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Unraveling the Mystery of
How the Brain Makes the Mind

by Michael S. Gazzaniga
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018
(274 pages)


"It is in our nature to think about who and what we are and what it means to be conscious." (page 4)

note = "Why has the quest to understand consciousness been so difficult?... Is consciousness just what brains do?"... While thinking explicitly about consciousness was ignited by Descartes three hundred years ago, two overarching and contradictory ideas — that the mind either is part of the brain's workings or works somehow independently of the brain — have been around seemingly forever. Indeed, these ideas are still with us." (page 5)

note = "Plainly stated, I think consciousness is an instinct."

note = It becomes evident that consciousness is best understood as a complex instinct... It is as if our mind is a bubbling pot of water. The top bubble ultimately bursts into an idea, only to be replaced by more bubbles... The arrow of time stitches it all together as each bubble comes up for its moment... Read the book to find out for yourself whether you can see it this way too... enjoy your thoughts as they bubble up to the surface of your own consciousness." (page 8)

note = Where is consciousness?

"An early clue that consciousness is not tied to a particular neural network came from my own studies on split-brain patients." (page 103)

"This idea that consciousness is a property of individual modules, not a single network a species might have, could explain the different types of consciousness that exist across species... Humans have a rich conscious experience because of the many kinds of modules we possess. Indeed, humans might well possess highly developed integrative modules, which allow us to combine information from various modules into abstract thoughts. It is difficult to decipher how consciousness arises in humans, but thinking about consciousness as an aspect of multiple functioning modules may guide us to the answer." (page 105)

note = "I propose that what we call 'consciousness' is a feeling forming a backdrop to, or attached to, a current mental event or instinct. It is best grasped by considering a common engineering architecture called layering, which allows complex systems to function efficiently and in an integrated fashion, from atoms to molecules, to cells, to circuits, to cognitive and perceptual capacities." (page 106)

"If the brain indeed consists of different layers (in an engineering sense), then information from a micro level may be integrated at higher and higher layers until each modular unit itself produces consciousness. A layer architecture allows for new levels of functioning to arise from lower-level functioning parts that could not create the 'higher level' experience alone." (page 106)

"It is time to learn more about layering and the wonders it brings to understanding brain architecture. We are on the road to realizing that consciousness is not a 'thing.' It is the result of a process embedded in an architecture, just as democracy is not a thing but the result of a process." (page 106)

note = How define consciousness? Use bottom of page 201 and top whole paragraph of page 202 (pages 201-202)

note = “Consciousness is in constant change, a stream... (202)

Use the logic of ideas about gaps, modules, and layers and Howard Pattee’s “semiotic closure” (202)

[1] Two consciously different conscious hemispheres! (203-206)

note = “ I have to go back to the very first scientific observation I ever made...It was the beginning observation that not only the brain but also the mind had been divided.” (203-204)

“It was the seed that led to 60 years of research on the nature of mind and its physical underpinnings. It was also the test that produced the most astonishing observation of all. The left, talking brain did not seem to miss the right brain, and vice versa. (204)

[2] Tiny bubbles (206-207)

note = several refs to Jaak Panksepp who agrees with Pinker [and also Damasio] (216-217)

[8] Methodic or chaotic bubbles? (218-220)

[9] A famous control layer malfunction (221)

[10] Consciousness enriched by evolution (221-223)

QUOTE = “One man’s ‘magic’ is another man’s engineering.” by Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction writer and consultant for movie 2001, A Space Odyssey (221)


note = refs to Michael Polanyi and his book Personal Knowledge [tacit knowledge] (226-227)

[1] Looking forward (229-231)

[2] A final word (231-237)

note = "Perhaps the most surprising discovery for me is that I now think we humans will never build a machine that mimics our personal consciousness. Inanimate silicon-based machines work one way, and living carbon-based systems work another. One works with a deterministic set of instructions, and the other through symbols that inherently carry some degree of uncertainty." (page 236)

"This perspective leads to the view that the human attempt to mimic intelligence and consciousness in machines, a continuing goal in the field of AI, is doomed. If living systems work on the principle of complementarity --- the idea that the physical side is mirrored with an arbitrary symbolic side, with symbols that are the result of natural selection --- then purely deterministic models of what makes life will always fall short." (page 236)

"In an IA model, the memory for an event is in one place and can be deleted with one keystroke. In a living, layered symbolic system, however, each aspect of a mechanism can be switched out for another symbol, so long as each plays its proper role. It is this way because it is what life itself allows, indeed demands: complementarity." (page 236)

note = Add comment about "the 'epistemic gap' that links subjective experience with objective processing, which has been around since the first living cell." (page 236)

note = "In the end, we must realize that consciousness is an instinct. Consciousness is part of organismic life. We never have to learn how to produce it or how to utilize it." (236-237)


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