Thursday, 25 June 2015

Some interesting footprints on the beach.

There are major difficulties in investigating human history immediately before the coming of agriculture some 10,000 years ago because of the lack of evidence for early fishing villages along the coast lines of the world. The problem arises because during the last ice age sea levels were 100 metres or more below the current levels and this would suggest that any remains could be buried deep underwater. A recent discovery of footprints in the sand said to be about 13,000 years old suggests that there is one place where evidence has been preserved at sea level.


The place is Calvert Island, British Columbia, and earth movements (presumably mainly due to the growth in the Rocky Mountains) mean that locally the sea level has only risen by a few metres since the Ice Age low. In addition the fact that humans appear to have been on the island at the time suggests that they had sea-going boats. I look forward to future developments from this site - but unfortunately the realities of plate tectonics means that there are not going to be similar sites in Europe of Asia. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The need for a Symbolic Brain Language

I am currently drafting a detailed paper modelling the evolution of human intelligence and a key part of the work involved the definition of a "symbolic brain language" which shows how information is stored and processed. The following draft section explains the reasons why there is a difference between a conventional programming languages and the proposed brain symbolic language, and also explains why a simple approach should allow a complex system to be modelled.
Your comments on the following draft text would be appreciated.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Thoughts after completing "What is a Mind?" FutureLearn course


One of the problems with trying to relate the research I did in the 1970s and 80s to the evolution of human intelligence is that it involves many different specialist disciplines. Even if I was 50 years younger I would have difficulty in becoming up-to-date with all the potentially relevant recent research.  The "What is a Mind?" course was run from Cape Town university and perhaps was too philosophical for my liking but I found it useful, as did many other students. I deliberately set out to learn - rather than push my own research - and found discussions with people with many different specialist backgrounds (or none) most stimulating.

My final comment on the course is below

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Trapped by the Addiction Box

On of the interesting side effects of doing the online Futurelearn course "What is a Mind?" is that one gets most interesting links in the discussion. I found the article The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think really makes you think about the subject - and makes one wonder if Western society has wrongly diagnosed the addiction problem - and has got addicted to punishing addicts! I thought the research on rats very revealing. And I can think of some human friends who "went wrong" and never seriously worked again because they were treated as criminals who nobody loved.

Point of View Affects How Science Is Done

I have just discovered the article Point of View Affects How Science Is Done which was published by  Douglas Medin, Carol D. Lee and Megan Bang last September and find it interesting from a number of points of view.

In suggesting that Gender and culture influence research on a fundamental level it uses as examples studies of social relationships in primate groups and how male and female observers have noticed different aspects of what the animals they observe are doing. This suggest that in considering how the human brain has evolved one must be careful about how one thinks about the effects of human society when making comparisons with both primate societies and those of surviving hunter-gather groups.

The ideas are also relevant to the problems I had developing CODIL in the 1970s and 80s - as described in Algorithms aren't everything. The problem I had were that those working at the forefront of the computer industry considered themselves to be a particularly intelligent elite ("you have to be clever to be able to program a computer") designing systems for the slow-minded plebs. In contrast my approach was that ordinary people understood what they wanted to do - and that to help them you needed to be humble and start by assuming they knew more about their wants than you could ever know. This made it difficult to get support for my work from the computing establishment.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The brain is really flexible



It says a lot about the adaptability of the brain, and how it can wire itself 
up in unusual circumstances just to watch how these 7 year olds can work
together, and share information. for instance if one watches the TV the
other can also "see" it