How to Re-Create A Mind

Ray Kurzweil is a futurist, inventor, author, and lecturer with whom I first became acquainted through assistive technology for reading disabilities, such as the Kurzweil 3000.  His technology has also been used for text to voice conversion used to assist the blind and visually impaired.  This led to his invitation as the commencement speaker for the graduating class of Salus University/PCO in 2007 which I had the pleasure of hearing as the proud father of one of its members, Dr. Daniel Press.  Another Dr. Dan, retired astronaut and roboticist Dan Barry is an integral faculty member of Kurzweil’s Singularity University (Dan’s last name may be familiar to you through a family member’s journey into three dimensional space).  Kurzweil is at the leading edge of movements that accelerate intelligence, an intriguing example of whiich is modelling the cerebellum and the equations it can write for a 10 year old to solve motorically, alluded to at the 37 minute mark in the video below.

I was intrigued by Kurzweil’s latest book, How To Create A Mind, a great deal of which is predicated on pattern recognition.  His primary interest in understanding sensory pathways is to reverse engineer the neurotypical brain, enabling better assistive, substitution, and robotic devices.  However there are also good insights that he shares that can be applied to how we re-create a mind to facilitate rehabilitation.  Consider the following: Although we experience the illusion of receiving high-resolution images from our eyes, the optic nerve is transmitting sparse coding of only about 12 output channels, each of which carries only a small amount of information about a given scene.  Discarding or filtering most of the information and retaining only the salient details such as outlines and clues about points of interest literally prevents the cortex from experiencing sensory overload, as occurs for patients on the autistic spectrum, or those with acquired brain injury.  Kurzweil also spends considerable time addressing purposeful redundancy built into sensory systems, and one wonders whether missing, re-routed, or lost connections poses problems because redundancy is impoverished.

In terms of pattern recognition as it relates to re-creating a mind, what do you note about the following image reproduced by a young patient?

It is a cheiroscopic tracing exhibiting classic segmentation and fragmentation of the geometric form.  To understand what this child is seeing, the examiner or therapist must probe the child’s basic graphomotor abilities, in terms of pattern recognition and reproduction, before expecting to obtain a non-fragmented inter-hemispheric transfer of the image from the left eye to the right eye.

What do you note about the following image?

It is the Van Orden Binocular Behavior Pattern (“Van Orden Star”) of an adult patient who experienced a spontaneous brain bleed.  He is exhibiting a visual midline shift to the left, secondary to incomplete right homonymous hemianopia.

Not all reviewers have been kind to Kurzweil’s theories about pattern recognition of mind, witness the comments by Gary Marcus in The New Yorker online.  It is hard to argue with Marcus that Kurzweil’s theories regarding reverse engineering of the mind could be more fully informed by the insights of professionals from a variety of fields – neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and maybe even artists, musicians and writers.  And to that list I would add maybe even developmental and rehabilitative optometrists.

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