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
- Increase speed of learning and memory
- Adjust (=sav, search, delete, edit, cut & paste, refle, encrypt) memory
- Adjust (= refile, edit, erase, write, disable or enable) emotion
- Fixing bugs and erroneous programming
- Enhancing and controlling creativity, imagination, cognitive abilities
- Compensate for any minor damage or erroneous programming of the past
- Increase cognitive efficiency, memory and lifespan
- Protect against brainwashing (firewall) and
- 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.