Friday, January 26, 2007

The Binding Problem

Pure Pedantry has reviewed a paper on the binding problem by Bodelon, Fallah and Reynolds. It uses a method which involves an LCD screen and varying visual cue frequencies to determine whether or not the binding of stimuli separated in the visual processing stream require a distinct amount of time (i.e. a separate resource). The findings indicate a string 'yes': the implications of which may be very important. As soon as I can get my hands on a copy, I'll attempt a review, with the possible implications for cognitive robotics, and related subjects.

3 comments:

magic said...

I'm not convinced the binding problem is a problem. I think it's a bit like ADHD and other attempts to force discreetness onto continuousness. Here's how I see it: Binding Problem, or Opportunity?
Cheers


portal to the multiverse

Paul said...

Repost of a comment I made on the link provided by magic (previous comment):

I agree completely with your point that reality is what we make it to be (the quantum physics example being a good example). However, I think that this lends even more weight to the study of the binding problem, rather than detracting from it. An example to explain what I mean: you see an apple, and you reach out to pick it up and take a bite. It is incontrovertible that sensors in your fingers detect the object that is apple, that your eyes detect the colour and shape that is apple, and that your taste-buds detect the taste that is apple. As you say, your subjective experience of this will be different from mine (you make your reality, as do I), but the fact remains that we would both experience these physically disparate sensations as being one object. The binding problem as studied by neuroscientists and the like (as inspired by philosophers) is thus in my mind a perfectly valid and important question.

magic said...

Sorry in advance for very long comment (in response to Paul's comment on my link to mumbo jumbo

To be honest, I don't understand my point correctly, or where I'm going with this. I'm just fumbling in the dark, trying to make connections. So I'm probably revealing my ignorance when I say that I think there are a number of unwarranted assumptions underlying the discussion of this issue, and that there is an element of circularity I'm uncomfortable with. And also that the innate treachery of language may be contributing to the creation of a non-issue.

Consider, for example, the Revonsuo and Newman definition: the binding problem is "…the problem of how the unity of conscious perception is brought about by the distributed activities of the central nervous system."

My understanding is that there is still no good theory of consciousness: what it is, where it lives, whether it is in fact unified, etc. And that there is still no good theory of "personal selfhood": what it is, where it lives, whether it is one or many, where the boundary of the self is, etc

There is no "central meaner" to mangle Daniel Dennett. There is no homunculus in the control room inside your skull behind your eyes. There is no control room, there is no ONE in control. Consciousness emerges when a certain level of complexity is reached--it is not susceptible to reductionist analysis.

There is no unity of conscious perception. So how could there be a problem with it?

I'm not really clear where I'm going with this, to be honest. I may be confusing or confuting the whole with its parts. But that in turn raises more questions about the gestalt, and how fine- or coarse-grained it can be.

The Binding Problem is called a problem because we don't know how the unity of conscious perception happens. So it's a problem for us because we don't understand it. My view is that not only do we not know how "it" happens, but we do not know what "it" is, why it is, or even whether it happens at all.

So the opportunity is to focus less sharply on the "how" and more sharply on the "what", the "why" and the "whether". Less on the parts, and more on the whole. And in so doing, maybe we will discover and come to understand a great deal more than we bargained for, or even suspected was out there to be understood.

For instance, maybe we will discover a quantum theory of consciousness. (And no, I don't think it has anything to do with microtubules or morphic resonance). Maybe we will discover that observers can and do create realities in a much more substantial, divine, really real way than could ever be encompassed in the trivial speculations of new age spirituality. Maybe we will find a truth much bigger than the wildest dreams of the Deepak Chopra's and James Redfields and their like.