DANIEL DENNETT BRAINCHILDREN PDF

University Professor Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy Daniel C. He lives with his wife in North Andover, Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and five grandchildren. He was born in Boston in , the son of a historian by the same name, and received his B. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed the D.

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The short answer is that those doctrines have changed, and James himself could now adopt them in good conscience. For James, the "mark and criterion of the presence of mentality" was the "pursuance of future ends and the choice of means for their attainment" Principles of Psychology , vol.

I, ch. No machine was capable of this, of varying its means to attain a fixed end ; more over, an unaided mechanism, as sensitive to minute causes as the higher centers of the brain are, could produce nothing but randomness and noise.

We may construct one which will react infallibly and certainly, but it will then be capable of reacting to very few changes in the environment it will fail to be adapted to the rest. We may, on the other hand, construct a nervous system potentially adapted to respond to an infinite variety of minute features in the situation; but its fallibility will then be as great as its elaboration" Principles, vol.

Consequently, there must be something else, some non-mechanical, non-automatic factor capable of adjusting means to ends, and "loading the dice" so as to exploit the instability of the brain. This is coherent and reasonable, as James almost always was; but it is also wrong. The error lies not in the reasoning, but in the empirical facts on which it was based, and was corrected, not through abstract reasoning, but through actually building machines which adjust themselves, which are informationally-sensitive but not chaotic.

Dennett not only twigs; he branches out from there in all directions. Those who wish to keep on insisting that the intelligence of living things in particular Homo sapiens is not of the same order as the informational sensitivity of machines have taken to claiming that, while automata may act as if they were pursuing ends, might show approximate sensitivity to meanings, goals, and the like, they can never really do so.

At best, their engineers have exploited the fact that certain meaningless things variously called physical, mechanical, syntactical will usually track meaningful ones, in a certain range of circumstances.

These machines are all imperfect approximations of ideal goal-followers or meaning-trackers, but so are we, and so are all intelligent living things. But over the long haul, brains [can] be designed by evolutionary processes to do the right thing from the point of view of meaning with high reliability" Brainstorms, p. Natural selection has no interest in perfect meaning-recognizers, even supposing them to be possible; things which will usually act more or less as though they were recognizing meaning under most circumstances will do.

Just how reasonable a facsimile of a Real Meaner an organism or an artifact has to be will naturally depend on circumstances the kinds of errors the facsimile is prone to, the frequency with which it makes them, the costs of improving the facsimile. Car alarms cry aloud their definite need for improvement. These issues are tackled in a marvelous essay on "Real Patterns," which ought to be required reading for everyone studying complexity, and not just because he takes his examples from cellular automata.

There is a pattern to something if there is a description of it which takes less information to convey than the original; a signal is pattern-less, random, if it cannot be compressed in this fashion.

This is the Kolmogorov notion of complexity, duly acknowledged, which has already been discussed in these pages. Equivalently, finding a pattern in something means finding regularities in it you can use to make predictions. But suppose you tolerated less than perfect predictions; you could then economize on the elaboration of the pattern you see in the signal by allowing as how it is contaminated with a certain degree of noise.

This leads to a trade-off, between increasing the elaboration of your pattern, its predictive power, and the computational and informational costs of using it, and increasing your tolerance for noise, simplifying the pattern, and saving on computation at the cost of losing predictive leverage.

Beyond a certain point, of course, noise will swamp your putative pattern and if you can tolerate that, do you really care about the signal at all?

Second, it feeds in naturally to cognitive ethology less academically, to figuring out what animals think. What patterns in their environments do they need to notice, what decision do they need to make in response to them, and at what level of detail and nuance? Spikes on the efficient neural coding of natural stimuli.

James has a brilliant and well-known passage here, too: [T]he mind is at every stage a theater of simultaneous possibilities. Consciousness consists in the comparison of these with each other, the selection of some, and the suppression of the rest by the reinforcing and inhibiting agency of attention.

The highest and most elaborated mental products are filtered from the data chosen by the faculty next beneath, out of the mass offered by the faculty below that, which mass in turn was sifted from a still larger amount of yet simpler material, and so on.

The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But there were a thousand different ones beside it, and the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated this one from the rest. Just so the world of each of us, how so ever different our several views of it may be, all lay embedded in the primordial chaos of sensations, which gave the mere matter to the thought of all of us indifferently.

We may, if we like, by our reasonings unwind things back to that black and jointless continuity of space and moving clouds of swarming atoms which science calls the only real world. But all the while the world we feel and live in will be that which our ancestors and we, by slowly cumulative strokes of choice, have extricated out of this, like sculptors, by simply removing portions of the given stuff. Other sculptors, other statues from the same stone!

Other minds, other worlds from the same monotonous and inexpressive chaos! My world is but one in a million alike embedded, alike real to those who may abstract them. How different must be the worlds in the consciousness of ant, cuttlefish, or crab! IX, p. All the patterns provide predictive leverage, or neither we nor the cuttlefish nor the swarming occupants of our guts would be around to carve them out of "black and jointless continuity"; and that is as far as reality extends for patterns.

We come thus, as it were by two routes, to the third advantage Dennett extracts from his pattern theory, namely an explication of his famous "three stances" which we adopt to explain and predict in sound positivist fashion: mostly predict what something will do.

Consider, for instance, a computer running a chess-playing program. Each of these stances amounts to betting on a certain pattern in the behavior of objects, and each is a safer better than the last: considerations of design trump those of intention, and physical considerations trump both.

Now, in the intentional stance we work by attributing to the object of our interest certain beliefs and desires; these are at the very least patterns in its behavior. What this is hinting at, obviously, is the vexed debate over what has come to be called "folk psychology," our workaday practice of winning friends and influencing people in which we impute to them all kinds of beliefs, desires, aversions, emotions in short, mental contents.

This practice works pretty well, but not except in Sherlock Holmes stories , perhaps perfectly. We think we have thoughts, and can get away with it: but, opponents of folk psychology point out, we used to think we had souls which went walk-about during dreams, too, and that forty-seven or fifty-five unmoved movers rotated the celestial spheres, and someday a cognitive or neural account of our behavior will put sentences like "His intolerable feelings of guilt and remorse over the treatment of child workers in his Central American factories drove him to make huge donations to orphanages and UNICEF" on all fours with "The Sun rose just as the Moon was setting.

On the one hand, the mere fact that we can make very accurate, reliable predictions of what each other will do using folk psychology and very little effort to say nothing of our having emotional lives! To commit a vile pun: folk psychology is the phenomenology of the human mind. As social primates, we have adapted to understanding what makes each other tick, by means of the intentional stance and folk psychology.

By spinning out stories on those lines, we quickly and reliably establish mutually satisfied if not entirely satisfactory expectations, and are able to live with each other with much less bloodshed and violence than any other sort of social animal.

There is a strong sense in which computers are really algorithms, that is to say abstracta on a level with perfect circles and straight lines. The lumps sitting on your desk and mine are approximations to those abstracta, and software is an industry concerned with the manufacture of Platonic Ideals. The imperfection of the lumps can be more or less gross, just as what I draw with a compass is a worse circle than what Giotto drew free-hand. Now, it is one of the curious properties of algorithms and all their many equivalents, like Turing machines and the lambda calculus and McCulloch-Pitts neural nets that some algorithms can run other algorithms.

In fact, some algorithms can run any other algorithm whatsoever. This nesting of algorithms can be carried to any depth you like, and the deeper levels are said to be "virtual machines.

Now, parallel and decentralized computers can implement centralized virtual machines and vice versa , but it is always reassuring and of great professional interest to me to know how the trick is done. In his "multiple drafts" picture, there are always competing versions of what-has-happened and what-to-do-about-it swarming about in the various small, functionally-specialized bits of the brain. They are literally competing, not just for occupancy of those bits of tissue and implementation, but for as it were recognition by other hunks of tissue.

There is no center of consciousness, no "Cartesian theater" whose contents are What We Are Conscious Of Now, but there are what we might though Dennett does not call "commanding heights," modules with a disproportionate influence on the future of the organism and the contents of the rest of the brain.

In human beings, these commanding heights are tied up with the production of language ; our interior monologues are stenographic records of successive palace coups; our persistent personalities amount to the fact that the new boss is the same as the old boss. James on "the fringe" , and designed to exploit its own noisiness as a source of variation for re-design. Consider the case, he asks us, not of zombies per se but of zimboes, who are behaviorally just like us conscious human beings, but have no inner lives.

Zombies are the mindless malevolent minions in a Boris Karloff movie; zimboes, when villainous, are more in the Sidney Greenstreet line but, by hypothesis, they show just the same range of heroism, vice, and moral muddle that we do. Maybe lots of people all, of course, normal-seeming are zimboes John Searle, for instance, or this reviewer, or your landlord.

They could be everywhere. Consciousness could be a genetic abnormality. Even your best-beloved could be a mere zimbo. In fact, how do you know that you are not a zimbo? Turned around: zimboes, creatures with sophisticated sensitivities to the external world and their inner environment, enjoy just as much consciousness as there is to be had.

You may want to apologize to the light of your life now. Consciousness is "more like fame" coming in degrees, possibly patchy or restricted "a legend among distributors of dental-hygiene products" and transitory, but not, in the nature of things, instantaneous or confined to a single point "than like being on television" a thoroughly unambiguous, on-or-off thing. Certainly, there is a lot for one of an empirical, tough-minded temper to admire in the work of the artificial intelligentsia, and Dennett duly admires it : everybody talks about the mind, but they actually do something about it.

In the process, as a necessary concomitant to designing minds and parts of minds, we learn a good deal about how mind-like things must work, and the problems in the way of any kind of mind. Dennett even thinks that AI has uncovered a genuinely new epistemological problem, the "frame problem," which might, informally, be put thus: How does the prospect of being hanged concentrate the mind? A whole splendid essay is devoted to this poser and the ways workers in AI have tried to overcome it.

It is here that Dennett breaks with Good Old-Fashioned AI GOFAI , since he views most of these attempted solutions to the frame problem, and many other problems in AI, as so many "cognitive wheels" mechanisms which, while, at a sufficiently abstract level, do the same job as some human cognitive ability, do it in a thoroughly unbiological way, having the same relationship to human cognition as wheels do to human legs.

Dennett wants to lift some of the most restrictive assumptions of GOFAI "high church computationalism" and break its addiction to things which can be cleanly coded in LISP in short, to get the artificial intelligentsia to stop hand-crafting cognitive wheels. Instead, their products need to be less brittle, less driven by elegant visions of the way the mind must work, and more oriented towards action.

Human beings are not well-suited to carrying on long and accurate trains of abstract reasoning. The decisive contribution of AI to method is that at last we can apply the check of construction to our thinking about the mind. It is the prospect of exploiting this control to the fullest, to taking good ideas along their full life-cycle from philosophy to engineering, that attracts Dennett to the work of Doug Hofstadter and his pupils in software and to Cog, a project to actually build a conscious robot in hardware , and to artificial life.

It is the inability of the metaphysical hordes to make their ideas specific enough to code up, or, even better, to wire up, which condemns them to mere thinking.

I suspect, though, that this is about all you, dear readers, can stand of my prose, so I shall call a halt here and simply urge you to go straight to the source. Some of these essays take up issues from the work of other philosophers e. There are, the gods be thanked, no "reconstructions," and a constant awareness that philosophy ought to be about problems, not about what other philosophers have said.

Disclaimer: I asked for, and got, a review copy of Brainchildren from Prof. Dennett and the MIT Press, with a nifty post-card of the cover thrown in; but I have no stake in its success.

Typos: p.

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DENNETT BRAINCHILDREN PDF

The short answer is that those doctrines have changed, and James himself could now adopt them in good conscience. For James, the "mark and criterion of the presence of mentality" was the "pursuance of future ends and the choice of means for their attainment" Principles of Psychology , vol. I, ch. No machine was capable of this, of varying its means to attain a fixed end ; more over, an unaided mechanism, as sensitive to minute causes as the higher centers of the brain are, could produce nothing but randomness and noise. We may construct one which will react infallibly and certainly, but it will then be capable of reacting to very few changes in the environment it will fail to be adapted to the rest. We may, on the other hand, construct a nervous system potentially adapted to respond to an infinite variety of minute features in the situation; but its fallibility will then be as great as its elaboration" Principles, vol.

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Brainchildren

Yodal Sign in to use this feature. Thanks for telling us about the problem. A compilation of essays by Dennett about a good variety of topics, from neurosci to philosophy of language and everything in between. Request removal from index. In part two the focus shifts to artificial intelligence and artificial life. Cognitive Ethology This book brings together his essays on the philosphy of mind, artificial intelligence, and cognitive ethology that appeared in inaccessible journals from From Real Patterns to Prospective Brainchildrfn Julian Jayness Software Archeology.

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