Brain and Values: Is a Biological Science of Values Possible

By Karl H. Pribram | Go to book overview

3
Values, Goals and Utility in an Engineering-Based Theory of Mammalian Intelligence

Paul J. Werbos National Science Foundation, Room 675* Arlington, VA 22230 pwerbos@nsf.gov


Introduction and Strategy

Values, goals and utility play a central role both in formal psychology and in everyday life. This paper will try to explain how our understanding of these concepts can be further unified and enriched, based on a new engineering-based theory of mammalian intelligence [1].

The new theory is essentially the latest iteration of an ongoing dialogue between neuroscientists like Karl Pribram and engineers like myself, each trying to grow beyond the usual limitations of these disciplines. A major goal of this effort is to bridge the gap between functional, realistic and intuitive descriptions of the brain and more formal mathematical, computational representations. After we develop a better understanding of how the higher-level functional abilities of the brain could be replicated, by certain types of parallel distributed computational structure, we will then be ready to do a more serious job of matching such structures to the lower-level features of neural circuitry and to suggest new experiments.

The underlying strategy of this approach has been discussed at great length in the past [2- 4]. Those prior discussions have elaborated on issues such as the role of complexity, the importance of learning, the choice of mathematical tools, the strategies for experimental validation, and so on. Nevertheless, there are three strategic issues which need to be discussed yet again, because they are a source of concern to many researchers: (1) consciousness versus intelligence; (2) prior information versus learning; (3) neural networks versus computational neuroscience.


Consciousness Versus Intelligence

The new theory tries to replicate the higher-level intelligence of the brains of mammals. This is not the same thing as explaining consciousness in the minds of humans.

Many of us are actually more interested in human consciousness, in principle, than in mammalian intelligence. For example, I have written at length about the various meanings of the word "conscious," about the role of human language and symbolic reasoning, quantum computing, the soul, and so on[5]. However, those topics are beyond the scope of this article.

____________________
*
The views herein are those of the author, not those of NSF, though they are written on government time.

-55-

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