Mind and Brain Perspectives

In the most recent previous post I looked at IBM’s computer, Watson, and how this may represent the first steps in a coming medical revolution.  We can also look at Watson from a different perspective: what it takes to create a computer which “thinks” in ways which may compete with how humans think (at least when playing Jeopardy, maybe when making a medical diagnosis).  Notice that I didn’t say “think in ways which are similar to how humans think”.  Watson has proven an ability to compete with humans; however, how it processes information may be significantly different from how humans process information, particularly in regard to how it generates abstractions.

Standing back, when we look at Watson’s performance how do we classify its “thinking”?  Does it have a mind?  Does its ability to abstract the subtle quirks of Jeopardy questions imply “insight”?  Does its ability to see through allusion mean that it “gets it”?  What do you think?

So, as we enter this fascinating era of opportunity, challenge, and perhaps epiphany, do we think science and concrete programming are telling us about the nature of the mind?  Opinions will vary.

For a different opinion and a fascinating discussion here is another place to look: the YouTube presentation by B. Alan Wallace, PhD to Google’s wunderkind at a Google Tech Talk titled: “Toward the First Revolution In the Mind Sciences”.  While I don’t agree with all of doctor Wallace’s positions, and think some of his “unanswered” questions do have answers, I believe his discussion dissects an area of academic and philosophical interest: is the mind completely explainable by the brain?  If the topic interests you have a look at his talk here.


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