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It also seems logical to surmise that cognitive maturing increases the focus level you are able to reach and sustain–and therefore increases your ability and tendency to think abstractly.

Even more important: if we accept the existence of the spectrum, an explanation and model of analogy discovery–thus, of creativity–falls into our laps.

As you move down-spectrum, where you inhabit (not observe) your thoughts, you feel them. In other words, as you move down-spectrum, emotions emerge. Dreaming, at the bottom, is emotional.

Emotions are a powerful coding or compression device. A bar code can encapsulate or encode much information. An emotion is a “mental bar code” that encapsulates a memory. But the function E(m)–the “emotion” function that takes a memory m and yields the emotion you in particular feel when you think about m–does not generate unique values. Two different-seeming memories can produce the same emotion.

How do we invent analogies? What made ­Shakespeare write, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” Shakespeare’s lady didn’t look like a summer’s day. (And what does a “summer’s day” look like?)

An analogy is a two-element thought train–“a summer’s day” followed by the memory of some person. Why should the mind conjure up these two elements in succession? What links them?

Answer: in some cases (perhaps in many), their “emotional bar codes” match–or were sufficiently similar that one recalled the other. The lady and the summer’s day made the poet feel the same sort of way.

We experience more emotions than we can name. “Mildly happy,” “happy,” “ebullient,” “elated”; our choice of English words is narrow. But how do you feel when you are about to open your mailbox, expecting a letter that will probably bring good news but might be crushing? When you see a rhinoceros? These emotions have no names. But each “represents” or “encodes” some collection of circumstances. Two experiences that seem to have nothing in common might awaken–in you only–the same emotion. And you might see, accordingly, an analogy that no one else ever saw.

The cognitive spectrum suggests that analogies are created by shared emotion–the linking of two thoughts with shared or similar emotional content.

To build a simulated unconscious mind, we don’t need a computer with real emotions; simulated emotions will do. Achieving them will be hard. So will representing memories (with all their complex “multi-media” data).

But if we take the route Turing hinted at back in 1950, if we forget about consciousness and concentrate on the process of thought, there’s every reason to believe that we can get AI back on track–and that AI can produce powerful software and show us important things about the human mind.

David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale University and a national fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.

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Credit: Eric Joyner

Tagged: Communications

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