Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The best brain ever

Dedicated to mathematics and reasoning
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Imagine a new-born which is placed in a controlled environment.

In this environment, sensory perception is limited as far as possible to sound and vision. Movement is restricted to hands, for output.
All inputs to sound and vision are controlled, and are geared for teaching patterns, sequences, logic, abstract ideas and complex concepts. The brain is unaware that other things exist, and can only think about a limited range of subjects.

After appropriate training, this brain is then presented with some rather difficult mathematical or theoretical problems.

I suggest that such a brain would be, for that purpose only, the best brain ever.
(But it's only hypothetical, OK!)

Ling, Nov 09 2007

Related to xxobot's comment , Nov 09 http://ade.az.gov/e...ow%20BrainChild.pdf
[Ling, Nov 09 2007]

Wikipedia: The Ship Who Sang http://en.wikipedia...i/The_Ship_Who_Sang
[jutta, Nov 09 2007]


       Or we could use the metabolisms of humans to power our world of machines.
4whom, Nov 09 2007

       Scary concept. Might make for a good sci fi.   

       Wasn't there a sci-fi film of an 'old' ship with computer interface , to the web , that was a developed fetus in a tube . The interface was of course called baby . The technology was the last because of outlawing .
wjt, Nov 09 2007

       the saddest child ever?
pertinax, Nov 09 2007

       If you don't know any different , can't be shown but are still happy with life , who is to judge that life . The baby may have an existance to rival any 'normals' . Neither can walk in each others footprints .
wjt, Nov 09 2007

       Whence obtaineth this child morality and ethics?
vincevincevince, Nov 09 2007

       trial , error and reprisal like the rest of us .
wjt, Nov 09 2007

       The baby doesn't have any footprints within which to walk.
theleopard, Nov 09 2007

       Surely you'd just end up raising some kind of idiot savant psychopath? Aren't things like the need for human interaction hardwired into us?   

       Maybe you should just save up and buy yourself a better computer.
lostdog, Nov 09 2007

       ((Can someone give a link to one of Amn Mccaffrey's Books with the shell peoplem, sorry I can't be more specific but it's been a while)) Shell people are people with born disorders who would pretty much die in the real world and they are put in shells to fly starships etc... for more info read the books...

also... those babies would DIE, babies that are put in a box and deprived of touch etc. DIE, I roman tried this with a bunch of babies, the midwives where instructed to touch them as little as possible, not talk, not even smile... they all died. ((correct me if i'm wrong please))

Ai is getting to that level... and besides, how would YOU like to be put in a box... but moral issues aside, I am actually for this idea
xxobot, Nov 09 2007

       If the stimuli could be wide ranging and complex enough ( touch could be fabricated ) then the will to survive might be kindled . Still , a horrible , horrible thing to do . A better method would be to grow a brain from stem cell cells on a hardware interface .   

       :-) down top or up bottom
wjt, Nov 09 2007

       "The Ship Who Sang (1969) is a short story cycle by science fiction author Anne McCaffrey.   

       "The Ship Who Sang takes place in the distant future, when parents of children who are born with severe physical handicaps but highly developed minds are given the option of allowing them to become "shell people"; encapsulated as children in a titanium life-support shell and specially trained for tasks that a "normal" human would be unable to do. These children, after coming of age, are employed in various manners (in the books, mostly as interstellar spacecraft . . ."
baconbrain, Nov 09 2007

       (-) You can limit movement, but you cannot limit perception; "abstraction" requires reality and experience to exist; mathematical reasoning is a creative, expansive activity, not the horrible parody you paint it as.   

       What lostdog said. What you want is a computer. You can get those without crippling another person.
jutta, Nov 09 2007

       Isn't abstraction dependent on the circumstance? What is reality and experience? Why do you think that the 'brain' as described would not be creative?   

       Computers are mere machines, and will probably be so for a very long time.
Ling, Nov 09 2007

       Brains are "mere machines" too. So what? Just because we don't fully understand how it works doesn't mean it's not a machine. And just because it's a machine doesn't mean it can't also be a person, or have emotions, or have a mind.   

       "Why do you think that the 'brain' as described would not be creative?"
That's not what I wrote - but you seem to try and box something in in order to limit what it can do, and that isn't necessarily a recipe for mathematicalness.

       For example, it could be that moving inside the abstract possibilities of a mathematical formalism is in some ways like inhabiting a body, and that making use of your own body fully, in as many different ways as possible, is actually great training, not a distraction.   

       Or it could be that focusing on something with concentration is a difficult thing that requires something like a muscle movement to perform; and that by reducing distractions, you're weakening the individual's ability to resist them.   

       Or it could be that mathematics is not a solitary pursuit of a single brain, but a conversation that requires empathy with other mathematicians, something that would be helped by having a smilar experience of moving around, speaking, being afraid, being warm.   

       This idea is a little like saying that in order to raise kids that are great runners, you should place them in a centrifuge at birth and let them get used to moving at high speeds. Yes, the two things are somehow related, but ...
jutta, Nov 09 2007

       //But you seem to try and box something in in order to limit what it can do//
That's a fair comment, but I think of it more as a concentration of more relevant experience rather than, say, emotions, or body control.

       For example, a blind person can hear better.   

       Conversations can be conducted via mathematical symbolism. Emotion would have no use, except in perhaps one way that I'm not sure I have the answer: how to motivate.   

       //Brains are "mere machines"//
Yes, they are, aren't they?
But computers don't have a mind; cannot make leaps in perception; hold two opposing views simultaneously and so on.
Ling, Nov 09 2007

       By making this a baby, [Ling] has obscured the basic idea. I think the basic concept is that ordinary environmental interactions blunt abilities for math or theory; alternatively, that abilities for math and theory will grow more if there is no competition for resources from other parts of the brain. The analogy would be Daredevil, the Man without Fear, who has preternatural senses of hearing (and smell, I think) because his eyes were poked out in a tragic lawn darts accident.   

       Rats have some math ability. Also theory ability. Probably they are purer than those of humans, because ours carry a lot of cultural baggage but those of rats are hardwired. If [Ling]'s theory is true one would predict that lab rats living in a very bland environment would be better with such skills than wild caught rats who have had to shuck and jive from an early age. A test such as [Ling] proposes could easily be done with lab rats as it is easy to control their environments and this could be done in a (more) humane fashion.   

       Does the 's go inside or outside those brackets?
bungston, Nov 09 2007

       Just drop the brackets. It's a name. There's no potential for confusion, hence no need to disambiguate.   

       // But computers don't have a mind; cannot make leaps in perception; hold two opposing views simultaneously and so on.   

       I disagree (but there are lots of people on either side of this). A mind is just what a brain does; if you simulate a brain on a computer - and we probably disagree about whether that's at all possible - that computer has a mind. "Making leaps in perception" means to change the preprocessing that your cognition does for you; it's like loading new code or changing an algorithm. "Holding two opposing views simultaneously" is probably even easier for a simulated mind than it would be for a human mind; lots of systems that reason about explanations can "try out" different theories, expanding them and switching between them.   

       In bungston's experiment, you'd have to make sure that the comparison lab rats are just second generation feral rats, and that either side has a chance to learn the task they're supposed to perform - otherwise, you're measuring (a) evolution, or (b) short-term conditioning, rather than something about the way the rat's brain has grown.
jutta, Nov 09 2007

       Would said mathematical rodents be capable of solving Fermrat's last Theorem?
xenzag, Nov 09 2007

       //For example, a blind person can hear better.//   

       Perhaps. But not automatically, only after some practice. Which same improvement the rest of us can do, if we but try. Read Richard Feynman about learning to use his sense of smell, and others on developing latent abilities.   

       Some things we just need to learn at the proper stage of growth, or we don't learn them at all, and some of those are precursors to the oddest other things. My girlfriend has tried to explain to me that babies need to learn to crawl, rather than progress straight to walking, or they don't learn to "cross the mid-line", which means they can't learn to read or something drastic like that. I recall a seeing something about a deaf woman who was never communicated with as a child, and a bunch of deaf kids who developed their own sign language--the kids are great, the woman is a lump.   

       We need to learn all kinds of things, and aren't likely to do well if raised in a restricted environment.
baconbrain, Nov 10 2007

       Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the human brain develop in tandem with the human body? It almost makes me spitting mad when people consider the brain as a discrete entity.   

       You think with your entire body, not just with the tiny grey matter sphere that shlooses about in your skull. My mind extends to my fingertips.
lostdog, Nov 10 2007

       Yeah the grey stuff's just there to cool the blood.
Texticle, Nov 11 2007

       "Now, solve this mathematical and theoretical problem for me"   

GutPunchLullabies, Nov 12 2007

       although doing this experiment would be extremely cruel, I think that it would be enlightening to merely design the experiment (without putting it into practice).   

       What form would the inputs take? maths is a language in itself, but can it be taught without another language?   

       In designing this experiment, we might discover better ways of teaching/ communicating/ discovering maths.
xaviergisz, Nov 12 2007

       A bone for cruelty, and for applying a software fix to a hardware problem.
Voice, Nov 12 2007

       I've noticed that in my book-math dealings, I translate the problems into word problems and try to understand the concepts in real-world terms. Other folks hate word problems, and seem happy with algebra problems where a formula is displayed first, and the real info is hidden below.   

       My method has advantages and weaknesses. This idea may make someone (?) who is very much of the other type--which may be the whole point.
baconbrain, Nov 12 2007

       Thinking about this, it is sort of like imposing autism on a person. The autistic individual may get to see all that non-pattern-based stuff, like other people's emotional expression, but they have (sometimes severe) problems perceiving it. They also have problems integrating certain sensory inputs, incidentally.   

       The problem comes when you want to ask the questions of your subject.   

       In scope, it reminds me of the fictional Ender's Game, in which the main character is cut of from a subset of human interaction (friendship) as a child, in order to better develop another aspect of his person (survival, warmaking).   

       I think the real solution is to give more scope to the brain, not less. For example, I have long mulled the idea of implanting radio transmitters in newborn skulls (also hypothetical, of course). What form of communication would they develop between two brains raised in direct contact? It would function as fast as they could think, and allow exchange of vast amounts of information. Judging from how well I have incorporated google into my own brain through a relatively crude interface, I think the link would function very effectively, possibly causing the linked individuals to fail to perceive their consciousnesses as separate.
GutPunchLullabies, Nov 12 2007

       How's about we do the opposite to this idea - take a newborn child and expose it to all of the sensory delights that the world has to offer. We let it be washed by the warm surf on a Bahamian beach, and experience the Northern Lights from the freezing Arctic wastes. It gets to wriggle in a crib of fallen autmnal leaves as well as in a bed of lush papaya leaves. As it grows up, it mixes equally with hoboes and bums as with Nobel prize winners and poet laureates.   

       Somewhere along the way, it's also taught maths.   

       Which would be the more creative? Which would be the "best brain ever"? The brain-in-a-jar baby or the absorbing-experience baby?
lostdog, Nov 12 2007

       Just graft cortex from one identical twin onto the other, before the connections are sorted out. You'd probably get a mess, but you might get something interesting. Maybe try it first with goldfish, if you can get identical twin goldfish.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 12 2007


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