Intelligent Systems And Their Societies Walter Fritz

Learned Mental Activity


All that is not a fundamental inborn mechanism, an IS learns; and that is what produces all the actions that we can observe in humans. This includes such abilities as taking an object, letting go of an object, recognizing objects seen before, whistling, reading, doing arithmetic, walking, drawing and painting, solving problems and using formal logic.

A baby will learn the first few items of those mentioned above quite on its own. After this, come those items that a person learns with the help of members of its family. Then follow classes of abilities that a person learns in school and finally at the university or while working.

At first sight it seems incredible that all the varied mental actions that we can observe in adult human beings are just stimulus-response mechanisms; that they are the outcome of knowing and applying response rules. We can possibly explain this as follows. In a computer we have many levels of activity: At the lowest level we find the electrical movement of bits of information. Based on these we have the movement of hexadecimal numbers. On this a higher level computer language. And still upon this, a high level computer program.
Similarly, the activity in a human brain seems to be not only a stimulus-response activity. But rather, it is the activity of the neurons that is such an activity. With this activity, simple concepts and response rules are learned in neural fields. Based on these simple response rules, the brain learns the next level of response rules and so on, until it reaches quite a complicated structure of response rules of mental action.

In animals we often talk about stimulus and response. Years ago it was thought that the activity of animals is mainly the result of instincts. Now scientists know that most animals also learn. They learn to act well in a new situation; in other words, they also create response rules in their brain.

In humans these response rules can get to be quite complex. For example, to make a serve in tennis is a response to a situation, namely the start of a new game. Many individual response rules make up the mental actions that cause this physical response. There are response rules for lifting the ball into the air. There is the generalized response rule to hit the ball, wherever it may be (due to an uneven toss, wind, or whatever). This includes if - then, that is, it includes lower level response rules. All the response rules that intervene are part of the composed response rule: to make a serve. Similarly, playing the violin or solving mathematical problems or creating a poem or driving a car to a distant city, are all generalized high level response rules.

A person has to learn all these activities. Without going through many experiences in any of these fields, not enough response rules are available and we are not able to play the violin, drive a car, solve mathematical problems and so on.


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Last Edited 14 Mayo 2013 / Walter Fritz
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