Gordon Globus:
THE POSTMODERN BRAIN (John Benjamins, 1995)

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This book by the American psychiatrist Gordon Globus is a bit of a mess, and hardly worth reading (most of it is what gives philosophers a bad reputation), but, if you make it past a tedious revisitation of the Artificial Intelligence controversy, Globus makes important points that are worth summarizing. Globus wants to merge postmodernism (as personified by Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida) and neural science (or, better, the nonlinear dynamics of neural processes). Postmodernism abhors the distinction between subject and object, believes in constant flux, favors chaos over order, and deems truth impossible.

The computational theory of mind (that the brain is a computer) goes against the principles of postmodernism. Globus thus proceeds to deconstruct the computational theory of mind. He prefers the view that the brain is a self-organizing system that fine tunes itself in the face of flows of energy. Brain states result from this continuous interaction with the external world, and from the continuous chaotic changes induced in the brain. And this is Globus' definition of "cognition".

Globus sees obvious similaritysies between Heidegger's situated "Dasein" and self-organizing neural networks, and between Derrida's "differance" and the behavior of neural networks. Given that those two philosophical concepts are among the vaguest ever conceived by philosophers (whereas neural networks are mathematical entities), Globus could have as well found similarities with subway stations or with supermodels. His basic assumption, that nonlinear dynamical systems can emulate the mind while traditional computers cannot, is never justified, merely related to the philosophical theories of postmodernism, which are taken as absolute truth. (As it is often the case in history, revolutions against totalitarian regimes are followed by even more totalitarian regimes).

Throughout the book, on the other hand, one is treated to such scientific statements as "death is the subsidence of polarity".

But Globus got it all wrong: connectionism (the science of self-organizing neural networks) is not anti-rational at all. It is, in fact, very rational (and requires much more complex mathematics than traditional computer science). Just the negation of postmodernism.

More interesting is his post-Bohm view of quantum mechanics. According to traditional interpretations of Quantum Theory, classical order unfolds because of a measurement and the consequent collapse of the wave function. According to Globus, classical order unfolds from the interaction between quantum cognition (the memory quantum field, or "holoworld") and quantum reality (the sensory quantum field). Heisenberg's discontinuous sequence of collapsed realities is replaced by a continuous unfolding of worlds from a holoworld.

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