Re: Neural darwinism (Re: Human intelligence is obviously absurd)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2005 - 08:18:28 MST

At 10:31 PM 30/01/05 -0800, you wrote:
>--- Keith Henson <> wrote:
> > With respect to speech, there is a lot of evidence
> > in the kind of mistakes
> > we make that sentences are "evolved up" through a
> > number of cycles from noise.
>Can you elaborate on this? I've never heard of this.

The brain's construction of chained memories and actions is probably
another tree, though a more functional metaphor might be the
candelabra-shaped railroad marshaling yard, with words for cars: imagine
that many trains are randomly constructed on the parallel tracks. but only
the best is selected to be let loose on the 'main track' of consciousness
and speech. Best is determined by memories of the fate of somewhat similar
sequences in the past, and one presumes a series of selection steps2 that
shape up candidates into increasingly more realistic sequences. This
selection among stochastic sequences is more analogous to the ways of
darwinian evolutionary biology than to the 'von Neumann machine' serial
computer. One might call it a Darwin Machine3 instead: it shapes up
thoughts in milliseconds rather than millennia, and uses innocuous
remembered environments rather than the noxious real-life ones.

Calvin, W. H. (1987). The brain as a Darwin machine. Nature 330:33-34 (5
November). Available at

The darwinian competition of ideas, which the nineteenth century identified
as a basis of thought, suggests that we might gain some insight about
thinking from a study of evolutionary mechanisms that usually operate on
long time scales. But in ideas, we are always dealing with a string of
words or more elaborate concepts. How do we compare strings? How do masses
of nerve cells interact to shape up new concepts from random noise? How do
a group of nerve cells get together to initiate a movement?
       It's actually not too different from how fancy tools can be shaped
up by random bashing about. And how we devise "logical" shortcuts when we
want to repeat a success.

And I still have not found exactly what I was looking for. Somewhere I
have read an analysis of grammar errors which made the case that most were
the result of sentences coming out of the mental serial sequencer before
the sentence had been run through enough selection cycles to be completely
grammar corrected.

It might have been in an article that also looked at "bit stuffing," using
fillers such as "you know" in an attempt to keep the communication channel
from being turned around. Of course putting in filler words partly jams up
the circuits and slows down the production of real information. Which is
why speaking slower is a good idea instead of stuffing your speech with aha
and ands. :-)

Will try again this evening,

Keith Henson

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