Friday, November 18, 2011

363: The Brain as Computer

Every era seems to have an inclination to compare the brain with its latest technology. Leibniz (1646 - 1716) once compared the brain with the complex mechanics of a mill.

Later it was compared with the switchboard of a telephone system and of course, as I already mentioned in the previous lecture, Hilary Putnam was one of the philosophers inspired by the computer. So nowadays our brain has similar functionalities as a computer or visa versa.

Sience fiction LOVES to play with mind like computers. My favorite computer is Data from the Startrek series and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger… sorry…The Terminator I mean….. fine piece of machinery.

But to clearly understand what a computer is or better, what a computer does, you have to learn two basic concepts.

You need to know what it means to talk about the syntactic and semantic properties of symbols.

Syntax is from Ancient Greek σύνταξις "arrangement" from σύν syn, "together", and τάξις táxis, "an ordering". Semantic is also from the Ancient Greek σημαντικός which means "significant" in which the word σημα means "sign".

Let us assume that our brain is among other things a symbol processing system. Now we make a distinction between basic symbols and complex symbols.

I will use English words as examples of basic symbols, and l will use English sentences as examples of complex symbols.

Thus "Plato" is a basic symbol whereas "Plato wrote the Politeia" is a complex symbol. The syntactic properties of a symbol are the properties which can be detected simply by examining the symbol in isolation.

Take the basic symbol "Plato". It consists of 5 letters in a certain arrangement. The typeface is Arial, say, 3 millimeter high, on your screen. It has a certain color.

What you can't find out from the symbol itself is that Plato is an ancient Greek philosopher, or that I was the person who typed this.

Let us call this syntactic properties of the basic symbol the symbol's shape, like we can see, that a certain complex symbol is a question, because of the shape it end: the question mark ???

So, that Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher is not a syntactic property of the basic symbol "Plato". This is called a semantic property.

Simply stated, semantic properties are properties connected with the meaning of a symbol. An important semantic property of a symbol is its reference.

An other important semantical property is the truth value of a symbol. Not all symbols have a truth value, however. "Plato" as such is neither true or false.

Yet used in a complex symbol it gets a truth value. For instance the complex symbols "Plato wrote the Politeia" and "Plato wrote the Bible" have truth value.

The complex symbol gets its truth value because it claims something about the world. In general, symbols have the semantic properties of truth or falsity if and only if they make a claim about the world.

Unlike the syntactic properties, the semantic properties cannot be detected by examining a symbol in isolation.

In order to discover the reference of the symbol "Plato", staring at the symbol won't reveal this to you, you need to look it up, for instance in Wikipedia.

There it is said, that "Plato" is a symbol that refers to an ancient Greek philosopher who wrote among other things the "Politeia".

These are the basic tools we need to answer the question: is the brain or the mind just like a computer. We'll look into that some more next week.

The Discussion

herman Bergson: thank you..
Farv Hallison: thank you..
herman Bergson: Did you understand the difference between syntactic and semantic properties?
Mick Nerido: Yes I think so...
Sybyle Perdide: nods
herman Bergson: It will be important to understand computationalism
herman Bergson: If you didn't get it all 100%..just reread the lecture in the blog...
herman Bergson: It is not so difficult to understand...
Bejiita Imako: think i got most of it at least „ã°
Mick Nerido: Syntactic is the individual description of a symbol, semantic is the emaning of a symbol in a context?
herman Bergson: you make use of it every day!
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i have to reread it
herman Bergson: Let me explain...
herman Bergson: as I said
herman Bergson: you use syntax and semantics every day
Lizzy Pleides: can you give another example Herman?
herman Bergson: first ..syntax...
herman Bergson: what the sentence means
herman Bergson: is just the order of the words in a sentence
herman Bergson: chat lag...:-(
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): like semantic is the context,? but what about semiotic?
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): LOL
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): do syntax again
Sybyle Perdide: semiotic is what the symbol stands for alone
Sybyle Perdide: without context
herman Bergson: syntax is is just the order of the words in a sentence
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): semantics is the meaning then
herman Bergson: yes....
Bejiita Imako: to make a working understandable sentence
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): and can be different in some cases
herman Bergson: what the sentence...state of affairs the sentence refers to
Mick Nerido: Syntax= verb, noun ect.?
herman Bergson: semiotics is a different chapter
herman Bergson: yes MICK...EXACTLY!
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): semiotic is the symbols , from a larger context than the sentence s semantic
Bejiita Imako: just like syntax error in a computer program mean that the code you have typed is not correct corresponding to the language you use
Bejiita Imako: for example you cant use visual basic syntax to program in c and vice versa
herman Bergson: right Bejiita1
herman Bergson: !
Bejiita Imako: the computer don't understand the syntax
Bejiita Imako: just like i cant understand arabic
herman Bergson: on the contrary only understands syntax :-)
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): it does not understand the semantics
Sybyle Perdide: isn't the sytax something, we teach the pc?
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): but without semiotic, herman, the meaning, cannot be given,, out of the syntax , the word will not mean anything, but out of the social and economic context , the word don't mean anything either
herman Bergson: Well about arabic..Bejiita ..neither you or I do understand the syntax
herman Bergson: nor the semantics
Bejiita Imako: nope
herman Bergson: it is just a bunch of signs on paper....
herman Bergson: paper
Bejiita Imako: also the japanese language have another order of the words, for example the surname come before your first name
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): computer dont understand syntax?
Farv Hallison: not even the lexicography.
Bejiita Imako: and the verb comes last in the sentence
Mick Nerido: Chinese is pictographs
herman Bergson: as I saud...computers are masters in understanding syntax
herman Bergson: I do understand japanese to soem extend...
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): oh, see bejiita
herman Bergson: can read it..
Bejiita Imako: if i for example say i do this, in japanese you say sort of
Bejiita Imako: i this do
herman Bergson: yes
herman Bergson: hai, so shimasu..^_^
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): which makes sense in a way
Bejiita Imako: do is desu in japanese and desu is always last word in the sentence
Bejiita Imako: not like swedish or english
Bejiita Imako: however german is like that as well
herman Bergson: only when it is about people Bejiita...
herman Bergson: about things it is arimasu
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): konban wa
Mick Nerido: The rules of lanquage are syntax
herman Bergson: Ogenki desu ka :-)
Bejiita Imako: yes
herman Bergson: Yes Mick....indeed
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): hi
Bejiita Imako: „ã°
herman Bergson: How to arrange the words in a sentence in such a way that it gets semantic content
Mick Nerido: However irregular lol
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): its like the dance footsteps
Lizzy Pleides: every languige has own rules
Sybyle Perdide: this rules are the syntax
Sybyle Perdide: how to construct
Mick Nerido: that's why tranlation is an art not a science
herman Bergson: I speak Japanese...bla bla bla
herman Bergson: Watashi wa Nihon go wo ....
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): well mixing many language toghether is possible
Bejiita Imako: aaa
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): schud maar in mijn pet...
Farv Hallison: Can a computer understand ART?
Lizzy Pleides: we can't either sometimes
Sybyle Perdide: a pc hasn't enough knowledge of semiotic to do so
Sybyle Perdide: : 9
herman Bergson: Oh I can not speak Japanese you said Beertje
Bejiita Imako: hmm will be hard
Sybyle Perdide: laughs, Lizzy
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): japanese is making sense, in the voice tone no?
Mick Nerido: A computer can find ART but not make it
Sybyle Perdide: how can he find, Mick?
Bejiita Imako: a computer cant see the actual picture cause its digital so sees a string of binar math only while we see stuff analog directly interpreting the picture
Elle (ellenilli.lavendel) is Offline
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): yes Herman..i don't...
herman Bergson: No Mick...a computer cannot find art...
Sybyle Perdide: nods
Sybyle Perdide: oh
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): for the computer to find the menaing, maybe we will have to record the voice tonality, and give him a tonality decoder
Lizzy Pleides: it find a thing
Sybyle Perdide: a computer works syntactic
Mick Nerido: I can ask it to look up a painting
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): and write the tonality, in graph
Qwark Allen is Online
Sybyle Perdide: but the we are able to act semiotically
Bejiita Imako: for a computer to "see" a pic it must be converted to just a string of 1 and 0 and thats what the cpu " sees" nothing more
Bejiita Imako: just on and off
Lizzy Pleides: so it can find it but not explain it
Bejiita Imako: and then it must use an DA converter to translate all pixels back for us to see the picture in the computer
Sybyle Perdide: a pc cannot find art
herman Bergson: smiles...
Sybyle Perdide: a pc don't know what is art
herman Bergson: ok ..ok...
Lizzy Pleides: type in Google Picasso and the computer finds art
herman Bergson: Let's dig into it in a next lecture...what a computer really can do
Mot Mann is Offline
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): no it finds the name Picasso..not his art
Sybyle Perdide: the computer finds the syntactical combination of art and picasso
Sybyle Perdide: not more
Mick Nerido: A computer knows art is a thing does not know its meaning
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): its decoding voice tonality actually, when we do answer to informated questionary on the phone i think, but do we translate that in text?like thISSS iNNNsTead of THat
Lizzy Pleides: nods@ sybyle
Sybyle Perdide: smiles
Bejiita Imako: for a computer to understand that someone must strictly tell the computer how to respond when it "sees" that pic
Bejiita Imako: but the computer don't understand it better anyway
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): we may have to find new police to write
herman Bergson: WEll...I see that you are all fired up...
Bejiita Imako: it just blindly strictly follows the instructions to respond in that way you told it
herman Bergson: ready to hit the computer ^_^
Lizzy Pleides: the computer is a machine and it is stupid
herman Bergson: Let's do that next begin with !
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): talking dos to the pc is not to bad, he teaches us his languages
Sybyle Perdide: yes, Lizzy
Sybyle Perdide: agrees
Sybyle Perdide: thank you herman
Sybyle Perdide: it was great
herman Bergson: yes Lizzy..computers are stupid begin with
Sybyle Perdide: (because I got the semantic frame..hihi)
Bejiita Imako: a computer don't care if you scream at it when its not working or even if you blow it up with dynamite cause of that more than it will never work anymore after that
herman Bergson: so if our mind is like a computer maybe we are stupid too :-)))
Lizzy Pleides: giggles*
Bejiita Imako: is just a dumb calculator but the speed it does it at makes everything it can do happen
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): actually, computer, are how far we can creat a machine that will process.... faster,,, not more intelligently
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): and who is giving the comments on the keyboard for us then?
Bejiita Imako: an i/ cpu does 177 bilion calculations/instructions per second
Bejiita Imako: even the first cpu the 4004 did around between 400000 and 900000
herman Bergson: Yes Alaya...that is how Big Blue defeated Kasparov in chess
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): oh
herman Bergson: just by speed and access to millions of data
Bejiita Imako: that say a bit how much a computer must do for anything to happen at all
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): hope that he can process the formula to denuclearised the contaminant
herman Bergson: What I find most fascinating is movies...
herman Bergson: where a computer acts as a sentient person....
Mick Nerido: can we measure a computers IQ?
herman Bergson: no Mick
herman Bergson: because the outcome is what we programmed in it
herman Bergson: so it make no sense to measure its intelligence
herman Bergson: we know it in advance
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): i think that when we standardized and fix language in time, we do computerise our way of expression, making it artificial more than chanign and alive
Bejiita Imako: this is also why a terminator will never happen, although a computer can be self learning someone must deliberately program it to turn against us for it to do that all of a sudden
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): if our language become fixed, we have to change the software,,,in our m mind,s and its not working that way
Bejiita Imako: it could never get a such decision by itself cause a computer cant understand evil unless programmed to it
Bejiita Imako: by a person
herman Bergson: Do you know the laws of robotics Bejiita as formulated by Isaac Asimov?
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): but when its alive , it is adjusting and integrate all sort of meaning and new words
Bejiita Imako: yes a computer should never cause harm to anyone and must also prevent it from happening
Bejiita Imako: sort of
Bejiita Imako: something like that
Lizzy Pleides: so Asimov was intelligent and not the robot
Bejiita Imako: was 2 different rules i think
herman Bergson: yes ^_^!
Sybyle Perdide: yeah
herman Bergson: YE sI have to look them up myself for the details...
herman Bergson: But you are right, Bejiita
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): iff we compare the brain to computer, than we are forced to change our program s...?? as when we change the work mechanic and than ergonomic troubles arise
herman Bergson: Well..I think you are all ready for the computational theory of :-)
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): we will have semantic problem or syntaxic ones?
herman Bergson: We'll see Alaya...
Sybyle Perdide: hihi
Mick Nerido: Thanks Herman!
herman Bergson: SO thank you all for your good participation...again!
Farv Hallison: bye guys and girls.
herman Bergson: Class dismissed ^_^
Bejiita Imako: a ye
Sybyle Perdide: thank you Herman
Lizzy Pleides: Thanks to YOU Herman!
Bejiita Imako: really interesting „ã°
Sybyle Perdide: ciao Farv
:: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ‚ô• Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ‚ô•
Sybyle Perdide: good nigh to all
Alaya Chépaspourquoi (alaya.kumaki): thanks
Lizzy Pleides: Good night everybody
herman Bergson: Bye girls ^_^
Bejiita Imako: night
herman Bergson: Bye Bejiita
herman Bergson: thnx

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