unobserved skill

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Thu Oct 15 13:15:41 PDT 1998

Hello everyone,

Carrol Cox writes Thursday Oct. 15/98: In other words, it has no more real use in discourse than does IQ. As far as I know, neuroscience and related disciplines has not even begun to provide any typology or taxonomy of "cognitive abilities."

Doyle Carrol has said this before. This is the core of the argument against taking "psychology" seriously in regard to economic understanding of this economy. Carrol's point is right in the sense of how crude these things are. But they aren't as crude as Carrol makes them out to be.

Carrol Five or so years ago they had discovered about 55 neurotransmitters, of which they had some slight knowledge of the functions of fewer than ten. Moreover, there is reason to suppose that many, even many hundred, neurotransmitters have not yet been identified.

Doyle Neurotransmitters have a place in understanding the brain, but connectionism is the central debate issue. This theory, conflicts with ruled ways of thinking about cognition. In turn this has deep implications for social organization. Socialist governments have to decided how the sciences will be organized. To point scarce resources at the right things to research. We would not want to waste money on proving IQ theory. But what are we going to do with these things? That is important. For instance where is the goddamn computer industry going? We don't really have much sense of cognitive direction that computing ought to go in. Is it fundamentally connectionist, meaning super-computing, or is microsoft operating systems the right direction for computing? These are big industries which have been structured in our economy to class priveleges. Most workers have no access, and there are all kinds of brain issues open to Marxists to fight against the class system.

Carrol The list of cognitive abilities is probably, for practical purposes, infinite: in other words, most of them will *never* be identified, and hence grouped into categories according to some principled analytical scheme.

Doyle Cognitive skills could be thought of as infinite, but there are definite structures in human brains, that will be mapped out relatively soon (and a great deal is known now about the early visual area modules in the occipital lobe). These structures, the modules of the neo-cortex possibly amount to some few thousand modules with specific strategic roles assigned through evolution to them We can understand these roles, such as that area V5 sees motion. We can know how big a module is in neurons, etc. It is not infinite in the sense of being unknowable. We can think of ways to create strategies for human society based upon realistic understanding of the modular structure of the brain. The biggest impediment in my opinion is the deep confusion that writing systems convey about how the mind works. James Joyce knew no more about consciousness than other writers, but we tend to "unrealistically" attribute such knowledge of "stream of consciousness" to him, when the question is not scientifically known. We can go a long ways toward getting many features of consciousness known now. I would remind Carrol that language has been very fruitfull this century with regard to exploring the mind. However, wrong the positivist were, they provided the science for computing. We can't be afraid of the details being wrong, or not getting into them. We have tremendous insights to build upon.

Carrol So what the contributors on this thread have been discussing, essentially, is the affect unicorns or golden mountains have on economic success.

Doyle In a deeper sense why does sequential computing seem to run into stone walls in terms of productive gains. Is there a basic social concept worth criticizing? Where ought we to point the development of brain work? regards, Doyle

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