[Comp-neuro] Modelling Philosophy

james bower bower at uthscsa.edu
Wed Aug 20 18:23:53 CEST 2008

That's great -- I like the idea of the "sense of free will", which, of  
course, I have too.

The truth, on the other hand is likely something else.

I would refer everyone to the wonderful book by Valentino Braitenberg  
titled "Vehicles: experiments in synthetic psychology" whose early  
chapters make an important point about how easy it is to deceive the  
brain into imagining complexity where there isn't any -- the opposite  
also applies of course.  The conclusion again -- one has to reference  
the actual physical system that generates the behavior to know what is  
really going on.


On Aug 20, 2008, at 2:52 AM, Harry Erwin wrote:

> I'm concerned with modelling M-systems. Conceptually for me, an M- 
> system is a system that maintains a model of its environment and  
> uses that model to assess the current value of actions leading to  
> future rewards and penalties. Those assessments are used to choose  
> actions following some rule. The model of the environment need only  
> have sufficient detail to support action assessment, and there are a  
> number of possible ways that multiple rewards and penalties might be  
> integrated into the value of an action.
> Free-living eukaryotic cells embody M-systems, as do primitive  
> neurons in nerve nets, and as do brains. (My standard example of an  
> M-system is an echolocating bat hunting its dinner.) The complexity  
> of an M-system seems to reflect a number of evolutionary processes  
> concerned with the number and types of actions evaluated, how  
> multiple rewards and penalties are integrated into the value of an  
> action, how actions are chosen, and whether actions are integrated  
> into plans. In humans, the mind (a complex M-system) appears to  
> engage in a dialogue with the future to value actions and plans, and  
> that loopy interaction with a space of possible futures that  
> responds actively to plans and actions underlies the sense of free  
> will.
> I prefer to model brains as systems of neurone models. I do this  
> because I don't think we understand M-systems well enough to model  
> them in the abstract. By sticking fairly close to the biology and  
> considering evolutionary processes, I think we are sufficiently  
> constrained by reality to characterise at least some M-systems.
> --
> "an academic who listens to pleas of convenience before publishing  
> his research risks calling into doubt the whole of his determination  
> to find the truth." (Russell 1993)
> Harry Erwin
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Dr. James M. Bower Ph.D.

Professor of Computational Neuroscience

Research Imaging Center
University of Texas Health Science Center -
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