Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This
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Thursday, December 04, 2008
D.B. notes that Oliver Selfridge sadly died in a fall at age 82. Selfridge was a pioneer in early computer science and artificial intelligence. And as D.B. fans know, every writer worth his or her salt needs to understand the complex processes of intelligence. How else to improve the creative processes.
Selfridge himself understood the connection between literature and intelligent processes. Selfridge envisioned the mind as a collection of tiny demons (this idea of the demon came to him after reading Paradise Lost!), each of whom responds to a name -- or something close to it -- being called out by other demons. When one thinks it is being called, it begins to yell out to other demons. The more certain it is that it is being called, the louder it yells, until some other demon thinks it is being called in turn. And so on. Selfridge called this pandemonium.
He used this idea to explain and model the way perceptual systems recognize stuff. For example, the letter R has one vertical line, a "belly" on the upper right, and a "leg" on the lower right. When "feature demons" whose names are "vertical," "belly," and "leg" (and others with names like "one," "upper right," and "lower right") hear their names being called, they begin to to call to the "cognitive demons." The cognitive demons named B and D, for example, may each prick up their ears, since they are "sensitized" to such calls as are given out by the vertical and belly demons. K may be listening, because it is listening for the calls of the vertical and leg demons. But only the R demon recognizes the calls of all three. So while B, D, and K may be calling out to the "decision demon," it will be R who calls the loudest.
As Doctor C. George Boeree says, "This may seem rather silly, but pandemonium provides a very good model for much of what goes on in the mind. The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon, for example: You are trying to think of the name of that actress in Moulin Rouge. Her name starts with an N, you are certain. Nancy, Nadene, Norah, Natalie... damn. You could say the N demon is yelling, and several names are responding. Nicole! That's it: Nicole Kidman. "
How about the poets amongst us seeking out a rhyme or a particular work, metaphor even - think of the connections.