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essays and commentary
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Human intelligence can be decomposed into functional parts, which in turn can be decomposed into programs that use various algorithms. In general, for the purpose of guiding a computer, each algorithm must exist in a form where each elementary action of the algorithm corresponds with an elementary action of the computer. The elementary actions of a computer are known collectively as the instruction set of that computer.
Regarding the composition of the computers responsible for human intelligence, if one tries to hypothesize a chemical computer made of organic molecules suspended in a watery gel, then an immediate difficulty is how to make this computer’s instruction set powerful enough to do the actions of the many different algorithms used by mental processes. For example, how does a program add two numbers by catalyzing some reaction with a protein? If one tries to assume that instead of an instruction set similar in power to those found in modern computers, that the instruction set of the organic computer is much less powerful—that a refolding of some protein, for example, is an instruction—then one has merely transferred the complexity of the instruction set to the algorithms: instead of, for example, a single add-two-numbers instruction, an algorithm would need some large number of less-powerful instructions to accomplish the same thing.
For those who apply the mathematics-only reality model, confining themselves to a chemical explanation of mental processes, there has been little progress. As with the control mechanisms for cell movement, cell division, and multicellular development, all considered in chapter 2, there is the same problem: no one knows how to build computer-like control mechanisms satisfying cellular conditions. And the required computer component, an instruction processor, has not been observed in cells.
Alternatively, the computing-element reality model offers intelligent particles. Each neuron in the brain is a cell, and is therefore occupied by a bion. To explain the intelligence of one’s own mind, it is only necessary to assume that bions in the brain perform mental functions in addition to ordinary cell functions. Brain bions are in a perfect position to read, remember, and process the sodium-ion signals moving along their neurons from sensory sources. And brain bions are also perfectly positioned to start sodium-ion signals that transmit to motor neurons, activating muscles and causing movement.