1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

User avatar
The Old Wolf
Posts: 22
Joined: Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:28 am UTC
Location: Not Denver, but we have better powder.

1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby The Old Wolf » Fri Oct 09, 2015 11:53 am UTC

http://www.xkcd.com/1588/

Image

Randall is so smart - so much very, very much smarter than me - that I'm afraid to even question his use of the spelling "triatholon."

But I really suspect it's an error.
"The greatest insanity is surely to see the world only as it is, and not as it might be."
-Miguel de Cervantes

AutumnThunder
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2015 5:20 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby AutumnThunder » Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:31 pm UTC

The Old Wolf wrote:Randall is so smart - so much very, very much smarter than me - that I'm afraid to even question his use of the spelling "triatholon."

But I really suspect it's an error.


It's okay, we are but human and are prone to mundane mistakes.

Spoiler:
Don't forget this: "My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®."

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby orthogon » Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:37 pm UTC

Hmm.

Brains are not just Universal Turing Machines, and nor are smartphones. There is dedicated hardware in the phone to deal with image processing, video decoding, digital modulation and demodulation, forward error correction, geolocation and many other functions. And all the evidence is that the brain also has specialised areas dedicated to dealing with particular functions: language processing, spatial awareness, etc. My first Nokia really would "have a hard time" playing an MPEG because it would have to use the CPU to do all the decoding (not to mention converting it to ASCII-art), and would manage a much lower frame rate as a result. And if different people differed in the "spec" of a particular dedicated brain area then you'd expect them to perform differently in tasks that made use of that area. Of course, brains and computers don't behave the same when they find something difficult: the computer simply takes longer to produce the correct result, whereas the brain is more likely to produce a timely but incorrect output.

As an example of "the way we talk about brain hardware", this is a strawman, but in any case if research really did show the effect that Cueball Ponytail Megan describes at a significant level, then it would be very interesting and demand attention, because there's no obvious mechanism for it. The number of cores in the phone should have no effect on the aesthetic quality of the photo, nor is there any relationship between the number of sequentially performed sporting events in a competition and the cores used to process a photo of one of those events. Either the research is wrong, as would be shown by replication studies, or there's a genuine unexpected effect that requires an explanation.

The trouble with the brain is that we don't fully understand how it works, so it's less obvious whether or not there is a mechanism for a given effect. This might make us more likely to entertain the possibility that a given difference in ability is a result of differences in brain hardware, when in fact there are other reasons for it. But if we find that the size of a particular brain area correlates with ability in a particular skill; and furthermore can separate cause from effect (the size difference is already present at birth, perhaps), then sure, we can say that differences in brain hardware are responsible. In the end, whether ability at a particular skill is governed by the size/quality of a particular brain area is a scientific fact that's amenable to experiment, not simply an ideological position.

EDIT: whoops, got the dialogue the wrong way around. EDIT2: And then got the character wrong in my correction. It's Friday, dammit!
Last edited by orthogon on Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:44 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

User avatar
RAGBRAIvet
Posts: 130
Joined: Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:50 pm UTC
Location: 43° 53' 03" -91° 14' 06"

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby RAGBRAIvet » Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:38 pm UTC

How can you tell if someone is using an iPhone?

You can hear the brain cells screaming as they die.

User avatar
jc
Posts: 356
Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 5:48 pm UTC
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
Contact:

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby jc » Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:44 pm UTC

AutumnThunder wrote:
The Old Wolf wrote:Randall is so smart - so much very, very much smarter than me - that I'm afraid to even question his use of the spelling "triatholon."

But I really suspect it's an error.


It's okay, we are but human and are prone to mundane mistakes.

Spoiler:
Don't forget this: "My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®."


Yeah, but it might also illustrate something else: I didn't notice the error until it was pointed out. This is common, because people tend to not "see" the individual letters while reading, and routinely auto-correct text with such simple errors. This also illustrates something that publishers know well: It's a good idea for proofreading to be done by someone other than the author, and even better if it's done by someone not very familiar with the topic, because those close to the topic tend to read what they "know" the text should say and not see the errors.

Actually, I did a quick check of the etymology of "triathlon" at wiktionary.org, because it's not unusual for internal letters/sounds to be lost in borrowings. But the original Greek root was "ἆθλος" ("contest"). So it really is a mistake, and the extra 'o' wasn't ever there.

User avatar
Whizbang
The Best Reporter
Posts: 2238
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:50 pm UTC
Location: New Hampshire, USA

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Whizbang » Fri Oct 09, 2015 12:57 pm UTC

Title/Alt: "My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®."

User avatar
cellocgw
Posts: 2067
Joined: Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:40 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Oct 09, 2015 1:23 pm UTC

Reminds me a bit of the one-upsmanship in the early '60s when portable transistor radios started to take over the world. The marketeers labelled each model w/ the number of physical transistors inside -- never mind that most of said devices were rejects, used solely as diodes in the circuits. It was way more prestigious to have, say, a "Seven-transistor" radio than some wimpy "Five-transistor" radio.

Anyway, as soon as someone figures out how the brain really works, I'm signing up for some neuron rewiring to give me audio-visual synesthesia.
resume
Former OTTer
Vote cellocgw for President 2020. #ScienceintheWhiteHouse http://cellocgw.wordpress.com
"The Planck length is 3.81779e-33 picas." -- keithl
" Earth weighs almost exactly π milliJupiters" -- what-if #146, note 7

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby orthogon » Fri Oct 09, 2015 1:27 pm UTC

Apples only have one core, anyway.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

piratejohn
Posts: 16
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:26 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby piratejohn » Fri Oct 09, 2015 1:34 pm UTC

We only use 10% of our phones.

User avatar
Copper Bezel
Posts: 2426
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:35 am UTC
Location: Web exclusive!

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Oct 09, 2015 2:17 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:As an example of "the way we talk about brain hardware", this is a strawman, but in any case if research really did show the effect that Cueball describes at a significant level, then it would be very interesting and demand attention, because there's no obvious mechanism for it. The number of cores in the phone should have no effect on the aesthetic quality of the photo, nor is there any relationship between the number of sequentially performed sporting events in a competition and the cores used to process a photo of one of those events. Either the research is wrong, as would be shown by replication studies, or there's a genuine unexpected effect that requires an explanation.

I think you're mistaking the "we." Credible studies in neuroscience journals record observations and might make some very tentative guesses about what they might mean. It's when anyone tries to actually use that information that things start to get a little silly.
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

User avatar
The Moomin
Posts: 359
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:59 am UTC
Location: Yorkshire

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby The Moomin » Fri Oct 09, 2015 3:23 pm UTC

Blackberries have seeds rather than cores which probably something differents altogether.
I'm alive because the cats are alive.
The cats are alive because I'm alive.
Specious.

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby orthogon » Fri Oct 09, 2015 3:33 pm UTC

The Moomin wrote:Blackberries have seeds rather than cores which probably something differents altogether.

Shall we stop before we do the whole One Ronnie sketch?
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

Unclevertitle
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:20 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Unclevertitle » Fri Oct 09, 2015 4:05 pm UTC

piratejohn wrote:We only use 10% of our phones.


If we could only tap into the other 90% we might finally unlock the secrets of cellepathy and cellekinesis, possibly even celleportation.

One day science will learn how to unlock our phones.

User avatar
Quercus
Posts: 1810
Joined: Thu Sep 19, 2013 12:22 pm UTC
Location: London, UK
Contact:

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Quercus » Fri Oct 09, 2015 4:30 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:Anyway, as soon as someone figures out how the brain really works, I'm signing up for some neuron rewiring to give me audio-visual synesthesia.

It's not all sweetness and light sound. I have a friend who has it, and although it sounds great in some respects - very useful for artistic inspiration for example (she's a professional sculptor), it also means that she can't be in a lot of places because some feature of the soundscape is too visually distracting, disturbing or just plain unpleasant for her.

User avatar
keithl
Posts: 662
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:46 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby keithl » Fri Oct 09, 2015 6:08 pm UTC

The capabilities of a whole functioning brain are emergent, NOT reducable to the separate capabilities of its components. The reductive conceptual mistake is what this cartoon satirizes. And this will be a life-and-death matter for many of us. If neurology treats the brain as a collection of unifunctional brain regions rather than an incredibly adaptable system made of somewhat-differentiated neurons and support cells, they will never understand neurological diseases or their cures.

For example, Sir Terry Pratchett had "Posterior cortical atrophy" or "Benson's Syndrome" - symptoms of the same mysterious pathology as Alzheimer's disease manifesting first in the back part of the brain, which is seemingly associated with visual processing. Sir Terry lost the ability to recognize and act on visual phenomena (and later, the ability to think and to survive). The disease process attacked his visual abilities first (lucky us, we got a few more novels out of him) but it eventually destroyed that whole wonderful mind and the splendid fellow using it.

I first met Terry (not yet Sir) at Torcon 2003 (the Toronto Worldcon). We were both looking north across Front Street from the convention center for a restaurant that wasn't obvious, which turned out to be underneath a small park. I helped Terry navigate across the busy street and we had a nice lunch. A decade later, I realized he couldn't "see" the traffic well enough to negotiate it safely - his whole-brain disease was already manifesting itself. And I recently learned that I have the same genetic metabolic error that evolved into Alzheimer's for Sir Terry.

Recognizing "there's a car slowing down in front of me, I should slow down" is a whole brain process - which almost lethally failed a couple of weeks ago. A car in front of me vanished, cognitively. It was in the northbound left hand lane of a busy street, not signalling but preparing to turn left (illegally, across a double yellow line) into a side street, and I did not see it until it grew rapidly enough in my visual field to get my attention. I noisily laid a patch of rubber to within a few feet of the fool's rear bumper. As luck would have it, nobody was close enough behind me to rear-end me - but I was zoned out, and not paying attention to the cars behind me, either (mental state - planning one of four routes east, deciding when to change lanes right, and the sysadmin task at my destination). The "components" of my adaptive, reconfigurable brain were processing less important data, rather than performing their alleged primary task - avoiding danger.

Brains are not merely a concatenation of components. They are a vast cloud of connectivity implemented in irreversably rotting meat, with just enough temporary spare capacity to create a magnificent global civilization. Be very afraid - then help fix the problem.

User avatar
zjxs
Posts: 66
Joined: Tue Sep 29, 2009 6:04 am UTC
Location: The Cloud

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby zjxs » Fri Oct 09, 2015 10:15 pm UTC

Triothalon is a very difficult sport, and should not be attempted by people with more than 10% of a brain.

User avatar
Reecer6
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:59 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Reecer6 » Sat Oct 10, 2015 4:17 am UTC

Unclevertitle wrote:
piratejohn wrote:We only use 10% of our phones.


If we could only tap into the other 90% we might finally unlock the secrets of cellepathy and cellekinesis, possibly even celleportation.

One day science will learn how to unlock our phones.


I managed to jailbreak my phone so that I could use 45%, and it definitely gained some incredibly vicious pyrokinetic abilities!

Albeit limited-use. And my pants no longer have a back pocket.

RogueCynic
Posts: 409
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:23 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby RogueCynic » Sat Oct 10, 2015 5:00 am UTC

Whizbang wrote:Title/Alt: "My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®."

Please tell me this was published. I'd like to know why they they are having the triathlon events simultaneously.
I am Lord Titanius Englesmith, Fancyman of Cornwood.
See 1 Kings 7:23 for pi.
If you put a prune in a juicer, what would you get?

User avatar
keithl
Posts: 662
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:46 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby keithl » Sat Oct 10, 2015 5:59 am UTC

Quercus wrote:
cellocgw wrote:Anyway, as soon as someone figures out how the brain really works, I'm signing up for some neuron rewiring to give me audio-visual synesthesia.
It's not all sweetness and light sound. I have a friend who has it, and although it sounds great in some respects - very useful for artistic inspiration for example (she's a professional sculptor), it also means that she can't be in a lot of places because some feature of the soundscape is too visually distracting, disturbing or just plain unpleasant for her.
LSD can cause audio-visual synesthesia. I have not partaken, but watched friends who have, and observed the "bad trip" effects Quercus describes. Others, who did not have bad trips, found LSD more interesting than a full life. That is worse, IMHO. I get high on the real thing - teraflop simulation!

elasto
Posts: 3778
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby elasto » Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:42 am UTC

keithl wrote:The capabilities of a whole functioning brain are emergent, NOT reducable to the separate capabilities of its components. The reductive conceptual mistake is what this cartoon satirizes. And this will be a life-and-death matter for many of us. If neurology treats the brain as a collection of unifunctional brain regions rather than an incredibly adaptable system made of somewhat-differentiated neurons and support cells, they will never understand neurological diseases or their cures.

...

Brains are not merely a concatenation of components.


Categorically untrue. Some parts of the brain really are unique and unifunctional. Quoting from another thread:

Researchers at USC and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a brain prosthesis that is designed to help individuals suffering from memory loss.

...

If there's damage at any region that prevents this translation, then there is the possibility that long-term memory will not be formed. That's why an individual with hippocampal damage (for example, due to Alzheimer's disease) can recall events from a long time ago -- things that were already translated into long-term memories before the brain damage occurred -- but have difficulty forming new long-term memories.

Song and Berger found a way to accurately mimic how a memory is translated from short-term memory into long-term memory, using data obtained by Deadwyler and Hampson, first from animals, and then from humans. Their prosthesis is designed to bypass a damaged hippocampal section and provide the next region with the correctly translated memory.

That's despite the fact that there is currently no way of "reading" a memory just by looking at its electrical signal.


We need to both understand the small, specialized regions and how they work together in concert to crack the greatest mystery in the universe.
Last edited by elasto on Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:43 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

CoryG
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:56 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby CoryG » Sat Oct 10, 2015 6:43 am UTC

Whizbang wrote:Title/Alt: "My MRI research shows a clear correlation between the size of the parietal lobe--the part of the brain that handles spatial reasoning--and enjoyment of 3D Doritos®."

He did what everyone does when describing the brain - added subtext to describe what he is talking about with the implication you're too stupid to know what that specific piece does - then completed the sentence.

ijuin
Posts: 1148
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby ijuin » Sat Oct 10, 2015 7:20 am UTC

cellocgw wrote:Reminds me a bit of the one-upsmanship in the early '60s when portable transistor radios started to take over the world. The marketeers labelled each model w/ the number of physical transistors inside -- never mind that most of said devices were rejects, used solely as diodes in the circuits. It was way more prestigious to have, say, a "Seven-transistor" radio than some wimpy "Five-transistor" radio.

Anyway, as soon as someone figures out how the brain really works, I'm signing up for some neuron rewiring to give me audio-visual synesthesia.


And today's smartphones have about one hundred million transistors plus a billion other nanoscale components.

Positron
Posts: 14
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 5:05 am UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Positron » Sun Oct 11, 2015 7:34 am UTC

ijuin wrote:And today's smartphones have about one hundred million transistors plus a billion other nanoscale components.


They're actually sitting around 2 billion transistors: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/18 ... nm-monster

ijuin
Posts: 1148
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:02 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby ijuin » Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:14 am UTC

I knew they had like a billion parts per core (so 2 billion), but I didn't know what proportion of them were, properly speaking, transistors, as opposed to diodes, resistors, and other non-transistor nano-circuit components.

Mambrino
Posts: 388
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:45 pm UTC
Location: No we don't have polar bears. Except in zoos.

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Mambrino » Mon Oct 12, 2015 8:47 am UTC

keithl wrote:The capabilities of a whole functioning brain are emergent, NOT reducable to the separate capabilities of its components. The reductive conceptual mistake is what this cartoon satirizes.


Quite much depends on what one means by 'emergent' (and reduction). It looks quite probable that brain is not a lump of independent lego blocks that merely communicate, but much more complicated lump of stuff, with some of its functions demonstratively localized in certain parts. However, if one uses words 'emergent' or 'reductable' as in emergentist theory of consciousness vs. usual forms of reductionism, well, then it gets much more complicated question.

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 3099
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby orthogon » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:16 pm UTC

keithl wrote:Recognizing "there's a car slowing down in front of me, I should slow down" is a whole brain process - which almost lethally failed a couple of weeks ago. A car in front of me vanished, cognitively. It was in the northbound left hand lane of a busy street, not signalling but preparing to turn left (illegally, across a double yellow line) into a side street, and I did not see it until it grew rapidly enough in my visual field to get my attention. I noisily laid a patch of rubber to within a few feet of the fool's rear bumper. As luck would have it, nobody was close enough behind me to rear-end me - but I was zoned out, and not paying attention to the cars behind me, either (mental state - planning one of four routes east, deciding when to change lanes right, and the sysadmin task at my destination). The "components" of my adaptive, reconfigurable brain were processing less important data, rather than performing their alleged primary task - avoiding danger.


And yet you did manage to avoid the collision, because the parts of your brain dedicated to recognising rapidly approaching objects did their job and interrupted your conscious reverie. But those parts of your brain didn't evolve to deal with driving a car at freeway speeds, which is probably why they didn't trigger until it was almost too late. My guess is that it was the general-purpose, conscious part of your brain that let you down. Keeping a safe distance behind the car in front when travelling at speed requires us to pay constant attention; getting too close does not trigger any of our dedicated circuitry because of the lack of relative movement, a highly unnatural state of affairs in evolutionary terms. I suspect that many of the things that make the difference between a safe and dangerous driver are things like this that require concentration at a conscious level in order to avoid situations where they are relying on more primal reactions. Nobody is claiming that there's a brain area for driving; rather, we've tried to engineer the driving experience (brake lights, road markings etc) so as to co-opt as much as possible of the circuitry we're born with. (I think we could probably do this a lot better, by the way, given developments in cognitive psychology and neuroscience).

I wouldn't worry that this incident was a sign of the onset of Alzheimer's, if that was the point you were making (and apologies if it wasn't). As I say, driving safely requires constant attention at a conscious level, and most of us allow our attention to wander from time to time - it's just luck that this usually doesn't result in a crash. (This is why I don't think human beings should be piloting death-machines and ought to be eliminated as soon as possible - though self-driving cars are covered in other threads). We have Alzheimer's in my family, and a few years back I got worried that my dad was making dangerous manoeuvres while driving and wondered if this was an early sign. But that was shortly before he retired, and since then he seems to have got safer again; my conclusion was that he had a lot on his mind and simply wasn't paying enough attention to the task in hand.

keithl wrote:Brains are not merely a concatenation of components. They are a vast cloud of connectivity implemented in irreversably rotting meat, with just enough temporary spare capacity to create a magnificent global civilization.

There's no "merely" about it, and phones and computers aren't merely a concatenation of components either: those components are connected together in a very careful and ingenious way. For sure, the brain is different: it's more resilient to damage to an area, but not indefinitely so; depending on the damage it can result in anything from subtle failure of a particular function to a global breakdown.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

speising
Posts: 2364
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2012 4:54 pm UTC
Location: wien

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby speising » Mon Oct 12, 2015 1:42 pm UTC

It's not only driving: try walking single file for any length of time. If the person in front of you suddenly stops, you probably run into them. Of course that doesn't do a lot of harm, normally.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 6888
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby ucim » Mon Oct 12, 2015 2:17 pm UTC

speising wrote:It's not only driving: try walking single file for any length of time. If the person in front of you suddenly stops, you probably run into them. Of course that doesn't do a lot of harm, normally.
Which is why one walks a "safe distance" behind, where the amount of "safe distance" depends on the amount of conscious effort one wants to put into stationkeeping.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Heartfelt thanks from addams and from me - you really made a difference.

User avatar
balthasar_s
Posts: 2409
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 3:20 pm UTC
Location: secret base on the Moon
Contact:

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby balthasar_s » Mon Oct 12, 2015 2:36 pm UTC

This reminds me of a situation.

I was in a train, with a bicycle, sitting on the floor on at the very end of the train.
A woman went to the toilet which was also on the end.
Most of the route is a double track but the part we were on had a single track.
When she left the toilet she looked through the window and saw the track behind the train.
And said: "Ooh, there is only one track. That's why the train is so slow!".
BSTA
Good luck, my blitzing friends!
BTTBAA:1023 # Mustard? Use the mirror! Blitzing? Also use the mirror! And here's why. # OTT facebug copy
that's a robot so it doesn't countImage
This text was autogenerated:
swimming unit detector active

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 5475
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Oct 12, 2015 5:52 pm UTC

Mambrino wrote:
keithl wrote:The capabilities of a whole functioning brain are emergent, NOT reducable to the separate capabilities of its components. The reductive conceptual mistake is what this cartoon satirizes.


Quite much depends on what one means by 'emergent' (and reduction). It looks quite probable that brain is not a lump of independent lego blocks that merely communicate, but much more complicated lump of stuff, with some of its functions demonstratively localized in certain parts. However, if one uses words 'emergent' or 'reductable' as in emergentist theory of consciousness vs. usual forms of reductionism, well, then it gets much more complicated question.

Thank you. When I first read keithl's comment I was tempted to launch into an argument against emergentism, but upon further reading it looked like he didn't mean that in the sense you and I do, so I didn't bother. But I'm glad somebody at least mentioned it.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Copper Bezel
Posts: 2426
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:35 am UTC
Location: Web exclusive!

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon Oct 12, 2015 6:04 pm UTC

"Emergent" got to be a buzzword long enough that people who didn't know what it meant started to use it to mean "magic," very much like "quantum." In the sense that a glider is a configuration with an emergent property in cellular automata and that life and ko are emergent properties of the rules of Go, something like consciousness or something like cognition is obviously an emergent property of the way the brain works. That doesn't mean that we can't make some guesses about what happens when we change the system in this or that way, but when the system is sufficiently more complex than our understanding of it, we can overlook nuances with big effects - more emergent properties at higher levels of abstraction. There are feedbacks (not the PCT kind, the actual meaning of the word) that swing all the way out through the environment in its interactive and cultural complexity and back again in entirely unpredictable ways.
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

User avatar
mathmannix
Posts: 1451
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:12 pm UTC
Location: Washington, DC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby mathmannix » Thu Oct 15, 2015 5:12 pm UTC

The Old Wolf wrote:Randall is so smart - so much very, very much smarter than me - that I'm afraid to even question his use of the spelling "triatholon."

But I really suspect it's an error.

The comic has now been fixed, but for the historical record, here is how it originally looked:
Image
I hear velociraptor tastes like chicken.

Puppyclaws
Posts: 391
Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:08 pm UTC

Re: 1588: "Hardware Reductionism"

Postby Puppyclaws » Tue Dec 22, 2015 6:49 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:I think you're mistaking the "we." Credible studies in neuroscience journals record observations and might make some very tentative guesses about what they might mean. It's when anyone tries to actually use that information that things start to get a little silly.


Unfortunately this limits "credible studies in neuroscience journals" to a very limited sample of the overall population; the extreme overreach of neuroscience findings does not start with journalists but with the researchers themselves who often make outlandish claims from limited data and that promulgate misunderstandings to news sources and the general public.


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 114 guests