Keith Sutherland's penetrating critique of Thomas Metzinger illustrates the confusions one can get into by using pre-computational ideas.I have to confess that Pat is right here -- I have no technical knowledge of "post-computational" ideas (although I did edit Computer Abstracts for several years). But let me ask Pat one general question: why do you choose computational theory as the magic bullet to rescue a "bottom-up" theory of perceptual binding? What use is a computer without a program, and if you are using this as your model, it sounds pretty darn top-down to me, with the programmer as good a candidate for the homunculus controlling the system as any I can imagine. Pat clearly acknowledges this: "running software has causal consequences for the hardware . . . they aren't little green men, but they sure make things happen."
There have been many attempts to argue that contemporary models like neural networks and genetic algorithms operate along more "biological" principles. Again, I'm not qualified to comment, but would refer to Sam Salt's Tucson presentation (1996) where he pointed out that the differences are exaggerated -- all programming models ultimately reduce to a series of binary digits going through a Turing Machine. He described the claims of emergent properties attributed to connectionist models as "mystical", comparing them to superstitious cargo cults.
And just why is everyone getting so excited about neural networks? One doesn't need a very long memory to recall a similar euphoria for symbolic AI in the 50's and 60's. So why is it that the same people who rallied to Minsky's McCarthyite attacks on the Perceptron are now all of a sudden converts to the connectionist faith? One is tempted to say that this particular road to Damascus was just the result of the realization that GOFAI was a blind alley. Only time will tell whether the current euphoria for neural nets will have the same half-life. As Winograd (1991) states, "connectionism, like its parent cognitive theory, must be placed in the category of brash unproved hypotheses."
Keith is so clever at these rhetorical tricks! Notice how he has (totally spuriously) linked the view that he is attacking with religion, frowningly hinted at Metzinger's dishonesty at not admitting to mystic inspiration (without actually accusing him of anything, of course); nodded forgivingly in a high-falutin' sort of way, but then spat "dogma" at him like a cat's hiss.Curses -- foiled again! Mea culpa! And here's some instant karma:
Keith argued that the phenomenal self exists and is the agent of free will.No I didn't -- I never mentioned free will! I was just trying to point out that until someone can come up with a good argument as to why the phenomenal self is an illusion then we should stick with our own experience. The burden of proof is with those who, like Metzinger, would seek to deny their own experience. Pat is right to scold me for unwarranted innuendo -- in future I will leave the psychoanalysis of homuphobia and other philosophical maladies to the medical profession.
Winograd, T. (1991) "Thinking Machines: Can there be? Are we?", reprinted in Informatica, 19 (1995), pp. 443-459.
Salt, D.W. (1996) "The mystic lure of neural networks", Tucson conference abstracts, [http://www.zynet.co.uk/tucson.html]