Volume 2, Issue 1
1st Quarter, 2007

What it Might "Feel" Like to be Connected to Devices That Will Expand or Enhance Human Function With Cyber Abilities

Lawrence J. Cauller, Ph.D

Page 3 of 8

Image 21 - Growth of Self 

The early development of infant speech can be explained by this interplay between bottom-up and top-down cortical influences.  A well-documented stage of early speech development is marked by a repetitive form of babbling, such that the same simple sound is repeated over and over again, like ‘bah, bah, bah, bah, bah’. Then babbling suddenly turns into a more variable series of mixed speech sounds, like ‘bah, ga, bah, ga, ga, bah’. Before the baby develops action-prediction networks linking these vocal actions with the sounds they produce, the winner-take-all cortical activity in the vocal motor area repeats the same speech sound over and over again. As learning refines the ‘bah’ sensory prediction in auditory cortex, the bottom-up inhibitory after-image it generates grows strong enough to shut down the ‘bah’ sensory-motor network, allowing the next action-prediction network to take over. 

This simple advance in the development of speech illustrates the incremental process that leads to more creative combinations of speech sound, greater sequence complexity, the formation of word clusters, sentences, and the grammatical structure necessary to express complex concepts.

Hopefully, you can get a little feel for how these NeuroInteractive dynamics can then lead to the higher and higher levels of  action-prediction networks extending throughout cortex linking our memories, dreams, and plans with the sensory-motor activity that guides our interactive conscious behavior and the emergence of our ability to construct an understanding.

Along the way we learn to communicate with others by learning to predict the indirect the consequences that reflect the effect our actions have upon the actions of others. 

Image 22 - Growth to Self to Include Mother

This begins to develop as the baby's self-action-prediction networks become fused with the predictive networks related to the actions of our closest, most reliable companions. To the extent that someone consistently responds to our actions, they become linked into our foundation of self.

The tender way a mother mimics the sounds a baby mixes her voice with the sounds of the baby’s own vocalizations entangling herself into the baby’s self-action-prediction formed during early speech development. Hopefully, you can see how the same sort of NeuroInteractive dynamics that form predictive networks govern the development of such interpersonal relationships.

What I like about this way of explaining things, is that relatively simple mechanisms regulate and guide the dynamics and development of this natural form of intelligent behavior. There is no need to pre-program an artificial intelligence with abstract rules about cognitive functions. Higher function emerges naturally out of the dynamical NeuroInteractivity that simultaneously guides behavior and constructs networks that predict the sensory consequences of your actions.  

Image 23 - Growth to Self to Include Others

Consider this intriguing developmental puzzle:  If you smile at a baby, how does it know to smile back? Think about it. The baby can’t see its own face, so this isn’t mimicry.

Based upon the assumption that all behavior is in response to transformed sensory inputs, conventional explanations would suppose that the baby has some kind of visual reaction circuit that maps the sight of your smile onto its motor system for smiling. Do you think a baby smiles reflexively in response to the complex visual stimulus of your smile; I find the NeuroInteractive explanation to be far more likely.

From time to time babies smile spontaneously as they exercise their muscles of facial expression. I believe it may be impossible for any one here NOT to smile back when they see a smiling baby. So when this happens, the baby sees your smiling face as one of the sensory consequences of its own smiling action. This simultaneous activation of smiling patterns in motor and visual cortex strengthens the interconnections of a smiling-action-rediction network linking the sight of a smiling face with the act of smiling.  

Image 24 - The Neurolinteractive

Conscious subjective experience is created by our action-prediction networks as they generate a seemingly continuous stream of sensory predictions associated with the incessant actions that fill every moment of our conscious behavior.

Our eyes probe our visual surroundings 3 to 10 times every second, at the same time we rub our fingers, tap our feet or touch the computer keyboard, automatically shifting position in our chairs to maximize comfort, constantly hearing the sounds we make every time we move, occasionally noticing how dry our mouth has become, and so on and on.

We don’t look at anything carefully enough to reconstruct the rich contents of our mind out of what we see with our eyes. If we want to perceive more detail we can just look, and if something is too far away, well we can imagine as much detail as we want, it isn’t very important any way. What is important is prediction. It’s all about testing reality, dealing with uncertainty.  

Image 25 - Neurolinteractive Principles

It may surprise you that it is the logical conclusion of this NeuroInteractive view of consciousness that we don’t actually experience the world directly through our senses. Our conscious experience is created out of the sensory predictions associated with our incessant actions, we only use our senses to align our subjective model of the world, and to confirm and refine our expectations.

This form of visual awareness is primed to rapidly identify any new or unusual features we may encounter. The destabilizing effects of unconfirmed predictions force a shift in behavior in search of alternative action-prediction networks to account for such unexpected surprises or a focused investigation to construct a new action-prediction network that restores one’s secure sense of certainty. 

What you're experiencing is your unique, personal predictions about what will happen. From moment to moment as you walk and look around, touching, smelling and listening, constantly interacting with a world apart from the reality of our experience.

Virtual reality technology is useful for the sort of cognitive experiments that provide support to this NeuroInteractive view of conscious sensory experience. Such studies have demonstrated that we are largely unaware of significant changes in the world around if they occur while we’re looking elsewhere, even if we consider the changes unlikely - like trees turning into fire hydrants. Our disconnected experience of the world is further illustrated by other virtual reality studies that track eye movements during reading. When everything in our visual field is de-focused beyond the few words on either side of our current eye position, we continue to experience a clearly focused, full visual field.   

Image 26 - Natural Intelligence

I like to distinguish natural intelligence from popular notions of artificial intelligence which typically involves pre-programmed operations to replicate the cognitive processes believed responsible for intelligent behavior, such as attention, logical reasoning, and planning or knowledge.

Natural intelligence is feasible in artificial systems capable of interactive sensory-motor behavior integrated within the sort of the vastly interconnected networks of nonlinear cellular integrators found in biological brains. However, the essential structure of nature intelligence is incompatible with the [1] von Neumann Architecture of conventional computation systems, and it is not possible to program functions such as searching or visual recognition into systems with natural intelligence.

In such systems designed for natural intelligence, all functions develop incrementally over the course of interactive experience by nurtured self-organization. So you should imagine a future where we might have crying artificial beings in nurseries or adopt them into our families.

With respect to the issue raised in the presentation earlier today, it is my opinion that natural intelligence is the essential basis for most human characteristics. So I expect that to the extent that their caregivers are moral and they consistently express these morals in their nurturing interactions with artificial children,  they should acquire such human traits. While such artificial beings can not be pre-programmed any more that this would be possible in biological children, the potential of natural intelligence for the acquisition of natural language to express such abstract concepts as morality and love, should permit the sort of ‘programming’ that is possible in such natural beings, such as reading and mentored discussion.

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[1]The von Neumann architecture - a computer design model that uses a single storage structure to hold both instructions and data. The term describes such a computer, which implements a Universal Turing machine, and the common "referential model" of specifying sequential architectures, in contrast with parallel architectures.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki  March 9, 2007 12:51PM EST 

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