Is the way we talk about the human mind messing with our ability to think about it clearly?
The philosopher Colin McGinn is a tough book reviewer. He looks like a cop in an old movie about cops and robbers, and writes like one. And when he decided to take down Ray Kurzweil's new book, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed, he pulled no punches. First, he runs through Kurzweil's "pattern recognition theory of the mind":
One cannot help noting immediately that the theory echoes Kurzweil's professional achievements as an inventor of word recognition machines: the "secret of human thought" is pattern recognition, as it is implemented in the hardware of the brain. To create a mind therefore we need to create a machine that recognizes patterns, such as letters and words. ...The process of recognition, which involves the firing of neurons in response to stimuli from the world, will typically include weightings of various features, as well as a lowering of response thresholds for probable constituents of the pattern. Thus some features will be more important than others to the recognizer, while the probability of recognizing a presented shape as an "E" will be higher if it occurs after "APPL."
These recognizers will therefore be "intelligent," able to anticipate and correct for poverty and distortion in the stimulus. This process mirrors our human ability to recognize a face, say, when in shadow or partially occluded or drawn in caricature.