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Your blog is one of my favourites and so I have mentioned it for a Versatile Blogger Award here
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2012 on Lucy's Voice at Babel's Dawn
Your blog is one of my favourites and so I have mentioned it for a Versatile Blogger Award here ---------------------------------------------------------- BLOGGER: Thanks, Janet
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2012 on Lucy's Voice at Babel's Dawn
I think in this case Dennett is (unusually for him) wrong. I give a quote below that is typical of the sort of analysis of those that have one foot in AI and the other in neuroscience. They believe that they have to go to super-Turing machines, analog computing and stimulations because a Turing type computer is not equivalent to the brain's processing. Siegelmann thinks that even Turing did not believe that the brain was a Turing type computer. “The Turing machine was suggested in 1935–36 as a model of a mathematician who solves problems by following a specifiable fixed algorithm and using unlimited time, energy, pencils, and paper. Turing’s 1938 search for models of hypercomputers (that outperform this mathematician), together with his later emphasis on learning and adaptation, probably reflects his understanding that there are other kinds of computation beyond the static, fully specifiable algorithm (Copeland,2000; Copeland et al., 999). The brain, for example, could be perceived as a powerful computer with its excellent ability for speech recognition, image recognition, and the human ability to develop new theories. The nervous system, constituting an intricate web of neurons with 10^14 synaptic connections that adapt with experience, cannot be perceived as a static algorithm; the chemical and physical processes affecting the neuronal states, like other natural processes, are based on exact real values and are thus not specifiable by finite means.” Neural and Super-Turing Computing, by Hava T. Siegelmann, Minds and Machines 13: 103–114, 2003.
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2012 on Is Language Really a Computation? at Babel's Dawn
When someone says that the brain is a computer, they have to say what kind of computer. The brain is definitely not a 'general computer' and does not have sequential step-wise algorithms as its processing mechanism. It is also highly parallel. It is not digital. It is not in the family of Turing machines. etc.etc. Some say 'ah but it can be stimulated by a Turing machine'. I doubt that it can but even if it were possible, a stimulate is not the same as being a Turing type computer. No magic of course, a physical system, but not reducible to a Turing machine either. ---------------------------------- Blogger: I think if you check out Dennett's essay you will see that he argues the Turing machine can do whatever we can do.
Toggle Commented Jul 5, 2012 on Is Language Really a Computation? at Babel's Dawn
I read the headlines and some articles in Le Monde every morning, and so I have been getting used to some of the quirks of machine translation. This morning the 'Dutch candidate' had won so I immediately knew that F. Hollande had won the Socialist Party's primary. But the first time I read that the Netherlands had attacked a French policy, I waited for the diplomatic fireworks. It took a couple of days to get my focus on the right topic, Mr. Hollande. After a more than a year of this, I still find articles were I understand nothing - absolutely nothing.
Toggle Commented Oct 17, 2011 on Beyond Dictionaries and Rules at Babel's Dawn
I think the missing ingredient is communication. Some want to treat language as something other than a form of communication. They seem to want language to be a form of abstract algebra without a purpose/function such as communication. Language is basically social because it is basically communication and communication is basically social.Can anyone explain why the idea of communication seems to be shunned? ------------------------------------------ BLOGGER: Chomsky is very clear in his lecture. The function of language is NOT communication, it is thought of an improved variety.
Toggle Commented Aug 1, 2011 on Does Language Exist? at Babel's Dawn
You can define language as human language but that is not going to help with the subject of this blog which is about how that language came to be. This is a process with humans speaking human languages at the near end and animals communicating without language at the far end. Between to two are types of almost human animals and almost human languages. You are correct about being clear on the object being studied. But it is not human language but a long series of transitional forms of communication.
Toggle Commented Jul 13, 2011 on Hyena Vocalizations at Babel's Dawn
It may be time to re-examine whether recursion is unique to humans. See for reference to some new papers.
Toggle Commented Jul 4, 2011 on Evo-Lingo at Babel's Dawn
Jerry Moore, do you have any evidence of consciousness requiring language or culture? I don't mean linguistic theories or philosophical logic etc. but actual scientific experimental evidence. If you do, I would appreciate references as I have not found any. Ditto if you have any evidence that no animals are conscious (other than humans).There may be language without consciousness but it is doubtful. However there certainly, on the face of it, seems to be consciousness without language. The neurological signs of consciousness appear in some animals.
The way genes are 'silenced' is part of what is called epigenetics. You will find the subject interesting. All our genes are found in all our cells but with different tissues, conditions, times during development etc, different sets of genes are used and transcribed at different rates. This gives RNA which is also edited, protected or destroyed before being used to make proteins or the other things that RNA does. There are a lot of mechanism and new ones being discovered. Metaphor: There are a lot of books in the library but that doesn't mean they are all being read all the time by everybody or even that some are not in the stacks in the basement and read by no one. ------------------------------------ BLOGGER: Yes, epigenetics is the hot topic. But its role in selection and Hamilton's equation (which is purely focused on genes) is not yet clear to me.
Andi, I think that the question rests on how you define algorithms. I think of algorithms as step-by-step sequential procedures and that they are one half of a separation between 'hardware' and 'software'. I think procedures in the brain (especially fast ones) are done with parallel processes not sequential ones and that there is not a clear separation of 'hardware' and 'software' in the brain. Although it is not clear how the brain processes language; it is fairly clear that it is not by algorithms if we define the word as above.
So Karthik Durvasula, are you saying that empirical science is failing to begin to understand the brain during recent history while non-empirical methods used for the previous 1000 years or more have made progress? If so I would strongly disagree. Science is the tool of choice where ever possible. --------------------------- BLOGGER: I was a bit startled to be called an empiricist, like that was a bad thing. However, she did have a point when she said facts alone are not enough. Science works by getting facts, then proposing an idea that explains them, then getting more facts, then, if the ides survives, getting more facts. Eventually the idea that explains them fails and you look for another idea and more facts to test it. I'm also sympathetic to the notion that facts have a dull Joe Friday quality, but the amassing of facts has proven to be an effective path to finding workable theories.
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2011 on Machines Ain’t Animals at Babel's Dawn
I like your aviation metaphor!! There is an old saying (don't know who's) that if you don't understand something then it must be simple. So there are linguists, physicists, computer scientists, philosophers etc. lining up to misunderstand biology. And visa verse probably.
Toggle Commented Jan 17, 2011 on Machines Ain’t Animals at Babel's Dawn
Of course I agree fully with the importance of the speech triangle but I think there is another aspect of language in cooperation. In order to cooperate you must trust. Trust depends on at least three things - the two people must have somewhat similar goals; they must value the competence of each other; and they must believe that the other wishes them no personal harm. If that is the case then they can trust one another enough to engage in a cooperative action. Language is not needed for trust to develop (as we know from other social animals). But it is need if trust is to be created outside a small (family/clan) group and to be used in new (not archetypal) situations. Thus the importance of gossip, small talk, idle chatting, story telling etc. in forming a cooperative group that shares a culture. This shared culture can provide a library of topics as well as the bond of trust. As soon as the idle talk stops, the trust starts to decay. Speech is more like a 'glue' then an 'act'. -------------------------------------------- BLOGGER: I agree on the importance of trust; however, the sample of text shows that at this point trust doesn't have to be very profound. It was, however, critical in the early days when speech was evolving.
Toggle Commented Dec 13, 2010 on The Shared Goal is the Context at Babel's Dawn
I think that the idea of words directing attention is different then the idea of sound directing attention. 1. when sound does the directing, it is the time difference between the onset of sounds arriving at the two ears that gives a direction for the sound's source and results in attention to things in that direction. No metaphor here - just physiology. 2. when words do the directing, it is the meaning of the word (ie its relationship to other words and schema) that directs attention to concepts. Because we share a language and a culture it is possible to communicate by this manipulation of another's attention. This is very similar to pointing to a metaphor in another person's mind. The pointing works by changing the focus of attention. The metaphor is not in the explanation given by this blog, but in the very nature of words/language and concepts/thought. ---------------- BLOGGER: As I thought about the comment later, I thought she might be talking about the word 'pilot' as in pilots attention. That is a metaphor, but not of the 'mere' variety for the reasons Janet says here. It has to do with the nature of language when discussing imperceptible things like thought.
Toggle Commented Nov 26, 2010 on Consciousness, Attention and Meaning at Babel's Dawn