Re: Machines Must Use Their Common Sense --Minsky

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Wed Sep 05 2001 - 08:21:46 MDT

> Thanks for posting Minsky piece.
> Natasha

You're sure welcome, Natasha. My pleasure. I've tried to follow up the Minsky
piece with some messages about Minsky's _Emotion Machine_, but apparently
those never got posted. Too long I suppose. So here's the scoop, cut down to
more postable size.

Concerning The Emotion Machine
G: We've heard that you're working on the sequel to The Society of the Mind,
The Emotion Machine, can you briefly describe what this book is about, and
what you wish to convey?

M: The central idea is that emotion is not different from thinking. Instead,
emotion is a type or arrangement of thinking. There is no such thing as
unemotional thinking, because there always must be a selection of goals, and a
selection of resources for achieving them.

G: Is consciousness possible without emotions?

M: Consciousness is not a 'thing'; it is a just a word that we carelessly use
several different techniques. Their common feature is that in each type of
consciousness, some parts of the brain describe what has recently happened in
various other parts of the brain. The most common forms of this are recognized
when those descriptions take the form of linguistic expressions or visual
representations-but there are other ways for parts of the brain to represent
what has happened in yet other parts of the brain. However, because we cannot
describe all of these in the usual ways, then, paradoxically, we are
'unconscious' of some forms of consciousness! I'd say that this has not much
to do with emotions, except that each emotion engages different mental
resources, and hence different forms of descriptions.


This is a chapter from somewhere around the middle of
The Emotion Machine (a sequel to The Society of Mind)
"An area within the functionally complex anterior cingulate cortex has a
highly selective role in pain processing, consistent with an involvement in
the characteristic emotional/motivational component (unpleasantness and
urgency) of pain." [Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, 'Pain Mechanisms: A New
Theory", Science, 150 p.975, 1965]

"Morality does not help me. I am one of those who are made for exceptions, not
for laws. Religion does not help me. The faith that others give to what is
unseen, I give to what one can touch, and look at. Reason does not help me. It
tells me that the laws under which I am convicted, and the system under which
I have suffered are wrong and unjust. But, somehow, I have got to make both of
these things just and right to me. I have got to make everything that has
happened to me good for me. The plank bed, the loathsome food, the hard ropes,
the harsh orders, the dreadful dress that makes sorrow grotesque to look at,
the I silence, the solitude, the shame--each and all of these things I had to
transform into a spiritual experience. There is not a single degradation of
the body which I must not try and make into a spiritualizing of the soul."
[extracted b Frederic Rzewski from Oscar Wilde's letter to Lord Alfred
Douglas, written during the author's imprisonment in Reading.]


--J. R.

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego

     Everything that can happen has already happened, not just once,
     but an infinite number of times, and will continue to do so forever.
     (Everything that can happen = more than anyone can imagine.)

We won't move into a better future until we debunk religiosity, the most
regressive force now operating in society.

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