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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some thoughts about logic and passion

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Over the years one of my areas of fascination has been artificial intelligence, and designing algorithms that mimic organic intelligence. Consequently, another fascination has been with how organic intelligence works. In this context, my brain injury has inspired the following speculation:

I have observed that organic intelligence follows one simple form of logic: A goes with B. It does not matter how A and B are related, or whether they are in fact related, as long as there is some sense in which B is found when A is involved, or conversely that B is never found if A is involved.

As I have implemented artificial intelligence principles in programs, they seem to find their best usefulness when looking for ways to locate information quickly. I found two ways to use comparisons to locate information quickly. The fastest way to find information quickly is when a mathematical relationship exists in which B can be derived or approximated from A. Mathematical relationships are not always obvious. Sometimes they are even coincidental. Organic intelligence makes no such distinctions, so AI should not care either. The next fastest way to find information quickly uses an estimation “tree” in which A goes with J (roughly central to the lower half of the alphabet) which goes with E which goes with C which goes with B. Five levels of association are usually not necessary in an estimation tree, because the trees are not designed to weigh all choices equally. Additionally, most estimations use mathematical relationships to estimate more wisely than random chance would allow. We know there are more C and S choices than J or Q choices, so we can weigh our guesses with that information. We can filter the possible choices to examine in a number of ways. In the estimation tree example above, a number of assumptions were made about the kind of data that would be searched. We “knew” that A and B are letters of the alphabet, which enabled us to exclude many other considerations.

In software, AI is used in specifically defined contexts. The brain similarly has ways of pre-filtering information. Visual information goes to one area of the brain. Auditory information goes to another area. Organic intelligence has many such hard-wired filters, and similar filters that develop over time through experience. These hard-wired filters enable us to avoid meaningless comparisons, but sometimes A is a letter of the alphabet, and sometimes it can be a number, so decisions must be made each time a filter is used about whether each filter is appropriate to the context.

rebuilding broken connections
When a brain is injured, some of these filters and connections are broken, forcing the brain to make extra decisions about the information it processes. This extra decision-making requires and can overload short-term memory, which can effectively stop the decision process, or create distraction “loops” in which the need to retrieve additional information at one step “overwrites” the decision process with a new decision process involved in retrieving information that will never be used because it's context was lost. A distraction loop is completed when the same external input re-triggers use of the same broken decision tree.

Keep in mind, all of this speculation is based on the experience of a programmer fascinated with AI, not based on any knowledge or research, but I have been able to write extremely fast index searching algorithms based on this model.

Since my accident, I have been using this model to consciously direct my thoughts to recognize and avoid broken thought paths, and to build new memories and associations. I expect that my conscious efforts will “prime the pump” and eventually enable my brain’s automatic processes to take over. Time will tell whether my approach will be successful.

I would add one more dimension to this discussion, that logic is “cold.” It does not care about values. However I am a warm-blooded creature with preferences and passions. Not all success can be defined in logical terms. Some choices can and maybe should be made on purely emotional grounds, but always with a watchful eye to avoid self-deception.

Ideally I would complete this thought with some profound principle, but I don’t have any profound ideas in this area: only a recognition that some “fallacies” create their own logic. Live human beings CHOOSE their beliefs. There is no logical difference between paranoia and optimism, yet one brings hope and the other destroys it. Some decisions are made because they feel better than the alternative, and that’s OK.

Articles that influenced this post:

Hagel, J. (2012). Reason with me: Why passion alone won’t save us. Design MindPassion(16), Retrieved from

Jana, R. (2012). The paradox of passion: Psychologist scott barry kaufman talks about the fine line between motivation and obsession. Frog: Design MindPassion(16), Retrieved from

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