A New I-Phi Web Page for Donald Hebb

Donald Hebb

Donald O. Hebb was a Canadian psychologist whose 1949 book The Organization of Behavior put forward what he called his “neuropsychological postulate,” the assumption that cognitive processes like perception and learning can be understood in terms of the connections between assemblies of neurons. Hebb’s thesis was that behavior is to be understood entirety in terms of brain function.

He is considered the father of neural network theory, which is central to artificial intelligence research. These networks or “cell assemblies” were connected in ways that control the responses to various stimuli.

It is a model for leaning often called “Hebbian learning.” He described his “neuropsychological postulate” as this assumption:

When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.

Hebb, D. O. (1949). The Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory. New York: Wiley and Sons, p.62

This assumption is often paraphrased as “Neurons that fire together wire together.

The Experience Recorder and Reproducer (ERR) model of information philosophy is built on Hebb’s assumption as the basis of the Recorder stage, where the Reproducer depends on this extension of Hebb’s insight.

Neurons that were wired together in the past will fire together in the future.

Donald Hebb: Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together.

And neurons that were wired together in the past will fire together in the future. This extension of Hebb’s idea is the basis for our Experience Recorder and Reproducer (ERR).

The ERR is simpler than, but superior to, the computational models of the mind popular in today’s neuroscience and cognitive science, the “software in the brain hardware.”

Although we see mind as immaterial information, we think that man is not a machine and the mind is not a computer.

The biological and neurological basis for our proposed ERR is very straightforward.

    • The ERR Recorder: Neurons become wired together (strengthening their synaptic connections to other neurons) during an organism’s experiences, across multiple sensory and limbic systems.
    • The ERR Reproducer: Later firing of even a part of the previously wired neurons can stimulate firing of all or part of the original complex, thus “playing back” similar past experiences (including the critically important emotional reaction to those experiences).

Our ERR mind model grows out of the biological question of what sort of “mind” would provide the greatest survival value for the lowest (or the first) organisms that evolved mind-like capabilities.

We propose that a minimal primitive mind would need only to “play back” past experiences that resemble any part of current experience. Remembering past experiences has obvious relevance (survival value) for an organism. But beyond survival value, the ERR touches on the philosophical problem of “meaning.” We suggest the epistemological “meaning” of information perceived may be found in the past experiences that are reproduced by the ERR.

The ERR model is a memory model for long-term potentiation stored in the neocortical synapses. Short-term memory must have a much faster storage mechanism. While storage is slow, we shall see that ERR retrieval is just as fast, and it does not fade as does short-term, working memory.

We propose that the ERR reproduces the entire complex of the original sensations experienced, together with the emotional response to the original experience (pleasure, pain, fear, etc.). Playback of past experiences are stimulated by anything in the current experience that resembles something in the past experiences, in the five dimensions of the senses (sound, sight, touch, smell and taste).

The ERR model stands in contrast to the popular cognitive science or “computational” model of a mind as a digital computer with a “central processor” or even many “parallel processors.” No algorithms or stored programs are needed for the ERR model. There is nothing comparable to the addresses and data buses used to stored and retrieve information in a digital computer.

Free Will: Are Biological Organisms Completely Determined?

Biological communications, the information exchanged in messages between biological entities, is far more important than the particular physical and chemical entities themselves. These material entities are used up and replaced many times in the life cycle of a whole organism, while the messaging has remained constant, not just over the individual life cycle, but that of the whole species.

In fact most messages, and the specific molecules, e.g., DNA,  that embody and encode those messages, have been only slowly varying for billions of years.

As a result, the sentences (or statements or “propositions”) in biological languages may have a very limited vocabulary compared to human languages. Although the number of words added to human languages in a typical human lifetime is remarkably small.

Biological information is far more important than matter and energy for another reason. Beyond biological information as “ways of talking” in a language, we will show that the messages do much more than send signals, they encode the architectural plans for biological machines that have exquisite control over individual molecules, atoms, and their constituent electrons and nuclei. In digital computer terms, these are biological algorithms or code.

Far from the materialist idea that fundamental physical elements have “causal control” over living things, we find that biological information processing systems are machines. They are intelligent robotic machines. They assemble themselves and build their own replacements when they fail. And they use the flow of free energy and material with negative entropy to run the “programs” that manipulate their finest parts at astonishingly high speeds.

The data rates are well beyond the largest and fastest digital computers and the programs they are running have evolved through Darwinian evolution. These are programs without a programmer.

Great Problems: #Epistemology, How do we know what there is? How do we know that we can really know anything? What is #Knowledge?

Epistemology asks the question “how do we know what there is?”

Immaterial information provides a new ground for epistemology, the theory of knowledge. We know something about the “things themselves” when we discover an isomorphism between our abstract ideas and concrete objects in the material world. Information philosophy goes beyond the logical puzzles and language games of analytic philosophy. It identifies knowledge as information in human minds and in the external artifacts of human culture.

Abstract information is the foundation – the metaphysical ground – of both logic and language as means of communication. It is the part of a dualism parallel to the material substrate that the Greeks called ὑποκείμενον – the “underlying.” It gives matter its form and shape. Form informs.

Knowing how we know is a fundamentally circular problem when it is described in human language, as a set of logical propositions. And knowing something about what exists adds another complex circle, if the knowing being must itself be one of those things that exists.

These circular definitions and inferences need not be vicious circles. They may simply be a coherent set of ideas that we use to describe ourselves and the external world. If the descriptions are logically valid and/or verifiable empirically, we think we are approaching the “truth” about things and acquiring knowledge.

How then do we describe the knowledge itself – an existing thing in our existent minds and in the existing external world? An information epistemology does it by basing everything on the abstract but quantitative notion of information.

Information is stored or encoded in physical and biological structures. Structures in the world build themselves, following natural laws, including physical and biological laws. Structures in the mind are partly built by biological processes and partly built by human intelligence, which is free, creative, and unpredictable.

Knowledge is the Sum of information created and stored in minds and in human artifacts like stories, books, and internetworked computers.

Revised Chapter 8 of my Einstein book

After many months away from writing as I designed and built my iTV-Studio and began webcasting regularly, I spent the weekend relearning Adobe InDesign. It’s always a challenge to use a sophisticated desktop publishing program unless you work with it regularly.  And my use has been sporadic despite having developed the first such program 33 years ago (MacPublisher for the Apple Macintosh introduction in 1984).

Since my goal is to call attention to the many concepts in quantum mechanics that Einstein either discovered or invented, I wanted to add this footnote I recently reread from Albert Messiah’s classic text on Quantum Mechanics, which I used in my graduate courses on QM at Harvard in the 1960’s.

Historically, the first argument showing the necessity of “quantizing” material systems was presented by Einstein in the theory of the specific heat of solids (1907).   (p.21, 1961 English edition)

Einstein’s insight into energy levels and quantum “jumps” between them was written six years before Niels Bohr’s atom model.  Einstein wrote

the energy of an elementary resonator can only assume values that are integral multiples of (R/N)βν : by emission and absorption, the energy of a resonator changes by jumps of integral multiples of (R/N)βν. (In modern notation, hν.)  

Notice Einstein’s use of “jumps,” and of integral multiples – thus “quanta.” Although Bohr’s model is almost always described as quantum jumps and emission or absorption of photons, I will show that Bohr opposes Einstein’s concept of photons until the  middle 1920’s

Please checkout my new chapter 8 here…  http://informationphilosopher.com/books/einstein/Specific_Heat.pdf

Einstein’s 1909 Discovery of #Nonlocality in the case of #WaveParticle Duality informs the “One Mystery” in the #Two-Slit Experiment

Einstein’s description of wave-particle duality is as good as anything written today. He saw the relation between the wave and the particle as the relation between probable possibilities and the realization of one possibility as an actual event. He saw the wave spreading out in space and giving us the probable number of particles in different locations. Where Einstein saw the particle as concrete and material, he described the wave as a “ghostly field,” which is exactly right according to the information interpretation of quantum mechanics. The wave is neither matter nor energy, but pure abstract information about locating concrete matter and energy.

The information about probabilities and possibilities in the wave function is immaterial, but that abstract information has real causal powers. The wave’s interference with itself predicts null points where no particles should be found. And experiments confirm that no particles are found there. Immaterial information is a kind of modern “spirit.” Einstein also described the wave function as a “ghost field” (Gespensterfeld) or a “guiding field” (Führungsfeld), an idea taken up later by Louis de Broglie as his “pilot waves.” Following de Broglie, Schrödinger developed his equation that describes how the probability wave function moves through space deterministically. This restoration of some determinism was a brief bright moment for Einstein. He saw a possible return to a deterministic theory for quantum mechanics and his continuous field theory. But it was not to be, despite the large number of present-day physicists who are still pursuing Einstein’s and Schrödinger’s deterministic dreams, by denying indeterminism and “quantum jumping.”

Einstein could never accept most of his quantum discoveries because they conflicted with his basic idea that nature is best described by a continuous field theory using differential equations that are functions of “local” variables, primarily the space-time four-vector of his general relativistic theory. Einstein’s idea of a “local” reality is one where “action-at-a-distance” is limited to causal effects that propagate at or below the speed of light, according to his theory of relativity.

Einstein believed that quantum theory, as good as it is (and he never saw anything better), is “incomplete.” This is so, because its statistical predictions (phenomenally accurate in the limit of large numbers of identical experiments – “ensembles” Einstein called them), tell us nothing but “probabilities” about individual systems. Even worse, he thought that the wave functions of entangled two-particle systems predict faster-than-light correlations of properties between events in a space-like separation. He mistakenly thought this violated his theory of relativity. Although this was the heart of his famous EPR paradox paper in 1935, we shall see that Einstein was already concerned about faster-than-light transfer of energy and that he saw spherical light waves “collapsing” instantaneously in his very first paper on quantum theory in 1905 and in his second 1909 paper on wave-particle duality.

The Central Problem in #Metaphysics is the Existential or Ontological Status of Ideas.

The central problem in metaphysics, as seen by the Information Philosopher, is the existential or ontological status of ideas. The creation of new ideas requires the existence of ontological chance, which must therefore be a fundamental aspect of metaphysical reality.

Metaphysics is an abstract human invention about the nature of concrete reality – immaterial thoughts about material things.

Information philosophy explains the metaphysics of chance and possibilities, which always underlie the creation of new information. Without metaphysical possibilities, there can be no human creativity and no new knowledge. Without the existence of possibilities, there is no possibility for metaphysics itself.

materialist metaphysics asks questions about the underlying substrate presumed to constitute all the objects in the universe. Unfortunately, most modern philosophers are determinists who think that the material substrate is all there is. As Jaegwon Kim puts it,

“bits of matter and their aggregates in space-time exhaust the contents of the world. This means that one would be embracing an ontology that posits entities other than material substances — that is, immaterial minds, or souls, outside physical space, with immaterial, nonphysical properties.”

A formalist or idealist metaphysics asks about the arrangement and organization of matter that shapes material objects, what brings their forms into existence, and what causes their changes in space and timeInformation philosophy defends a Platonic realm of immaterial ideas in a dualism with the realm of matter. The information realm is physical and natural. It is not supernatural and “outside space and time.” Ideas are embodied in matter and use energy for their communication. But they are neither matter nor energy. They are forms that inform.

The total amount of matter (and energy) in the universe is a conserved quantity. Because of the universe expansion, there is ever more room in space for each material particle, ever more ways to arrange the material, ever more possibilities. The total information in the universe is constantly increasing. This is the first contribution of information philosophy to metaphysics.

The second contribution is to restore a dualist idealism, based on the essential importance of information communication in all living things. Since the earliest forms of proto-life, information stored in each organism has been used to create the following generations, including the variations that have evolved to become thinking human beings who invented the world of ideas that contains metaphysics. Abstract information is an essential, if immaterial, part of reality. Plato was right that his “ideas” (ἰδέας) are real. The forms inform.