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"HERE COME THE INTELLIGENT AND FEELING MACHINES" 

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

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The BYTE Fiasco

 

I have known Dr. Goodman for more than twenty years. He has had a rather fascinating career in brain research.

Twenty years ago Marvin Minsky told me, after my article "Here Come The Brains" was published, to ignore brain mechanism research: there isn't enough known, and what you learn will be wrong for at least twenty years.

Those twenty years are over. Here is Dr. Goodman:

 

"HERE COME THE INTELLIGENT AND FEELING MACHINES"

By David A. Goodman, Ph.D.

Lots of science fiction is built around the great giant computer taking over the world. Most of the machines sprawl across hidden subterranean rooms. Some of them scheme to keep the people under control. A few of them conspire to restrain the minds of world leaders. Since ENIAC in the middle 1940s, great giant machines have been massive digital computers. The digital machine since its wartime inception has been servant to the male will: It launches rockets, fights wars, predicts the weather, balances ledgers and plays games. In accord with this male metaphor, digital computers are called intelligent machines, and algorithms are written to provide them with artificial intelligence (AI).

Despite these manly assumptions, the functional capacities of the human brain remain unknown. Digital machines are able to plan logically, still they remain incapable of experiencing and displaying human emotion. Today's computers lack the capacity for artificial emotion (AE), and for this reason, philosophers claim that an authentic great giant computer brain may lie at least thirty years in the future. Thirty years ago my research group in Southern California conceptualized a computer with feelings. From studies of evolution, we concluded that feelings are more analog than digital. We wagered that the best way to simulate human emotions would be through wave mechanics. We assumed that the source of wave functions in the brain was evolution across hundreds of millions of years by the vertebrates beneath the multiple frequency oscillating energies emanating from the sun and the moon. We took the giant step of believing that the nearby heavens endowed all vertebrates including humans through genetics with a strong inner feeling of what comprises a day, month and year.

We reasoned that those vertebrates with genes linking their behaviors to constant solar and lunar rhythms would survive. Animals carrying the gene for hunting and resting at the appropriate times survived. Animals bearing genes capable of encouraging reproductive behaviors at optimal times survived. Vertebrates carrying genes inducing them to migrate north or south during the correct seasons survived. These animals through aeons of evolutionary history became endowed with "clock genes" and these are the survivors are the predecessors of modern human beings. The clock genes persist and today are embedded in nervous and hormonal tissue within every human brain.

Our group reasoned that the rhythmic adaptive behavior essential for survival was genetically coded in the most primitive brain tissue. Salamanders that are positioned on a direct evolutionary line to higher organisms including humans are extraordinarily sensitive to solar and lunar rhythms. Since they lack the cerebral cortex, their rhythms must be coded in primitive tissue of the brain. Anatomist C. J. Herrick saw under the microscope in the hypothalamus and reticular formation of salamanders, a primitive neuropil comprising a rich meshwork of tightly packed dendrites and axon collateral fibers. In these spidery webs of nerve cell extensions Herrick found the perfect substrate for an analog information processor. Going further, he stated that the neuropil remained virtually unchanged during three hundred million years, and that reasonably it could form the substrate for human unconscious mind, consisting of our moods, emotions, dreams and mental states.

Thus beginning in 1977 our group began searching in humans for evidence of rhythms linked to movements of the sun and moon. The rhythms lasting a day, month and year we found and nobody disputes them. Four additional rhythms lasting about an hour, half a day, a week and multiple years we detected in extensive human data. These four rhythms may seem controversial; yet textbooks of vertebrate behavior provide strong evidence for existence of these rhythms. Taken together the seven rhythms can determine direction and scope of the human unconscious mind.

Primary among the rhythms studied by our group is the male emotional rhythm lasting about a month. Since Rexford B. Hersey, a psychologist, reported in the early 1930s the existence of this rhythm, dozens of studies have been launched to validate or disprove his findings. Hersey found that of the 29 men studied for thirteen months at home and on the job, all experienced an emotional rhythm lasting from 16 to 63 days. Research since the 1950s confirms that a rhythm lasting about a month can be identified in about one-half of normal adult males; the other half of the men appeared to be devoid of the rhythm.

After decades of study, we concur with Hersey. Later this year, our group will announce the discovery of a "monthly" emotional cycle in all male subjects studied. The number of subjects, about a dozen, pales before thousands of men studied by Dr. Hersey between the 1930s and 1950s. Nonetheless our investigations depth detected the rhythm of which the men remained unaware. The male rhythm apparently eludes capture because it is hard to find, being longer or much shorter than a month. One of our subjects experienced an emotional cycle lasting 34 days. The shortest, 30 hours! A second difficulty in determining cycle length is that the cycle appears chaotic, meaning that periods of drift alternate with periods of stability. Short cycle length and chaotic drift may be two credible reasons why the emotional rhythm appears missing in some men.

Men detecting the monthly emotional rhythm in themselves feel well down the road to self-discovery. One researcher believing the brain was a holographic gasped when he realized that his emotional rhythm was a reference beam modulating his mind. In the past he never suspected that every 33 days his emotional cycle repeated. He gained from the rhythm a better understanding of his moods and dreams. He found that his athletic performance varied about 15 percent between the high and low points of his cycle. Most importantly, he asked the critical question: "If my brain substrate for moods is electric, analog and oscillatory why am I prescribed pharmaceuticals to permanently abolish them?"

The primacy of the monthly emotional raises additional matters beyond the utility of mental drugs. The man charting moods twice a day is aware of natural rhythms regulating his life. It is only a short step from charting his mood rhythms and discovering a pattern to speculation on the patterning of emotions in his partner and adolescent children. A father charting moods becomes aware of how he, his wife and adolescent children individually pass through periods of feeling tired and energetic, tense and calm. Household disputes take place during predictable phases of the four individual cycles.

He wondered on his way to work, what about well- paid athletes: are their streaks and slumps explained by the same emotional drumbeat regulating their abilities during the four weeks of the month? Why not bench him during the days of the month when like Tony Gwynn they are liable to strike out or injure his knee? Why not invent a handheld device and computer software for athletes and family members to monitor the ups and downs of moods determining the successes and failures in life?

The implications of cycles' research may be even more profound now that we suspect that men and women dance to the tune of one's own drummer's drum. The tune lasts months or scarcely a day. It can be stable or drift.

It can be hidden, or detected rapidly. The cycle of emotions charted by hand or computer holds the potential to change how people think about their brain. It provides for the first time the means to predict future moods and dreams in the person and household members. Practiced on a larger scale, charting emotions can alter expectations in the neighborhood, on the job, at the ball field. The implications of self-discovery through charting emotions are just now being mapped out, with implications for health and disease, the future of athletics, and, of course, the great giant computers familiar to readers of science fiction.

Prior to the recent discoveries, at the core of intelligent machines lay artificial intelligence. Now programs are being devised for artificial emotions. The great giant computer of the future may be constructed of logical chains or algorithms that solve problems, and a second mode that is feminine, analog, oscillatory, feeling. Computers of the future may proceed the "male" way towards the objective; and the "female" way, filtering reality through an emotional lens. Which mode selected depends on whether users prefer to solve problems in a manner requiring traditional intelligence or emotional intelligence?

Is what I have written a scientific fantasy? Is it possible to find coherence in the nearby heavens, sunbeams, silvery moons, salamanders, neuropil, natural selection, clock genes, emotional cycling, predicting moods and dreams? I do not know the answer, but suspect that the truth viewed from the year 2010 will be much weirder than anything I have written here. To decide one way or another about emotional rhythms, hundreds of readers of these words must put pencil to paper, monitor moods for three months, then decide whether the monthly emotional cycle exists in them. What do they have to lose except being chained to an algorithm that a cadre of innovators in brain research no longer believe?

 

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