The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Self-organizing Schema

Schemas resurface also in the work of the Australian mathematician Michael Arbib.Just like with Minskyís frames and Schankís scripts, Arbib argues that the mind constructs reality through a network of countless schemas. And, again, a schema is both a mental representation of the world and a process that determines action in the world.

Arbib's theory of schemas is based on two notions, one developed by a US mathematician of the 19th century, Charles Peirce, and one due to the Swiss psychologist Jean Piagetof the 1930s. The first one is the notion of a "habit", a set of operational rules that, by exhibiting both stability and adaptability, lends itself to an evolutionary process. The second one is the notion of a "schema", the generalizable characteristics of an action that allow the application of the same action to a different context (yet another variation on Selz). Both assume that schemas are compounded as they are built to yield successive levels of a cognitive hierarchy.

Arbib argues that categories are not innate, they are constructed through the individual's experience. What is innate is the process that underlies the construction of categories. Therefore, Arbibís view of the rules of categories is similar to Noam Chomsky's view of the rules of language.

What sets Arbibís theory apart from Minskyís and Schankís is that Arbibís theory is more closely modeled after a view of the brain as an evolving self-organizing system of interconnected units, e.g. with neural networks.


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