Currently reading Storrs Hall”s “Beyond AI”. I’m halfway and it’s a great book about Artificial Intelligence (= AI), a topic that should concern us all. I for one have nothing against AI, but I prefer to be intelligent myself. In short: my aim is nothing less then unlimited intellectual self-improvement, to pass beyond Von Neumann’s complexity barrier – the dividing line between problems that can be solved using traditional, reductionist methods and those that require a more intuitive, throw-it-up-and-see-what-sticks approach (Sam Williams)- and bootstrap myself sooner or later into a superintelligence.
A good place to start is “Cyborg 101: The Warrior’s Guide to the Blackboard Jungle“, an online book by Angus T.K. Wong. I mentioned this book earlier.
More challenging is Alex Ramonsky’s “I Changed my Mind – Intelligence Augmentation through Neurohacking“. The book describes Neuro-hacking as a conglomerate of techniques, chemicals, technology, psychology and biochemistry to

  1. Increase speed of learning and memory
  2. Adjust (=sav, search, delete, edit, cut & paste, refle, encrypt) memory
  3. Adjust (= refile, edit, erase, write, disable or enable) emotion
  4. Fixing bugs and erroneous programming
  5. Enhancing and controlling creativity, imagination, cognitive abilities
  6. Compensate for any minor damage or erroneous programming of the past
  7. Increase cognitive efficiency, memory and lifespan
  8. Protect against brainwashing (firewall) and
  9. Survive – live on earth with other humans to our mutual benefit.

That is, in fact, the transhumanists program and as I wrote on another place (in Dutch), I can only support that with all my heart.
Ramonsky’s program considers the brain as a computer that can – and should – be hacked. Hacking means to me: to unlock currently hidden functionality. To be honest: Ramonsky’s program is not for the weak-hearted and until now I myself have left out the chemicals in my personal training schedule. You can always reformat or replace your hard drive, or even buy a new computer when you mess-up, but your brain is irreplaceable.
Storrs Hall too thinks the brain is a computer:

The function of the brain is to output the right signals given the signals it inputs. (…)It’s a computer.

And what about the mind?

It’s the computation. It’s the process – the sequence of information and causation – that characterizes which outputs the brain will produce,given it’s inputs.

What about intelligence?

The main function of intelligence is to take a huge stream of information, such as provided by the sensory organs, and reduce it to a relatively small stream of abstracted interpretation that has high predictive value.

Many people will be horrified by the metaphor. What about free will? Free will is to a human being what random numbers are to a computer, to paraphrase Robert Heinlein (The Number of the Beast). You can see that as a limitation, but it also means that there are a lot of choices you can make. To me it seems that the ball is on my half of the playing-field, just the same as when I realized that it makes no sense to believe in God: I had to decide for my own what was right or wrong and only I could be held responsible for what I made of my life.
Let me quote Ramonsky again:

The first goal of intelligence’s development ís the creation of an autonomous (self-sufficient) person, dependent on nothing except their own selves by maturity. A free-range mind.

Does this block out emotion? Not at all, but

Emotion should be an ability we use to enhance life, not a drug to which we are addicted or a tornado that throws us here and there.

Is the brain modular? Or: has it Multiple Intelligences? This also concerns the (Autistic) Savant Syndrome

image from Time-special about the Brain, 2007

I think, with Oliver Sachs, that the mind is not just a collection of talents; a purely modular view of the mind removes the general quality, the personal centre, the Self. (Sachs abridged 🙂 ).
So, is the brain a computer?
Yes it is, but (until now) human beings are not robots.

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