Kevin Kelly endorses my trans-brain thesis

I’ve had a lot to say about my own trans-brain hypothesis. According to which is the following true: rather than be located primarily in the skull, the human brain (and probably animal brains) are located throughout the body. Notice that this is a moderate thesis – e.i. there are theses less moderate than mine. I’ll give you an example. The “Extended Mind” thesis.

Okay, I’ve said a lot. But what do other people say? In particular, what does famed scientists Kevin Kelly say? To get impossibly more specific, what does Kevin Kelly say to Joe Flower, on this website? I’m posting the answer here for the first time. I’ve put the part that most confirms my theory in bold.

Over the past few decades, people have worked very hard to build robots with artificial intelligence. One of the surprising discoveries that came out of that intense experience is that trying to make a central brain run things does not work. If you try to make a robot that walks, and you give it a brain that has some sort of eyes to see with, and give that brain the job of notifying the legs when to move, it will never fail to flop over. Using a centralized brain for the task of trying to anticipate the future and deal with change with just doesn’t work.

Some researchers found they made more headway when they started from the bottom up, instead of working from the top down. They decided to build intelligent robot that was only as smart as an ant. They had observed that ants walk really well. The little tiny ant’s brain did that job a lot better than any robot. So the researchers wondered how they were doing it. And they discovered something very interesting: when it comes to walking, most of the ant’s thinking and decision-making is not in its brain at all. It’s distributed. It’s in its legs.

Okay – so what you have to ask yourself is, why isn’t Kevin citing me? Perhaps it would hurt his credibility too much. But you know what, I care far more about the truth than about due credit. And I’m glad to see Kevin join the chorus of people who correctly endorse my trans-brain theory.

But what do small animals like ants have to do with humans, you wonder? That’s fairly easy. Like ants (and particularly ugly rats), humans are social creatures. Obviously the main vehicle of sociality – the mechanism, if I will – is the brain. Try to imagine brains without sociality? Didn’t think so. So by the transitive property of sociobiology, defended most recently by the alien researcher M.L. Henneman, it is safe – nay, invincible – to assume that the discovery extends to us.

(HT: Jason Rosenhouse, Chad Orzel, and E.O. Wilson)

4 thoughts on “Kevin Kelly endorses my trans-brain thesis

  1. Dear Lewis,

    It would be informational only if you explained how this falsely alleged error does(n’t) affect my argument (for the better).


  2. There’s a difference between saying that our brains exist throughout our bodies, and saying that a robot whose intelligence centers are distributed work better. One is a description of humans, while the other is a prescription for robots. You can’t really say that one is dependant on the other, as many things we design for robots have nothing to do with what is known about humans. Even if Kevin read your blog, I can’t see any reason why he should credit you with any part of his research.

    In regards to Lew South’s comment, he’s saying that the brain is a physical organ that acts as the center of the nervous system, while the mind is a metaphysical object that controls our thoughts, memories, awareness, and emotions. The brain is a strictly defined object whichh is confined to a particular location. If you are saying that our mind is not confined to the brain, or that parts of our nervous system can operate independently of our brain, that’s still not the same as our brain actually existing throughout our bodies, but seems to be similar to what you assert in your trans-brain theory.

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