Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Emotion Machine

While I am still reading Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid I have interluded said reading with the reading of a similarly themed book titled: The Emotion Machine. It was just recently written by one Marvin Minsky.

Minsky probes deeper into the question of natural intelligence. Don't look for simple explanations: he believes "we need to find more complicated ways to explain our most familiar mental events"; we need to break our thought processes down into the most precise steps possible. In fact, in order to truly understand the human mind, Minsky suggests, we'll probably need to reverse-engineer a machine that can replicate those functions so we can study it.

I love this book the more I read it. It may be dangerous to post about it before I have completed the book, but it is not of the type to finish in one sitting.

What I love most about reading this book is that I invariably formulate theories to describe or solve the problems and situations he presents in the book. He structures the reading such that after many of the problems he introduces he simply states that they need to be solved because they haven't been so far. I like this as it motivates me.

Upon writing this I have realized that I seem to be attributing this method of presenting ideas to Minsky himself when in fact they are due to the fact that the time this book was written no such solutions are in place. Still, the book has helped me to recognize that I have just been guilty of self-reflection. That recognition is of course a type of recursive self-reflection, a self-reflection-reflection if you will. Who or what should I attribute to the fact that I just recognized a SRR (Self-Reflection-Reflection)or even that I recognized a SRRR which leads to recognition of a SRRRR ad infinitum. Perhaps there is some truth to the infinite regress of the homunculus, more on that in a later post.

I will leave you with an excerpt from a review which can be found on Amazon's site for the book. I warn you, it could be considered controversial for anyone with a sense of self, i.e. everyone, and any Stoics out there.

Thus, [Minsky] rejects the idea of consciousness as a unitary "Self" in favor of "a decentralized cloud" of more than 20 distinct mental processes. In this view, emotional states like love and shame are not the opposite of rational cogitation; both, Minsky says, are ways of thinking.