Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Evolution is intelligence, summary

Imagine if there were no intelligence, and rather than intelligence, people could evolve robust new instincts in real time after repeated exposure to a given environment and do so without the massive trial and error of entire genomes but just the trial and error of specific neurons and patterns of neurons of the brain. How would this differ fundamentally from having a mind?


Tracy said...

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you on this.

I believe that you have a good idea here and that it would indeed be a good idea for researchers to look into this whole thing. It could very well be the fundamental key to solving many problems. There will be no way to know until it is investigated so I say lets investigate it.
I like the concept of the brain/mind following the basic principles that drive evolution forward, the principles that give evolution it’s capability of being excellent at problem solving etc., as a way to explain how the brain is doing things. It could possibly provide explanations for how the brain gets wired and as well for much of the actual operation of the brain when solving problems or making decisions. I need to take the time to study the immunes system of which you speak so that I might better understand what you mean when you say that this could be a model for how things are done in the brain
There already exists within cognitive science’s schema of the brain, the belief that a great deal of prediction is already taking place during much of the brain’s various operations. If I understand your idea correctly, the “prediction feedback” and “correction” aspect should be viewed to be a much more pervasive and fundamental component of how the brain is actually doing things. There already exist in cognitive science many ideas of how various parts of the brain work which included corrective feedback loops and as well some predictive processes. One of these predictive processes is referred to as “Top Down Processing”. I’m not sure that this process, as the model is viewed, works in the exact manner in which your idea’s predictive process would function. This does not mean that what is actually happing in the brain does not work the way your idea would predict but rather only that the top down processing model may be a bit different in how the predictive process is done and for what purpose it is done than what your idea might describe. If it does not match, it would not take much tweaking to adapt it to your ideas. As far as I know, “Top Down Processing” still is just a general concept that lacks any real detail of how it is achieved within the brain. If I understand what you are saying about your idea correctly, your idea would actually provide the means to develop an explanation of just how it is achieved.
Much of the brain’s workings, based on what I understand from what I have been taught, actually could fit into your concept very nicely with a bit of tweaking. I can envision this evolutionary process taking place at many levels within the brain as well during the different stages of development. These different areas might look a bit different from each other in how this process is implemented but they all would or could easily be based on the same basic evolutionary principle that you describe.
The brain at birth is packed full of more neurons then it will ever contain as an adult. As a baby begins to develop its basic concepts of the world, to learn how to understand the sensory information coming into the brain, the neurons that get used live and the neurons that do not get used die off. This would seem to fit nicely with your idea. Early on during this pruning process, the brain creates or sets up “hard wirings” for specific parts of the brain that do very specialized tasks in the processing of sensory information especially auditory and visual. I can envision this being achieved by a process base on your idea. As these various parts of the brain reach maturation, no further alterations to these specific brain areas can be made. I should note that this is not to say that the brain cannot be altered only those very specific areas that has to do with these very specialized tasks.

Tracy said...

A great example of this is the development of the speech/language sound filters in hearing which provides the brain with a predictive capability that provides for quick and accurate discerning of the speech sounds of a particular language. These filters will actually make corrections to the sound before you perceive them in your head. The filters clean up the sound for you. The interesting thing here is to note that what these filters are doing is providing a predictive capability. This same principle of prediction is also used in the higher levels above the simple recognition of the sounds of speech. This same prediction process is also taking place at all levels in the perception of language both auditory and visual/reading. Words are being predicted, sentence structure, conceptual meaning all are being predicted. These features are also being fed back into the process to feed the next predictions that logically will be temporally following. In research this they have found that we typically will already have words recognized before we have even heard or read the entire word and provides the evidence that prediction is taking place. I would have to dig out my perception text books to provide you the details on just how they were able to set up experiments to test for this. I just remember thinking how brilliant these scientists were in coming up with methods that could provide such information objectively.
Going back to the hard wiring of these filters, if a person is not exposed to a language’s speech sounds during this developmental stage, when the sound filters are being hard wired into the brain, they will forever lose the opportunity to develop the ability to hear or perceive that language’s speech sounds in the same way that someone who has been exposed to that language during the critical developmental time when the brain hard wires its speech sound filters. The effect from this when learning a new language as an adult is that this person will hear the sounds of that new language differently from that of the way a native speaker hears the language resulting in the development of an accent when speaking that second language. Their speech filters actually change the true sounds hitting the ears into something different when they hear these sounds in their head. The result is that a person who has learned a second language as an adult will end up speaking that language with an accent. This is why people who’s native language is French who learn to speak English as an adult will always have that French accent when they speak English. This is why people who grew up in India have the same accent etc. I should note it is not the fault of such people who have these accents for all those who have learned a different language as an adult cannot help or prevent this accent. One can only learn to speak a second language without the accent with the help of very special training by a specialist but it is very difficult to do. Once these sound filters have been created or set up, the brain’s ability of hearing language becomes specialized in the perception of the sounds of their native language and the sound filters for this language become set and cannot be changed. It is the specialization of these sound filters that gives the brain its predictive capability in speech and is what provides the brain the means to understand speech even when spoken poorly and/or pronounced poorly and when trying to listen to someone speaking in a very noisy environment.
What this predictive process does for the individual is it provides increased speed and accuracy in recognition of all types. This predictive process is also automatic, we are not consciously aware that it is being done constantly. We are only aware of the end results of the process. The tweaking of these processes is automatic as well for the greatest part but can also be tweaked through conscious effort which is what we call studying or practicing.