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How does intelligence work?

Any topic related to science can be discussed here.
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Nirvanam
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How does intelligence work?

#1 Post by Nirvanam » July 6th, 2010, 10:42 pm

Another question on our internal workings, and here I have no idea what is the opinion of current science...

How do humans make intelligent decisions and take intelligent actions?
So far I understand that our brain basically is the CPU of the human being so it is responsible for perceiving things, as in, 'that color is blue', 'this picture is too bright', 'my leg hurts', etc. Now given that perception has been accomplished, how do we, then intelligently decide/take actions?

My thought process so far: intelligent decisions depend upon either wisdom gained thru experience or knowledge gained thru awareness. So for us to make a decision we need a point to compare the current situation with. That 'point' is basically memory. Where is the memory stored in us...I mean are there any cells called memory cells? (I understand that muscles could develop muscular memory...that's why they say once learned cycling and swimming cannot be 'forgotten' like its hard coded...same thing in sports or music). Suppose there are memory cells the next question is how do we actually run thru the process of logic i.e.
step 1 - become aware of situation
step 2 - perceive situation
step 3 - search for memory cell
step 4 - access memory cell
step 5 - parse the memory cell
step 6 - determine whether situation in memory is relevant to current situation
step 7 - if no go to step 8, if yes, then 'remember' previous solution
step 8 - conjecture what is to be done next i.e. act or not, if act then next step
step 9 - do it

In the above process I am aware of step 1, 2, and 9 have surely been explained thru the neuro-chemical communications within the body and possibly 3 and 4 also (some may interpret some of these steps differently than me hence you may relate with other steps than mine). But the main question is, where is the intelligence coming from? In other words, how does the nervous system know I have to access this particular memory, I will search for this memory cell using this 'algorithm', then I will "read" the memory in this way, and (very importantly) I will infer this, etc?

The above example is very similar to any software system we create. The main thing is that we provide and program the intelligence into the software system and we also program them to act on dynamic basis as well. Similarly how does our mind program for our bodies? In fact I'd think the logic here necessitates that an entity called mind exists which is providing the intelligence...the 'mind is what brain does' definition for mind does not fly much if you look at the process of intelligent action. Or does it?

Nirvanam
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#2 Post by Nirvanam » July 8th, 2010, 10:07 pm

Anyone? Any thoughts? Opinions?...

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Alan C.
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#3 Post by Alan C. » July 8th, 2010, 10:57 pm

Nope! It's all a mystery.
Sometimes I make (what I think are) intelligent decisions and sometimes I get it wrong, that's just the way it is and I accept that.

You really do start some argumentative threads, I usually ignore you but I must give you credit, you're an expert at provoking a response.

Best, Alan.
Last edited by Maria Mac on July 8th, 2010, 11:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: To remove OTT comment.
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Nirvanam
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#4 Post by Nirvanam » July 8th, 2010, 11:58 pm

Alan C. wrote:Nope! It's all a mystery.
Sometimes I make (what I think are) intelligent decisions and sometimes I get it wrong, that's just the way it is and I accept that.

You really do start some argumentative threads, I usually ignore you but I must give you credit, you're an expert at provoking a response.

PS your currrent avatar makes me want to puke on my keyboard.
Best, Alan.
Come on, Alan, just try to look at me with a different perspective. OK let me explain you why I ask this question (or for that matter any other questions I ask)...

If you notice the questions that I ask, although seem provocative (I'll explain why they seem so at the end) do not have fully established scientific answers.
If a topic has an established scientific answer then you'd agree this is not the forum for me to find out the answer...some people may be aware of the scientific explanation but it would help me more if I looked for those answers on a science forum or website...right?
Now, when I figure that there are no established scientific explanations then I post these questions on the forums I visit. The need is to understand different perspectives. And the best way is by testing and debating my own perspective...when you learn by doing it yourself you understand it much better. Hence when I pose something and someone shows where and how I have gone wrong or the places where my logic can be questioned, it helps me understand stuff better. So that is the main reason for posing these questions...at the end of the day I learn whether my perspective holds up to some questioning and also if it is not strong enough then understand the other perspectives.

As an individual I am very comfortable with not being "right" or "correct" coz my philosophy does not believe in right-wrong. I believe that right-wrong change with time, in space, with perspective, and under contexts. I am referring to subjective things here. And I acknowledge change is essential, and that my own perceptions and opinions will change. Without acknowledging deep inside one's psyche that your logic might not hold up well, it is very difficult to learn things and to improve. I am aware of this and consciously test my own beliefs...discussions and debates are tools to do that.

Now, why do you or anyone else feels it is provocative. My understanding is the following (I may be wrong or right...only the person perceiving will know):
Firstly, the questions I ask are generally subjective. Which means there will never be a right or wrong answer (if you notice many times I elicit by saying "your thoughts pls..." or something similar.
Secondly, the topics that interest me, many guys here seem to have a psychological inertia that it is woo. Again whether it is woo or not no one knows (referring to subjective stuff here). And your opinions are just as good as mine.
Thirdly, my mind has been trained to be both critical/analytical and creative/imaginative. Hence I apply both these perspectives when I come across someone's opinions. I question the opinion in order to understand what is the underlying logic that led to that opinion. You'd agree that every individual has a certain way of thinking and has his or her own reasons to believe what they believe? By understanding those "reasons", in other words the logic, I can analyze it to see whether it is sound enough for me to start thinking that way.
Fourthly, when I elicit your logic I notice very often that the opposite person's opinion is not based on the logic/rationality that our regular modern scientific processes work with.
Fifthly, when in the discussion it becomes clear that the opposite person's logic is no better than mine then the opposite person typically gets defensive (human trait...very understandable).
Sixthly, because I was the instigator of the discussion which led to the opposite person realizing that their logic itself is flawed (although they may not accept it but subconsciously they know it) the negative emotion is directed towards me (sometimes). Hence I become the villain.
Seventhly, there are cultural differences in the words, terms we use and sometimes we make honest mistakes.

I want to draw your attention on this...if you'd truly want to verify whether the reasons I have given above are consistent or not:
Have a look at the threads I have entered into...mostly subjective or objective
Notice my posts...every time I have been proved to be "wrong" successfully I have admitted it
Also when I realized I said something wrong or disrespected someone I have apologized for that (please be conscious of the fact that I may not know what is disrespectful coz of cultural differences so when someone points it out then I apologize)
I rarely enter into discussions where I do not know anything about the subject. Ex - Almost a year back, one of the first threads I entered into was that Homeopathy thing and within 2 posts I got out of it coz I didn't have enough knowledge about the subject itself. When I entered it again in December the reason was that I felt the whole forum was ganging up on oner person. However I had the presence of mind to get out of it sooner than later.

Finally, try to introspect and see whether it is me, the individual, who is being provocative or is it that the questions I pose cannot be answered with the beliefs you've had thus far which is then making you feel that I am being provocative.

Alan, when you view me with suspicion whom does it affect? You are probably causing disturbance in yourself by focusing on viewing me as some kinda bigot. Your mind starts urging you to find faults in my posts, it starts to give you arguments against what I have written. Basically it ensures that you waste your time with something totally unproductive. But if you view me under a context and background of where I come from, what kind of subjects I talk about, what societal influences I might have, the way I debate, etc and give me the benefit of doubt that I am just as human as you and have the same advantages/disadvantages like all other humans you may find me acceptable.

Whatever I have said above, if it does not make sense to you sorry for wasting your time. If it does then please feel free to let me know how I can communicate with you in a better way...obviously it takes two hands to clap and I know I must be doing something 'wrong' here (although I have tried not to communicate much pro-actively because I acknowledge inside that me getting grumpy in the end will only affect me).

By the way if my caricature makes you puke, I should never show you my picture...your body will probably burst out. LOL!

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#5 Post by jdc » July 11th, 2010, 1:08 pm

Nirvanam wrote:Anyone? Any thoughts? Opinions?...
I don't think that we always make conscious decisions arrived at by rational weighing-up of pros and cons. Gerd Gigerenzer wrote a wonderful book called Gut Feelings which discusses the decisions that we make "automatically".

Gigerenzer describes gut feelings as being judgements that appear quickly in consciousness, whose underlying reasons we are not fully aware of, and which are strong enough to act upon. He believes that gut feelings work by simple rules of thumb which take advantage of evolved capacities of the brain.

If your local library has a copy of the book, I would recommend borrowing it.
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#6 Post by Nirvanam » July 11th, 2010, 6:12 pm

jdc wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:Anyone? Any thoughts? Opinions?...
I don't think that we always make conscious decisions arrived at by rational weighing-up of pros and cons. Gerd Gigerenzer wrote a wonderful book called Gut Feelings which discusses the decisions that we make "automatically".

Gigerenzer describes gut feelings as being judgements that appear quickly in consciousness, whose underlying reasons we are not fully aware of, and which are strong enough to act upon. He believes that gut feelings work by simple rules of thumb which take advantage of evolved capacities of the brain.

If your local library has a copy of the book, I would recommend borrowing it.
Thanks jdc!

I think even gut feelings follow the same process. OK, let me remove the prefix of 'intelligence' from the first post. So the question would be how do we make decisions and take actions.

From the above, so far we can theorize that the process followed to make a decision and/or take an action is roughly as described in the first post. So far modern science has helped us understand that some steps can be explained by the neuro-chemical communication. However, the main 'intelligence' needing steps, we don't know. Please don't confuse the intelligence in the previous sentence with societal intelligence, as in 'he is an intelligent fellow'.

I'd think that the intuition/gut feeling part also follows the same process but just that the turnaround time for the entire process (i.e. step 1 to step 9) is way way faster than non-intuition based decisions.

Here is where I am arguing that mind is not just what brain does. It is way much more than that. And that the mind is the individual's "intelligence" or the "understanding of the universe and everything in it"

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#7 Post by Gottard » July 11th, 2010, 9:16 pm

Nirvanam wrote:Anyone? Any thoughts? Opinions?...
A scientific explanation of the way the mind works, included the three zones of memory cells located in the cortex (frontal, central and rear) corresponding to short, medium and long memory are excellently explained in the 'Humanist Continuum Education" course at http://humanisteducation.com/.
It would take several pages' explanation in this forum...which I doubt would be the appropriate place. :wink:
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#8 Post by Nirvanam » July 11th, 2010, 10:37 pm

peneasy wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:Anyone? Any thoughts? Opinions?...
A scientific explanation of the way the mind works, included the three zones of memory cells located in the cortex (frontal, central and rear) corresponding to short, medium and long memory are excellently explained in the 'Humanist Continuum Education" course at http://humanisteducation.com/.
It would take several pages' explanation in this forum...which I doubt would be the appropriate place. :wink:
Thanks Peneasy!
I am aware of the neuro-chemical communications happening in the brain and the central nervous central system. however the entire central nervous system put together cannot explain all the distinct steps (1 to 9). Your post is indicating that different kinds of memory are being stored at different places in the brain. OK. How does the inner intelligence decide when the memory becomes mid-term or long-term and hence move it to the appropriate "chamber".

The above has given a slight insight onto the organizing structure within the brain. But it is not answering the main question: where is the 'awareness'/'smartness'/'intelligence' coming from which enables the individual to perceive, form an opinion, and then act. he max that brain and our central nervous system does is "perceive" and "act". This is the donkey work. The core intelligent/knowledgeable/wise work is yet to be explained.

I also feel that our mind exists through out the body. (but that can be for a later discussion)

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#9 Post by Alan C. » July 11th, 2010, 11:33 pm

A question for you Nervanam, why don't you ever take part in the discussions in any of the threads that were not started by you
Any of them!
Do you think yours are the only "important/relevant" topics? That you should comment on? Or what?
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Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#10 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » July 12th, 2010, 12:21 am

Nirvanam wrote:But the main question is, where is the intelligence coming from? In other words, how does the nervous system know I have to access this particular memory [ ...]
The short answer is that the nervous system doesn't know it, or indeed anything else. Not because it's a bit dim but because it makes no sense to talk of the nervous system's knowing or being ignorant of anything.

The same applies to the brain and the mind. You may know ( for example) whether the square root of two is irrational or not. But it is not even wrong — it is just nonsense — to say that your brain or mind knows.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#11 Post by grammar king » July 12th, 2010, 4:43 am

Nirvanam wrote: I am aware of the neuro-chemical communications happening in the brain and the central nervous central system. however the entire central nervous system put together cannot explain all the distinct steps (1 to 9). Your post is indicating that different kinds of memory are being stored at different places in the brain. OK. How does the inner intelligence decide when the memory becomes mid-term or long-term and hence move it to the appropriate "chamber".

The above has given a slight insight onto the organizing structure within the brain. But it is not answering the main question: where is the 'awareness'/'smartness'/'intelligence' coming from which enables the individual to perceive, form an opinion, and then act. he max that brain and our central nervous system does is "perceive" and "act". This is the donkey work. The core intelligent/knowledgeable/wise work is yet to be explained.

I also feel that our mind exists through out the body. (but that can be for a later discussion)
How can you assert that the nervous system can't account for all those steps, and that it is limited to perceiving and acting? Surely the most you can say is that we don't yet know how the rest happens?

Obviously I don't know (and I'm pretty sure neuroscientists haven't figured it out yet - you'd be better off asking neuroscientists btw), but I believe you're talking about consciousness, which as far as I know from conversations in the pub with various neuroscientist and psychologist friends (isn't university brilliant?), it is currently believed to be partly an illusion and partly a byproduct of brain function. Maybe byproduct isn't the right word but it's the best one that comes to mind. So it doesn't actually come from any particular place, it's a function arising from the totality of the brain. I have also heard talk of mirror neurones, which you might want to take a look at.

Some things we do know is that when people have had their brain altered or inhibited, their personalities have changed and they've made decisions in different ways. Probably the most interesting case was Phineas Gage. So rather than saying the brain doesn't explain consciousness and decision-making, in fact we know that the brain does at least partially explain it.

On a related but separate point, if an argument like this ever comes up for the existence of a soul in an apologetics situation, remember that just because we don't know how something happens, doesn't mean another explanation is justified. Just like when Christians say God must exist because something must have caused the Big Bang, they're replacing one mystery with another, with no explanatory power at all. People like that should learn to be satisfied by 'I don't know', and then try and find out the real answer, instead of coming up with a crappy answer and leaving it there.

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#12 Post by Nick » July 12th, 2010, 3:01 pm

I remember an old saying "If the brain were simple enough for us to understand, we'd be too stupid to realise it."

Not very scientific or questing, I know....

But I'm content to let others worry about it. :D

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#13 Post by Nirvanam » July 12th, 2010, 4:55 pm

Lord Muck oGentry wrote:
Nirvanam wrote:But the main question is, where is the intelligence coming from? In other words, how does the nervous system know I have to access this particular memory [ ...]
The short answer is that the nervous system doesn't know it, or indeed anything else. Not because it's a bit dim but because it makes no sense to talk of the nervous system's knowing or being ignorant of anything.

The same applies to the brain and the mind. You may know ( for example) whether the square root of two is irrational or not. But it is not even wrong — it is just nonsense — to say that your brain or mind knows.
So what would be the implication of your opinion here...

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#14 Post by Nirvanam » July 12th, 2010, 5:18 pm

grammar king wrote:How can you assert that the nervous system can't account for all those steps, and that it is limited to perceiving and acting? Surely the most you can say is that we don't yet know how the rest happens?
I don't think I have asserted. I said that out of the steps in the process, some have been explained as communications between neuro-chemicals whereas others haven't. These others is where I am presenting my opinion that it is the mind.
grammar king wrote:Obviously I don't know (and I'm pretty sure neuroscientists haven't figured it out yet - you'd be better off asking neuroscientists btw), but I believe you're talking about consciousness, which as far as I know from conversations in the pub with various neuroscientist and psychologist friends (isn't university brilliant?), it is currently believed to be partly an illusion and partly a byproduct of brain function.

Maybe byproduct isn't the right word but it's the best one that comes to mind. So it doesn't actually come from any particular place, it's a function arising from the totality of the brain. I have also heard talk of mirror neurones, which you might want to take a look at.
Somehow that opinion does not fit well into my head. I'd think that it is the mind/consciousness which is driving the brain as opposed to the maind being a by product of brain activity. In fact if the neuro professionals were positive about it, it should not take much thinking to figure out a way to test it. The principle (as per the neuro guys) is system Brain does A, B, and C. And also excretes (a by product) D from doing this function. We can measure A,B,C so it shouldnt be difficult to measure D.
grammar king wrote:Some things we do know is that when people have had their brain altered or inhibited, their personalities have changed and they've made decisions in different ways. Probably the most interesting case was Phineas Gage. So rather than saying the brain doesn't explain consciousness and decision-making, in fact we know that the brain does at least partially explain it.
Of course it does. In fact it has to as per my theory of the mind existing through out the body, the brain would feel the most since it is the organ which has the most number of cells...way higher than any other part of the body.
grammar king wrote:On a related but separate point, if an argument like this ever comes up for the existence of a soul in an apologetics situation, remember that just because we don't know how something happens, doesn't mean another explanation is justified.
Extremely good point, you make. In fact this is a universa;l truth. Alter the perspective, suppose an argument for the existence of a soul comes up and it does not show "physical" proofs, then it does not mean the opposite that 'there is no soul' is accepted. Would you agree with that logic?
grammar king wrote: Just like when Christians say God must exist because something must have caused the Big Bang, they're replacing one mystery with another, with no explanatory power at all. People like that should learn to be satisfied by 'I don't know', and then try and find out the real answer, instead of coming up with a crappy answer and leaving it there.
Another very good point. I think this holds up to all humans immaterial of what ideologies they believe in. Also our logic should be able to detect "I don't know" cloaked in many ways and forms, for ex - placebo, chance, etc. These are all pseudos for "I dont know how or why it happened." recognizing that helps us open our minds to more appropriate explanations.

All of us are conditioned within our own world views, which is fine. the problem occurs when we start to think that our world view is better than someone elses...on subjective things that is. True?

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#15 Post by Nirvanam » July 12th, 2010, 5:33 pm

Alan C. wrote:A question for you Nervanam, why don't you ever take part in the discussions in any of the threads that were not started by you
Any of them!
Do you think yours are the only "important/relevant" topics? That you should comment on? Or what?
Good question. I was thinking about it myself. Here's the explanation:

I notice that most of the activity in this forum happens in the Community area. I think it is a lack of understanding the nuances of colloquial expressions that has kept me away.

Wherever I find topics to which I can contribute I jump in. Fortunately-Unfortunately there aren't many. Like I mentioned in my previous post to you, I dont think I share a lot of common interests with the group here. There are certain interests I share, not many.

Oh, my control panel says that my contribution is mostly in "Sciences and pseudo-sciences", "Humanism, secularism and freethought", and "Miscellaneous". Sounds fair.

Alan, as long as you are being honest and have a positive frame of mind while interacting with me I don't mind talking to you. However, if you want to sneakily try to get something out of me, I'll advice you to just ask whatever you have to ask openly. You';; realize that I am the sort of person who will be dead straight if asked a straight question. That is a part of my identity. So go on ask me what you want to ask and I'll give you the answer up straight (if they can be answered in black and white else state my prevailing opinion). These cheap hiding behind words is not meant for me pal.

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#16 Post by Dave B » July 12th, 2010, 7:20 pm

Look chaps, all this erudite talk about How Intelligence Works is all well and good, but . . .

Question is where can I get hold of a bucket-full to replace that which seems to be leaking away day by day?
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#17 Post by CurtisB » July 12th, 2010, 8:07 pm

I apologize to the authors that I don't have time to read all of the responses in great detail, but I just want to toss-out my first impression of the question and my thoughts....

I think that attempting to compare the mind (or intelligence) to a CPU is a mistake... a CPU processes in a linear fashion, based on a known (and limited) set of defined (mathematical) instructions, etc... The mind is anything but linear in physiological, is anything but binary in the chemical, and is anything but defined, limited, or purely mathematical.

Let us also consider that "the mind" is actually a composite of many different neurological systems from the reptilian brain up through the various units that came at various stages of evolution. To say that intelligence is a property of humankind (i.e. to say the reptilian brain does not enter the equation) might provide interesting fodder for debate, but I feel diminishes the significant role played by each part of the nervous system - when you think about it, even your nerves themselves have some level of intelligence (i.e. muscle-memory) that allows an athlete to have lightning reflexes, or allows you to minimize the effects of getting burned without having to make a conscious choice about whether or not to remove your hand from that hot pot-handle while your nerves act to protect you.

I could probably go on, but - sadly - have limited time.... At any rate, I hope the OP and other participants feel that I have added something of interest to the discussion!
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Re: How does intelligence work?

#18 Post by Nirvanam » July 12th, 2010, 8:21 pm

CurtisB wrote:I apologize to the authors that I don't have time to read all of the responses in great detail, but I just want to toss-out my first impression of the question and my thoughts....

I think that attempting to compare the mind (or intelligence) to a CPU is a mistake... a CPU processes in a linear fashion, based on a known (and limited) set of defined (mathematical) instructions, etc... The mind is anything but linear in physiological, is anything but binary in the chemical, and is anything but defined, limited, or purely mathematical.

Let us also consider that "the mind" is actually a composite of many different neurological systems from the reptilian brain up through the various units that came at various stages of evolution. To say that intelligence is a property of humankind (i.e. to say the reptilian brain does not enter the equation) might provide interesting fodder for debate, but I feel diminishes the significant role played by each part of the nervous system - when you think about it, even your nerves themselves have some level of intelligence (i.e. muscle-memory) that allows an athlete to have lightning reflexes, or allows you to minimize the effects of getting burned without having to make a conscious choice about whether or not to remove your hand from that hot pot-handle while your nerves act to protect you.

I could probably go on, but - sadly - have limited time.... At any rate, I hope the OP and other participants feel that I have added something of interest to the discussion!
Beauty! Very nicely put. Reading your argument makes me feel that you are not in the "mind = what brain does" school of thought. Mind is more about consciousness and intelligence (pls resist the psychological inertia of what we think is an intelligent decision or act). That intelligence is yet to be decoded or even partially understood by modern scientists. We tend to view everything from an extremely narrow lens of physical characteristics.

By the way, the cpu reference was not to the mind but to the brain. The idea of that analogy was as follows: I feel the mind is the intelligent being and it developed a computer of sorts. It used the sense organs as input and output devices, and did most of the processing of info in the block called brain...thus brain = cpu. the brain in itself has no intelligence. It is a robot doing what it has been programmed to do. The programming is done by the mind.

Have you ever wondered how some organisms have bigger brains than some others and yet are "dumber" than the smaller brained fellows? Vice versa too.

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#19 Post by Marian » July 12th, 2010, 8:22 pm

Dave B wrote:Look chaps, all this erudite talk about How Intelligence Works is all well and good, but . . .

Question is where can I get hold of a bucket-full to replace that which seems to be leaking away day by day?
Maybe you're taken the idea of an open mind way too literally! :)
Transformative fire...

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Re: How does intelligence work?

#20 Post by Marian » July 12th, 2010, 8:38 pm

Nirvanam wrote: ... I feel the mind is the intelligent being and it developed a computer of sorts. It used the sense organs as input and output devices, and did most of the processing of info in the block called brain...thus brain = cpu. the brain in itself has no intelligence. It is a robot doing what it has been programmed to do. The programming is done by the mind.

Have you ever wondered how some organisms have bigger brains than some others and yet are "dumber" than the smaller brained fellows? Vice versa too.
An intelligent being? Where did it come from? Does it exist separately from the rest of the body?
I know you don't want to talk about what constitutes intelligence but I don't think you can use the term 'intelligent being' without defining both terms. The same thing applies to comparing bigger brain organisms and smaller ones. Is a blue whale dumber than a human, for example, merely because it lives in the ocean and lives on crill? What if it's a very efficient whale, does that change things? :)

If the brain is merely a CPU, where does creativity come from? A computer will only deal with what is entered into it's data banks.
Transformative fire...

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