Prior Inquiry
by Lee Frank

  1. Gelernter's The Muse in the Machine
  2. Evolution of Specialized Intelligences
  3. Proto-Languages and Consciousness
Re: Focus in Gelernter's Muse

Mind having dimensions moving through time. NOT Box with stored memories (records of time-events). NOT a container with physical dimensions, but it DOES have "compartments"—like fields with possible connections. (use of dimensions)

PLUS focus varying in both width and depth (in or connecting compartments). AND in intensity! (Also duration)

This focus is our awareness of what events occur in (or to?) this mind during motion through time. Whatever a theory of mind is, it must encompass or be reinterpretable, translatable, to all other working theories (or the working parts of other theories). Working in the sense of Dewey's Instrumentalism. (NEED to review)

1. We can learn to adjust this focus—in duration, width, and depth, AND intensity. (and in or connecting compartments?) [not quite sure what depth is unless it has to do with compartments] Is zero duration dreamless sleep? How does that differ from zero width, depth, or intensity?

2. This adjustment of focus is all we can do to modify our awareness.

3. There is no way we can ever be sure our focus has illuminated (or is illuminating) all of our mind—in all of its aspects.

Question: Just what are the dimensions of mind, besides time? Or do we need to enumerate the dimensions of time? (I.e., it is more than mere linear time.)

(The early problem of computers becoming a paradigm for mind because of their having circuits—but they also has fixed memory locations, etc.) [Does a computer have continuity when the power is turned back on?]

How does one describe a dynamic collection of resonances? E.g., circuits through time? Circuits have amplitude, frequency, duration, AND sequence! Back to Patterns: A Society of Patterns? E.g., patterns as waves? So what are properties of waves and the interaction of waves? And what is the interaction via focus???

!! Sequence implies code & information; therefore mind could be a Turing Machine described as a Function of Waves. [Is the focus like the read/write head of the machine?]

Chris Davia's Soliton waves?

Q: Gelernter says focus is NOT like flashlight (find reference). I recall De Bono said it was (might be).

Is high-focus simply the more intense and narrow end of the focus spectrum, and low-focus the more diffuse and broad? I.e., duration seems irrelevant in making the distinction. And depth seems too difficult to define. But G. seems to make no distinction between intensity and width of focus. I see these as separate dimensions.

Is emotion "in" the mind or is it just some form of concomitant physiological state?

In one sense, Gelernter's low-focus emotional thought is not thought at all! Just an awareness of the emotional state—a feeling. Either that or our consciousness is also just an awareness of our more-focused higher-ordered thought.

[Seems to be some serious confusion between Consciousness and Thought.]

Q: Is the reported emotion of a dream measurable—and is it comparable to same emotion in waking state?

F____'s emotion when "analyzing" poetry is high and mine isn't; but mine is high when "analyzing" social or computer problems.

So does the emotion follow the argument or lead it?

Q: High-focus re physical (e.g., sports) vs. low-focus re ZONE behavior. I.e., is high-focus in the ZONE really different from low-focus?

Futhermore . . .
Obviously, low-focus allows us to be aware of emotions, yes, but the real question is: How are emotions connected to thoughts? And more than thought, language. And, again obviously if we look even closer, to words! Further, is this a connection, an association, or what when words elicit (trigger!) emotions?
1. We know the emotion does not drive the word, because we have an emotional reaction when someone else uses the word (assuming we have no necessary awareness of his or her mental state).
2. Why then wouldn't we also react with emotion when—or possibly more accurately, after—we use the word?
3. And it seems to me the focus state is entirely irrelevant to having such reactions, although it might affect the speed of the reaction.
4. Therefore, why is focus state necessarily connected to emotion?

On page 78, he talks of memory with emotional content. But is it content or memory of an associated emotion? If the two are equivalent, then emotion is one of many types of things that can constitute the content of a memory, e.g., color. But this feels wrong to me. The memory of a color (or a sound) seems somehow different from an emotion (or a pain). Yet a singular color or sound memory is not separate from an event, nor is an emotion.

However, in Gelernter's approach you can overlay many specific memories of the color blue to generalize blue as an abstraction. Can you do the same for an emotion? Say love? Yes and no. What you get when you do this is not the generic emotion of love, but rather the idea of love—the abstraction. You say, for example, when experiencing a brand-new blue, that this looks like blue to me. But I doubt you would say the same of a new love, i.e., this feels like love to me. Or would you? Am I completely off base here? Wrong, in that all these—colors, sounds, emotions—are similar in being sensations of experience. (Qualia?)

In using Metaphor to examine Creativity, G. says creativity is the result of connection by emotional abstraction. (A different kind of abstraction: "The vocabulary of the abstraction is completely separate from the vocabulary of the thing being abstracted.") But I say it's any—and any number—of connections. He says metaphors are sudden, come from un-concentrating, just appear. I say poets know how to do this intentionally, i.e., by applying this low-focus tool in a high-focus fashion. He says the connection is the emotional abstraction; I say anything can be the connection, in fact, many metaphors have many connections. The more startling and more successful metaphors may indeed share only connection— heretofor unseen, which is what makes the metaphor great.

But poets intentionally create metaphors ALL the time. His example of the Land Rover and the hippopotamus is not a good example of his creativity hypothesis. These two have so much in common (headlights/two eyes, hood/head, four wheels/four legs, etc.), it would be a cinch to employ a computer to visually morph from one to the other. But hippo? Why not a rhino? They're even the same color.

Did you catch the metaphor in the last sentence? "Employ" a computer is such an obvious metaphor we pass right over it. Such weak metaphors are how we commonly use language. IOW, we're metaphoring all the time; language is mostly metaphor. It's the level, power, and uniqueness of a metaphor that makes it stand out—and so remind us of the power of creativity.

However, my key question is just why is a raven like a writing-desk? If this is to be a metaphor, we must discover the connection else it does not work. More unique metaphors are not obvious and require a mind-stretch to see the connection. It's when the leap is made that we are impressed by the power of the metaphor. But if we can't bridge the gap we fall, failing to grasp the connection. Simply put: all metaphors are not successful universally nor even of equal power. Aside from the alliteration, the raven does not appear to be like the writing-desk.

Is Gelernter saying that high-focus perceptions become one kind of memory and low-focus another? And further, that the former (high-focus memories) are better accessed in a high-focus state and the latter in a low-focus one? Dreams, for example, being an instance of the latter. Yet, as Freud found out and many analysts have profited from, it is possible to move the recall of dreams into the high-focus and expensive state of analysis. Conversely, low-focus creativity can arise from discerning patterns in associated high-focus memories.

!Low-focus is to be without censorship, again as in dreams.

Despite his unique approach, Gelernter's theory still fails because it falls into the category of Single-Mind theories. I.e., the mind is all-of-one piece, homogenous, in all its parts. As opposed to a society, or a hierarchy, or areas of specialization.

Gelernter, David. The Muse in the Machine, The Free Press, 1994.


Evolution of Specialized Intelligences

(Notes from Steven Minther, The Prehistory of the Mind, Thames and Hudson, 1996.)

Specialized intelligences were (are) all developed in communal settings, i.e., a differentiation of socialization. Integration of these intelligences with the general intelligence comes through symbol manipulation—most likely the language that originally developed as part of social intelligence.

But . . . can we truly say that all living humans have fully integrated the specialized with the general? Is it not possible that some individuals and even some groups (e.g., tribes) still function with some degree of compartmentalized intelligences? That is, while their brains may all be capable of complete integration, so were the brains of our early ancestors (circa Neanderthal) and we believe they lacked full integration. So why do we assume all living minds are fully modern, fully integrated?

The idea here is that we are still in the middle of this move to integration, that it is a continuum and not a step function.

If fact, looking at the minds of Western technological society can you not say their highly developed tool-using intelligence is clearly not integrated with their social intelligence? Perhaps it is just that since we stopped evolving together in similar tribal situations, our minds have been free to go their own ways; that the symbols—the memes—are in charge and our minds are merely compartmentalized vessels filled with thoughts we barely understand much less control.

Perhaps the answer lies in our awareness of this compartmentalization and of our ability to direct the differentiation and integration of these compartments to achieve a better-balanced mind?

Our belief in the efficacy of our thought is in itself another meme—and like all memes is sometimes to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.

If you doubt the compartmentalization of our minds just look at our inability to solve our problems with language.

Just because human gestures seem simpler to us than spoken language, that is insufficient reason to assume it must be the basis of proto-language. Monkeys constantly chatter, so why wouldn't it be simpler to add meaning to some of those sounds thereby creating symbols than to add meaning to gestures to make symbols?

Language is an outgrowth from, a natural development of, social intelligence. So why look for the beginnings of language, i.e., a proto-language, elsewhere when evidence of incipient language is in every social interaction. IOW, proto-language is all around us!

Would you then say that body language is part of proto-language? And that sounds of approval and disapproval are too? That all these sub-grammatical sounds, gestures, etc.—which have meaning—are only a half-step from acquiring symbolic meaning and then being incorporated into language? IOW, we can't find a proto-language because it's all around us.

BUT: 1. If early Homo Saps had these other forms (of expression?), then just HOW did symbolic meaning become part of language? 2. Is that process fundamentally different in KIND from the way we today upgrade some of these sounds, gestures, etc. to symbolic meaning?

Non-verbal language has no need for grammar because it is non-symbolic. True? Perhaps we should label all these other forms of "language" as non-symbolic, even if they are sounds such as crying, etc. So the question becomes: How do any of these non-symbolic forms become symbolic? And, in becoming symbolic, is that in itself sufficient for creating a grammar? I.e., is there something inherent in symbol manipulation that necessitates a grammar?

IOW, is grammar inherent in symbol manipulation?

Three evolutionarily related things: social intelligence, language, and copying. Evidence clearly indicates social intelligence to be very old, i.e., no great leap from our ape cousins. And just as clearly, copying and language have catapulted us far beyond those relatives. But what is the developmental aspect of these three which gave us this boost?

Certainly, our social intelligence connects us closely to our fellow apes. But what was different about our social intelligence that created the gap? Did we interact with or understand each other better? If so, how? It seems the beginnings of our separation are too soon for language. And if it was copying, even in rudimentary form, where did that come from? Where is the obvious revolutionary ratchet (or finger of God) that created our difference?

Did we simply chatter more and that became a proto-language? (If such a thing could exist.) Or if it was copying, was it a simple evolutionary accident with such a clear advantage that everyone good at it produced more descendants?

While I see no obvious answers (yet), one thing is abundantly clear: copying and language combined to form an exceptional synergistic evolutionary acceleration.


Proto-Languages and Consciousness

Proto-Languages? (discussion @ Chalmers site?) The old argument saying our use of symbol distinguishes us from other, signal-using, animals. [Symbol must be objectifiable in speech—and from there capable of further objectification in written language, etc.]

Need to read Pinker on Proto-Languages.

Are proto-languages different in kind from other specialized forms of intelligence (mind)?

Learning as specialization, the narrowing of multiple-drafts, versus creativity generalization, the broadening of multiple-drafts. (Relate to Fuller?) Or is learning just a variation on copying (in the broader see-now, do-later, even-possibly-transform)? Or are both learning and creating the two ends (extremes of a spectrum) of the larger copying process, i.e., copy exact (with details) and playback later (with variations, e.g., multiple-drafts)?

I.e., the copying process (as we're speaking of it as part of human development and evolution) is much more than simple mimicry. Yes, it requires differentiation (more details), but also integration (finding similarities, new connections, and creativity). So is the simple copying process—that when examined closely is not so simple—responsible for our higher intelligence? Is it possible that in being good copiers (better than our chimp cousins), our minds quickly expanded the capabilities of both specialist and generalist?

To what extent is it possible that consciousness (the self making sense of the world—including the making of a self) developed from sapiens trying to make sense of the world to each other? IOW, language grew from the need to understand (to explain), and from language—of necessity—grew consciousness.


  Origins of Digital-Immortality Index
  Your comments are appreciated.
Email me at

This is the Prior Inquiry page for Digital Immortality
Last updated 5/07/02
  Copyright © 2002, Lee Frank
All Rights Reserved