Re: Doing the neural walk

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Sun, 20 Sep 1998 17:34:36 EDT

From: <>
Date: Sun, 20 Sep 1998 17:34:36 EDT
Subject: Re: Doing the neural walk

Here's an interesting line of discussion:

One 9-14-98, Bruce Howlett responded to Dereck:
>>So extant languages will not persist if we all became Crusoes
>>permanently (we'd lose the grammars specific to those languages
>>eventually - imagine a Methuselah stranded on a planet alone: what would
>>that person use as language in a thousand years or so, assuming
>>neo-Hebbian memory?), and selection in favour of the signaling
>>behaviours we call language use is required to make interior monologues
>>possible. So, I'm a reconstructed Wittgesteinian. However, as a matter
>>of literary exegsis, no, Tourette's monologues would not be private
>>languages. As an aside, have a look at the character called Mrs Tachyon
>>in Terry Pratchett's book _Johnny and the Bomb_ for this sort of
>I understand John to be saying that language patterns would be lost. I
>fail to see how that implies a loss of cognitive thought processes.
>Even horses can think.

With language, we can construct elaborate and subtle self-referencing
logic patterns which simply would not be possible without it. Language
is as fundemental to the function of the 'human' 'intelligence' mechanism
(in its 'modern' form) as it is to the operation of a computer, and probably
serves a very similar function... Now, do you suppose that I could have
constructed that line of 'thought' in my mind (however 'simplistic' it might
seem) without utilizing the language and its logic? _I_ can't imagine how.
Linguistic symbols are 'concrete object' structures which we can manipulate
with those faculties of our brain which have evolved to manipulate images of
'concrete object' structures. And since we use language 'symbolically', we
can use the concrete structures of language to reference themselves, and
non-concrete aspects of our experience -- such as 'time', 'thought',
etc. -- as well, thus allowing our 'mind' mechanisms to construct
experiential reaction neurocircuitry constructs ('thoughts', 'beliefs',
'theories', etc.) of virtually unlimited subtlety and complexity. It is
the referential _'logic'_ of the language we use which we need to be very
cautious with, so as not to mislead and 'confuse' ourselves (our own
'thoughts'), and each
other. We must remember that although language is 'merely' a tool, we are
utterly dependant upon it as the only tool of its kind available to us. Its
limitations and flaws are 'our' limitations and flaws.

On 9-14-98 Bill Benson responded to Mark Mills:
>> You define gene as a substance or 'thing.' Thus, it is clear that the
>> things getting copied in our environment are memes, by definition.
>Actually, I don't. Is a bit of overheard conversation a thing or a
>Now, it happens to be the case that English can make a noun out of
>anything, but
>that's mere grammar and of no interest here.

Since it looks like what we're trying to do here is 'define' what a meme
'is' in terms of 'natural' (informal, non-technical) language, and the
traditional 'concrete object manipulation' logic of our natural language
compels us to 'nounify' the objects of our discussion, perhaps neither
'process' nor 'substance' in their common usage are sufficient to
characterize the nature of the 'meme'. Maybe 'pattern of interaction'
among 'things' (which 'things' themselves can probably be identified upon
closer scrutiny as 'patterns of interaction' as well) might be more
compatable with our common usage language logic. So that a 'meme' and a
'gene' become instances of 'a self-replicating pattern of interaction'.

Note here that even the 'common usage', or 'standard meaning', of our language
usage is memetic as well. Perhaps we could justify regarding the 'whole darn
thing' ('universe') is a great 'mind' (whatever that 'is')-mechanism trying to
build itself, and render its structure 'intelligable' to itself by
'standardizing' its 'parts'... ? In wave- mechanics-like terms, striving
toward 'coherence' or 'harmony'? :)

The happy meanderer,
Chris Turner 9-21-98

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