Re: synaptic selves and Etch-A-Sketches

From: Chris Taylor (
Date: Wed 04 May 2005 - 09:39:59 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: synaptic selves and Etch-A-Sketches"

    When LeDoux talks about synapses (para-digital) and self in the book does he also factor in the full-on analog summation on the soma, or is this all about switching networks for him?

    Worm people love to rant on about this fully-deterministic cell fate thing. Yawn (sorry wormies). I think we can presume elegans to be _well_ below the 'critical mass' for anything interesting w.r.t. our concerns. Honey bees have special neural architecture for learning routes from dances, but this is just one phenome reprogramming another phenome in an entirely straightforward manner, rather than any ghosts appearing in the machine.

    With Aplysia, I assume the small subset of neurons referred to by Aunger are those concerned directly with the (undergrad conditioning lecture) example of gill retraction in response to prodding (over time the initial rapid retraction response changes -- long term condition through changes in protein composition of the synapse, as opposed to a short-term change through exhaustion of resourse iyswim, which also occurs). Seems that shuffling stock examples led to some bits getting mixed up? Oh dear :\

    Sorry I can't get stuck into the meat of your post though (or the last one -- need to slow the earth's rotation).

    You read like most people breathe dude :D

    Cheers, Chris.

    Scott Chase wrote:
    > I've been starting into Joseph LeDoux's _Synaptic
    > Self_ which is so far an invigorating read, since he
    > seems to know what he's talking about (cough, cough)
    > and I hope to soon be able to compare his view of "the
    > synaptic self" with that of Blackmore's "selfplex"
    > (akin to one of those memome thingies Juan Delius
    > talks about) and Anthony Stevens's archetypal
    > viewpoint of "the self".
    > There's a point in LeDoux's book where he asks "Are
    > synapses enough?" which seems to rely implicitly upon
    > the necessary versus sufficient causation dichotomy.
    > He's not too explicit in his answer, maybe he unravels
    > it during the book, but it seems he implies that
    > synapses are necessary for "the self" but in pointing
    > to other factors, perhaps not sufficient...
    > He gives Gould's exaptation concept fair treatment
    > when discussing ev psych and recommends Rose and
    > Rose's _Alas Poor Darwin_. BTW in his new book _The
    > Future of the Brain_ curmudgeony Steve Rose says that
    > the nematode *C. elegans* has a nervous system of
    > exactly 302 cells. I'm pretty sure he's knowledgable
    > on the topic prominent neuroscientist that he is.
    > That makes me wonder again where Aunger was going with
    > the aside about the "32 hard-wired neurons of the sea
    > slug", especially given how he confused the generic
    > name *Aplysia* with the common general name "nematode"
    > earlier. Could he have dropped the zero between the
    > three and two of the nematode's neural endowment (302)
    > and misattributed it to the sea slug or are there a
    > specific set of 32 *Aplysia* neurons (out of around
    > 20,000 total) he's talking about? Nematodes are less
    > neurally endowed, it would seem, than sea slugs
    > anyway. Thus, could we assume the sea slug would stand
    > a better chance of having a neuromeme slithering
    > through its synapses than the nematode?
    > I think I commented on the notion of anamnesis earlier
    > with regard to what Aunger had said about evoked
    > culture early in his book. Well LeDoux had me thinking
    > about the same thing when he talks about the hardcore
    > selectionist versus instructionist debate where
    > someone named Niels Jerne (LeDoux, page 73) said that
    > "learning consists of being reminded of what is
    > already in the brain." Is that anamnesis or what? Add
    > the quasi-biblical fall from EEA grace when we started
    > doing maladaptive stuff like studying books instead of
    > procreating and using contraception and we've got a
    > semblance of ev psych gone haywire :-)
    > Since I agree with Aunger on the 'transmission
    > happens' argument for culture, I think this nativism
    > in extremo is going way too far. Yes there's some
    > innateness to learning, but the nativists seem to be
    > taking things to extremes. I subscibe to the
    > Etch-A-Sketch theory that genes provided us with
    > architectures (or Etch-a-Sketch modular thingies), but
    > these are written upon by experience. The slates
    > aren't totally blank (but perhaps Pinker doth protest
    > the SSSM too much). Perhaps cultural transmission is
    > when you use someone elses "Etch-A-Sketch" as a model
    > for what you will draw upon your own. Anyone having
    > tried drawing on one of these contraptions knows how
    > you're constrained by the way the dials work (IIRC one
    > goes vertical the other horizontal). The analogy is
    > apt.
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      Chris Taylor (
      HUPO PSI: GPS --
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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