The third part of my "The Thinknet Project" can be downloaded from here. I reproduce the introduction to part 3 below:
This is the third in the series where I explore Edward de Bono’s ideas about thinking and my development of them using mathematical and computer modelling. Just how far this modelling captures the process of thinking remains to be seen, of course; it is quite likely that even if these ideas are a step in the right direction they will nevertheless be at best a simple toy-town depiction of the immense complexities of the brain! We have to be content with the idea that my Thinknet project is perhaps only capturing one small aspect of human conscious cognition. However, all I can do is continue on the road I have set myself and see where it leads…..
In his book The Mechanism of Mind de Bono describes a very general metaphor of thinking: In this metaphor consciousness is identified with a “pool of light”, or “pool of attention”, which flows like water over a surface contoured by a network of channels. That network of channels represents the thought space potentially available to the exploratory motion of consciousness as it moves around that space. The network of thought space is a product of two things: Sensory input impacting and impressing itself onto the surface and the etching effects of the motion of the conscious thought itself.
Whilst the pool of attention has the property of consciousness associated with it, thought space does not. This raises an obvious question. Why is the ebb and flow of the pool of attention associated with that first person sense of a conscious perspective? Has this something to do with the physical properties associated with the pool? If so, what are those crucial consciousness bestowing properties? I don’t think such a question is answered easily, but de Bono does at least bring that question into sharper focus. In the meantime we can at least develop the mechanics of conscious attention.
In de Bono’s models the pool of attention moves around according to the dynamics set by the network, a dynamics that is local in nature and not wholly dissimilar to the way a mass of particles might move in a potential field under the influences of local forces. For example, in the activity of elementary association attention moves passively whereby one thought leads to another in a succession that depends in part on how strongly the thoughts are locally linked to one another in thought space. But we can get a vision of a much more proactive non-local dynamics if we go beyond the one-to-one links of simple association to the more complex entities of compound associations. For example consider this compound stimulus:
Small domestic meat eating mammal.
In ordinary one-to-one association each of the tokens above can be used as a separate input stimuli in order to yield the most likely association: e.g. On entering ‘meat’ we might find it associates with ‘food’; on entering ‘eating’ we might find is associates with ‘teeth’. But the above compound stimulus cannot be solved in this way. Because of the way our own minds work we can see that a solution which fits all the ‘evidence’ contained in the compound stimulus is probably ‘domestic cat’; perhaps not ‘dog’ because the qualifier ‘small’ is more probably fulfilled in ‘ domestic cat’. In effect we are looking here for a single token that resolves a set of competing input tokens. It is not possible to achieve this kind of resolution by simple association. So the question is; what is the mathematical basis for the solution to this kind of compound problem? The following mathematics is based on my notes of 14th September 1991.
The Thinknet project is really part of my Melencolia I series. The links relating to this series are below:
Also relevant are these links: