Re: implied or inferred memes

Bill Benzon (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 18:32:23 -0400

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 18:32:23 -0400
From: (Bill Benzon)
Subject: Re: implied or inferred memes

At 4:34 PM 10/5/99 +0000, Mark M. Mills wrote:

>Unfortunately, it will be impossible to 'crack' this program because all
>we can do is count synapses and electrical waves. Since one cannot
>reverse engineer a word processor from a bit stream, we shall never
>advance our understanding by tracking the bit stream passing through a
>nerve cell.
>Further, all computers are generalized, so knowing how the computer works
>tells us nothing about the programs it run.
>We would be better off forgetting about biophysics and simply observe
>macroscopic behaviors.

Well Mark, yes, you're getting there. However, I'm not, in fact that
pessimistic. We can do more than count synapses. In the long run I don't
think we're going to understand the human mind/brain until we can construct
computer simulations on machines with, shall we say, processing capacity
within an order of magnitude of what the brain has. We don't have that

The fact is, I certainly have my prejudices about what the brain is up to.
A number of years ago Karl Pribram championed the notion that the brain
constructs neural holograms to represent perceptions and ideas (he still
advocates that idea). I rather like that notion, but the empirical
evidence is by no means a slam-dunk. But, given Pribram's neural
holography as an assumtion, I can see how to get interesting things done by
bouncing neural holograms around.

Where does that leave me on the biophysics? Well, I certainly want to know
that the biophysics will support neural holograms, more or less. Let's
assume that it does (I'm not really competent to judge this myself and must
rely on Pribram and others). Should I expect there to be any easy way to
get from the actions of individual neurons to the overall actions of the
slab of tissue in which it is embedded? Take a photographic hologram. Can
you figure out the image in the hologram by examining the pattern of silve
grains in the photographic emulsion? You can reconstruct the image by
illuminating the film with coherent light of the appropriate frequency and
angle of incidence, but reconstructing the image by examining the silver
grains is impossible. But you can certainly tell a nice story about what
happens when that light hits the film.

Karl Pribram, Language of the Brain, Prentice-Hall, 1971.

William L. Benzon 201.217.1010
708 Jersey Ave. Apt. 2A
Jersey City, NJ 07302 USA

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