Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Mind Computer

The last few posts were about the human mind and contained a number of reflections on the issue from various other writers and my own hypothesis.

As we go from place to place, we assume a very large number of media information from the information. Not *all* information is indefinitely stored in our memory, but a very large number of specific landmarks are, or we recognize things around the house, and so on.

If you were to take a picture of all the things we see and store it as a binary blob of information, it is absolutely incredible how much information the brain can contain. And those are only images, not smells or auditory information. If the brain were to store it as such information, is there any limit to how much we can store? Can we express the storage capacity of the human brain in megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes or petabytes? And what happens when we reach the limit? Will we ever reach the limit or will we push out other information that we don't need?

I can more or less vividly remember (and imagine, in fact, see it as if I were to look at it right now), certain scenes of the ships I sailed on, the engine room, the cabin, the bridge, the horizon at night, my car in the UK, even the house as I knew it.

The impressive thing is that the picture need not be entirely equal for us to make a match with history. It may actually have quite some differences. A computer on the contrary relies on pixel-by-pixel verification and cannot recognize objects or entities from photo's automatically, unless it is a highly specialized algorithm. Some really interesting work was recently presented on content-aware image resizing that provides some clues about the "real" information that is contained within an image:

Perhaps the technology may prove useful for image analysis in the future, where it will reduce the unnecessary parts of the image and keep the landmarks. When you describe how to drive to somewhere to another person, you are making use of landmarks. You don't generally rely on distances or boring parts. Finding your way in the city is often more difficult, unless you rely specific monumental references.

What if the mind does not store the image itself, but a processed image? An image decomposed into ... numbers even, where the numbers can then be compared against other numbers that are derived from another processed image.

A big question is whether the image processors /sound processors that are in our heads are re-used at the time we look up our stored media. Are we reconstructing the images from (poorer) stored material? The more (useless) information you let go, the easier it is to find a match. The interesting thing here is also that we can rotate items in our mind's eye and thereby also form expectations what the back of something looks like.

Does this mean that the brain itself is a biological digital computer of numbers as well? Or is it
an analog machine like a valve amplifier or a CRT? How is it possible to remember things and create imaginations based on descriptions?

Cognitive Science has theories on a language of mind called "mentalese". This is a symbol language, but still "imagined". We cannot look into the mind to find out what it looks like, I don't even know if it looks like anything, it might be just mush and numbers, or perhaps be equalized with numbers... But then, how would one convert these 'symbols' or 'numbers' or whatever they are into symbols that a computer can work with? The computer is a number machine, so would require numbers in whatever representation to be able to do something with it. The function of the mind is then an algorithm, neural network, matrix or whatever construction that turns numbers into something else, manipulates them, stores them and generates meaningful output.

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