[Comp-neuro] [D] dignity and the brain as an an engineering problem

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Wed Aug 27 19:16:22 CEST 2008


On Wednesday 27 August 2008, gros07 at itp.uni-frankfurt.de wrote:
> Everybody subscribing to this mailing list probably
> agrees that the brain constitutes a object for
> scientific investigation. But is it also an object
> for engineering considerations?
>
> In my point of view definitively not. Dignity is,
> of course, only the result of some poorly understood
> electrochemical processes. We should nevertheless
> highly value human dignity and keep a strict line
> of separation between analogies to engineering,
> or thoughts of engineering, and any living brain.

I don't see how you must have that particular separation between 
engineering and dignity. There is nothing undignified about admitting 
that brains are doing something interesting and using this interesting 
process turned on itself.*

How is it that you find that the synaptogenesis and plasticity that led 
you to write those words, are not in fact natural engineering 
processes?

One of my projects is a "brain compiler" that kind of integrates 
comp-neurosci software packages together, though I'm (slowly) 
translating into wetware possibilities:

	http://heybryan.org/buildingbrains.html
	http://heybryan.org/2008-08-15.html
	^ These are just hashing out ideas, so they are far from papers. They 
are from my personal collection of documents, notes, scribblings. 

Software engineering is a big name for programming. It was a popular 
term on the other side of this decade, at least. Not sure about it any 
more. Anyway, these software engineers would easily say computational 
neuroscience software packages are a product of the practice of 
software engineering. It's already happening.

Funny that software engineers suffer from the Oop, the Object Oriented 
Programming paradigm, where everything is an object. The alternative is 
procedural and processual programming. I wonder if the brain could be 
interpreted as something other than an object?

'System', maybe.

And I'll be sticking with [D] until we decide otherwise.

- Bryan

* On another note, the synthetic biology crowd does organism engineering 
such as at the International Genetically Engineered Machines 
Competition (iGEM) in Hong Kong this year, and they do single celled 
engineering. But there are some cases of computation done with 
bacteria, like the bacteriophotography plates using the signaling 
networks, or DNA logic like Stojanovic's tic-tac-toe system or 
Winfree's DNA self-assembling origamis. So this might be a place to 
look more closely at if there's concerns about, say, 'ethics' of 
engineering in life, before anybody starts hitting 'brains'. At the 
same time, there's been work at http://www.innerspacefoundation.org/ 
for human brain implant competitions, and brain implants usually fall 
within the confines of engineering. Not to mention the genetically 
engineered neural tissue culture studies, from knockout studies to 
lesion studies. It's all over the place.
________________________________________
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Engineers: http://heybryan.org/exp.html
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