Re: Selfish and Feral Modules (was: Re: Routing and AI algorithmic efficiency)

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 06:27:02 MST

On Wed, Feb 13, 2002 at 01:00:56PM +1100, Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 11:21 AM 2/12/02 +0100, Anders wrote:
> >brain seem to be very modular on some levels (lobe interconnections,
> >cortical minicolumns) and highly connected on others (intercortical
> >connections, inside minicolumns)
> Borrowing this observation for my own fell purposes, I raise the question
> whether some mental illness might be usefully modeled as an internal
> contest between hardwired or firmwired modules, akin to a Dawkins' gene or
> meme competition.

This is an interesting idea. Certainly plenty of people get into highly
strung states when their innate drives conflict with learned morals. I'm
less certain if the big mental illnessess fit this picture. Maybe
post-traumatic stress disorder is due to a "parasitic" memory that
causes extreme arousal whenever it is re-activated, which helps it to
get re-encoded and associated with other things.

> Maybe everything with a kind of boundary just wants to be free. Well, in
> fact, many subprocesses *are* kinda free and bottom-up anarchic, with
> emergent coordination; maybe the feral thing is when this gets out of hand.

Yes. This kind of self-organising hierarchy needs some emergent
regulation to keep it suitably balanced between overly plastic or overly
rigid states, especially when it comes to learning. If this balance gets
upset, then all sorts of problems could result.

> Relevant to this broad suggestion, perhaps, is the very good article by
> Prof. Susan Greenfield in a recent NEW SCIENTIST (02 February 2002 issue,
> `Sensational minds') where she argues interestingly for consciousness as
> linked to sheer number of neural components activated in concert; I don't
> have the article with me, and it isn't downloadable yet from their site,
> but she proposes interactions between cognitive structures, affective
> modules and the immune system. Depressive illness are linked to activation
> patterns that exclude or downplay sensory inputs from body and world,
> schizophrenic and bipolar disorders are those where too much unselected
> noise drowns out cognitive control. Something like that, in brute summary.

It could well be that many of the major mental illnesses are functional
illnesses; rather than having a clear physical origin they consist of a
maladaptive state of our dynamical systems. Of course, genetics,
experience and physical lesions can bring them about or facilitate them,
but in the end they could be due to "being in the wrong attractor" and
having the normally adaptive responses cause a vicious circle. Getting
out of such functional states could require some interesting
combinations of mental and chemical signals.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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