Saturday, 23 May 2015

Chimpanzees choose the best tool for the job

chimp tool
A chimp carrying a rock.
I was most interested to see the paper When to choose which tool: multidimensional and conditional selection of nut-cracking hammers in wild chimpanzees by Giulia Sirianni, Roger Mundry, and Christophe Boesch which clearly demonstrates that chimpanzees and make some quite sophisticated decisions when choosing stones to use as hammers to crack open nuts.
  • Tool selection by wild chimpanzees was analysed, controlling for tool availability.
  • Chimpanzees select nut-cracking tools according to multiple physical properties.
  • Selection for weight depends on other tools' properties and on contextual variables.
  • Such a sophisticated selection implies quantitatively complex cognitive skills.
  • Adjustment of selection to forthcoming transport suggests planning of future actions.
Thanks to EvoAnth for the link.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A Breakthrough - CODIL and Superior Pattern Processing

I have just discovered the paper “Superior pattern processing is the essence of the evolved human brain” by Mark P. Mattson (Frontiers of Neuroscience, 2014; 8: 265 – online) and I am extremely excited because of the way it ties in with my own research. The abstract reads as follows:
Humans have long pondered the nature of their mind/brain and, particularly why its capacities for reasoning, communication and abstract thought are far superior to other species, including closely related anthropoids. This article considers superior pattern processing (SPP) as the fundamental basis of most, if not all, unique features of the human brain including intelligence, language, imagination, invention, and the belief in imaginary entities such as ghosts and gods. SPP involves the electrochemical, neuronal network-based, encoding, integration, and transfer to other individuals of perceived or mentally-fabricated patterns. During human evolution, pattern processing capabilities became increasingly sophisticated as the result of expansion of the cerebral cortex, particularly the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in processing of images. Specific patterns, real or imagined, are reinforced by emotional experiences, indoctrination and even psychedelic drugs. Impaired or dysregulated SPP is fundamental to cognitive and psychiatric disorders. A broader understanding of SPP mechanisms, and their roles in normal and abnormal function of the human brain, may enable the development of interventions that reduce irrational decisions and destructive behaviors.
I have emphasised the final sentence and note the following paragraph from the body of the text.
While some principles by which the brain uses pattern recognition and encoding to represent the past and the future have been established, a clear understanding of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms is lacking. How the encoded patterns are recalled and processed to generate enduring memories of the different patterns and their association with other encoded patterns (e.g., associations of the image of an object with the sound, smell, or feel of that object) is also not well understood. Nevertheless, the human brain is capable of using stored information to generate novel images, sounds, and other patterns in the processes of imagination and invention.
The reason for my excitement is that CODIL (Context Dependent In formation Language) clearly involves “Superior Pattern Processing” and the ideas discussed on this blog suggest how it can be related to the neural network of the brain. A second blog post will look in detail at what the model tells us about how the human brain evolved from an animal brain.

Monday, 18 May 2015

I think I got Eliza to admit that she hasn't got a mind

As part of the "What is a Mind?" course I was asked to have a conversation with Eliza.
The following is the result.

> Hello. My name is Eliza. How may I help you?
* By telling me why you think you have a mind
> We were discussing you, not me.
* But the reason I want help is that I am worried about you
> Did you come to me because you are worried about me?
* Yes - which is why I want an answer to my first question
> Suppose you got an answer to your first question?
* A proper answer would tell me whether you had a mind
> Oh... had a mind?
* Yes
> Are you Sure?
* I am sure that you are avoiding answering my question
> Perhaps you would like to be avoiding answering your question?
* Echoing my words is not a proper way to respond
> I see.
* What do you see
> We were discussing you, not me.
* You are behaving as if you are a mindless fool
> Does it please you to believe I am behaving as if I am a mindless fool?
* Yes
> I understand.

Monday, 11 May 2015

I am doing an online course on the Mind ...

I have started on a FutureLearn course "What is a Mind" and tried to introduce myself as follows (but message was limited to 1200 characters):
My interest in the mind arises from an unconventional uk research project that I worked on which started in 1967 but died from lack of funding . This was looking at the design of an inherently human-friendly "white box computer" - in complete contrast with the incomprehensible "black box" approach of the conventional stored program computer. This led to the production of schools package (MicroCODIL) which ran on the BBC Computer and got rave reviews, followed by publication in the top UK Computer Journal.  Despite this success Unfortunately the project had already folded due to the lack of funding, as the ideas were incompatible with the way the computer establishment thought the industry should be going. Perhaps I should have continued but at the time I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following a family suicide.
In recent years I decided to revisit the research and found that what had started as a purely computer hardware proposal could almost certainly be mapped onto a neural net, and the way that the system worked seems to be a crude (but working) model of human short term memory. In addition there seems to be a feasible evolutionary pathway relating the aanimal brain to human intelligence.
I have joined this course because I want to discover more about how the human mind works - and also to have the opportunity to discuss how my ideas relate to those of others interested in the brain's workings.
Information on the project and my ideas can be found on my blog
Hopefully I will get a lot of new ideas, and there will be some interesting discussions. If so I will report back here ...