The original English is now available in an Authors Guild reprint edition via amazon.com and other booksellers:
|A book by|
William H. Calvin
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON 98195-1800 USA
|The Cerebral Symphony (Bantam 1989) is my book on animal and human consciousness, using the setting of the Marine Biological Labs and Cape Cod.||AVAILABILITY is again good. There is now an Authors Guild reprint edition available via amazon.com and other booksellers.|
The Cerebral Symphony|
Seashore Reflections on the
Structure of Consciousness
Copyright ©1989 by William H. Calvin.
You may download this for personal reading but may not redistribute or archive without permission (exception: teachers should feel free to print out a chapter and photocopy it for students).
Prologue: Finding Mind Amid the Nerve Cells 1
1. Making Up the Mind: Morning on Eel Pond 16
2. The Random Road to Reason: Off-line Trial and Error 27
3. Orchestrating the Stream of Consciousness: Prefrontal-Cortex Performances 45
4. Varieties of Consciousness: From Coma to Reverie 69
5. The Electrically Exciting Life of the Inhibited Nervous Cell 91
6. Making Mind from Mere Brain: Taking Apart the Visual World 109
7. Who Speaks from the Cerebral Cortex? The Problem of Subconscious Committees 133
8. Dynamic Reorganization: Sharpening Up a Smear with a Mexican Hat 157
9. Of Arms Races in Church Gardens: The Sidestep and Evolutions Other Byways 181
10. Darwin on the Brain: Self-organizing Committees 205
11. A Whole New Ball Game: Bootstrapping Thought Through Throwing 233
12. Shaping Up Consciousness with a Darwinian Dance: Emergence from the Subconscious 255
13. The Trilogy of Homo seriatim: Language, Consciousness, and Music
14. Thinking about Thought: Twilight at Nobska Lighthouse 301
15. Simulations of Reality: Augmented Mammals and Conscious Robots 317
Finding Mind Amid the Nerve Cells
To most people, Huxleys prophesy is still improbably distant. I hope to persuade the reader that, on the contrary, there is already one mechanistic analogy for consciousness. It isnt yet implemented in computer hardware, and it may well prove to be insufficient, but it shows that human consciousness has proved capable of thinking about its own roots in the brain, about how it differs from the sensibility of other animals, and about how it came to be that way.
And I dont mean consciousness in any superficial sense; important as it is, Im not simply talking about the brain-stem region that controls sleep and wakefulness, nor am I only talking about cognition, how we become aware of something. I really do mean consciousness in the sense of the metaphorical little person inside the head, the conductor of our cerebral symphony, who contemplates the past and forecasts the future, makes decisions about relative worth, plans what to do tomorrow, feels dismay when seeing a tragedy unfold, and narrates our life story.
And I mean machine too not specific machines such as are currently on the drawing boards, but a class of computing device that I call a Darwin Machine, so-named because one of this new type works like a greatly speeded-up version of biological evolution (or of our immune system) rather than like the familiar programmed computer. The Darwin Machine can evolve an idea, using variation-then-selection, in much the same way that biology evolves a new species using Darwins natural selection to edit random genetic variations and so shape new body styles. Our conscious and subconscious thought processes constitute a Darwin Machine. It shapes up new thoughts in milliseconds rather than new species in millennia, using innocuous remembered environments rather than the noxious real-life ones. This suggests that consciousness is due to the same darwinian principle as evolved life on earth, but simply on an accelerated time scale.
It is impossible to conceptualize the power of a symphony just from knowing the technical specifications of each instrument of the orchestra, just as it is impossible to imagine a ballet from knowing how nerves and muscles work. Many people use such an analogy when contemplating the anatomy and physiology of the human cerebral cortex that many of the uses made of this machinery are far removed from the nuts and bolts of neurons. But I think we can do much better than merely wave our hands about the machinery, as is the common practice among psychologists and humanists. I believe that we now understand how our brain creates the narrator of our conscious experience, the conductor of that cerebral symphony not in all its complexity, but at least in principle and that knowledge of the narrator machinery is going to revolutionize our concept of consciousness, make it much easier to appreciate the richness of our cerebral symphonies.
Consciousness is fundamentally a process, not a place or product: How is the fundamental question, not the where or what of the classical seat of the soul searches. I address the mechanisms of animal consciousness, discuss how human consciousness elaborates that, and propose how humans could create machines that would have much of what we call consciousness. This book covers both the neurological mechanism and its machine mimic: We are conscious machines (among other things), and we can probably create mechanical consciousness as well. Creating mind in a machine comes closer to playing god than any amount of genetic tinkering and to exercise suitable caution, we must understand our own mental processes and how they occasionally fail us.
As in several of my previous books, I have again used a narrative style to permit the nonscientist reader to temporarily skip over any difficult sections and resume the travelogue. And I have again taken a few (hopefully inconsequential) liberties with time and place in order to keep this narrative from becoming as cluttered as real life and a real diary. The Marine Biological Laboratory celebrated its centennial in 1988; I hope that, in passing, I manage to communicate some of the special flavor of Woods Hole, an intellectual atmosphere built up by thousands of thoughtful people over the century.
|The Cerebral Symphony (Bantam 1989) is my book on animal and human consciousness, using the setting of the Marine Biological Labs and Cape Cod.||AVAILABILITY is good.
There is now an Authors Guild reprint edition available via amazon.com and other booksellers.