espectador en un espectáculo en donde diferentes partes de nosotros mismos son los actores.

Finalmente, Minsky explica la idea de cerebros reguladores y detectores. Estos cerebros podrían ser meta-mentes que interactúan como si el mundo exterior para ellas fuera la información que pueden obtener de nuestro cerebro real. Una especie de una mirada interior, que podría permitirnos alcanzar más planos abstractos fuera de la experiencia del mundo real.

Una cuestión curiosa es que Minsky explica que tenemos seis niveles de cerebros internos, lo que corresponde con los distintos niveles de conciencia que los humanos tienen: instinctos, deliberación, reflexión, reflexión del ser-propio, y reflexiones de la conciencia propia. No ha entrado en detalle sobre ninguno de ellos, pero realmente encuentro interesante el hecho de que ya he leído al respecto habiendo estudiado hace mucho Kabbalah y el Árbol de la Vida como un mapa para la mente humana, en donde los seis sephiroth inferiores (Yesod-Hesed) representarían seis niveles de conciencia huamana. Quizá sea solamente casualidad, pero intentaré volver a esto después en más detalle.

The Emotion Machine – Chapter 4: Consciousness

Going on with my reading of Minsky’s book, chapter 4 is titled “Consciousness” and it definitely treats about that.

The first section of the chapter tries to define what consciousness is, of course, failing as in fact “conscience” is nothing but a word that describes something that we are able to percieve. As our mind, it can’t be so simple as to define with just one word (or just one process) so Minsky states that consciousness may be in fact the interaction of different mind resources. He proposes the idea that our minds have a consciousness detector that is activated when certain resources are activated. In that idea we can explain for unconcious complex behavior and conscious simple behavior. (Of course, also the oposite.)

Consciousness Detector (Minsky)Minsky also describes how neural or connectivity networks cannot fully describe the secrets of counsciousness, but semantic networks can. (How aligned is this with neurobiology?) This is because our counsciousness process must have at least four characteristics:

  • Memory: they need to involve memory because of the Inmanence illusion – the illusion that everything we percieve, think and feel is happening right now, and that we have all information we can get from our senses. What we  think of is not because of what’s happening right now, but what we have just seen/done.
  • Serial processes: it seems that for complex processes, or processes that require a certain resource, we can only do one at once, and that would explain concepts like “attention”.
  • Symbolic descriptions: we need to build abstract models and semantic representations of our world and ourselves included in them.
  • Self-Models: we also need a way to model ourselves and predict our own reactions to certain situations, based on different models (not just one) of ourselves.

Minsky also proposes that there is another detector which would activate certain resources to make us conscious of a specific problem that we need to solve when instinctive behavior would not solve the problem.

Then he treats our self-reflection as if we were spectators of The Cartesian Theater, somewhat alike Socrate’s metaphor of the underground den and the shadows on the wall. However, cartesian theater idea is mostly from Daniel Dennett, and could be briefly described as if our conscience was a spectator in a show were different part of ourselves were the actors.

Finally, Minsky explains the idea of regulator and detector brains. This brains could be meta-minds that interact as if the outer world for them was the information they could get from our real brain. Some sort of an inside-looking, that could prove for more abstract plans rather than real world experience.

A curious thing is that Minsky describes that we’ve got six levels of inner-brains, which correspond to different consciousness levels that humans have: instinctiveness, learning, delibering, reflection, self-reflection and self-conscious reflections. He hasn’t gone further in detail about them, but I truly find it amusing that I already have read that when studying Kabbalah and the Tree of Life as a map to human mind, where the lesser six sephiroth (Yesod-Hesed) would represent six differents levels of human counciousness. Maybe was just chance, but I’ll try to get back to this later with further detail.