What is easy and what is not

There is a podcast interview with Chris Frith (here) that is very interesting. I am planning to do a few posts on his ideas, starting with the difficulty in understanding the mind through introspection.

…But the way our brain works in a sense makes us tend to be dualists, so it’s very difficult for us to think about how the mental and the physical interact. And this is partly because the way the brain works is that it hides from us most of the work it does.

Something like 90% of brain activity never reaches consciousness at all. And so, we don’t know about it through introspection…

…In the 40’s when computers came into action, people thought they would be able to build electronic brains – as newspapers called it in those days – which would do the sort of things the humans could do. And they made a very bid mistake, because what they thought at that time was that the easy thing for these electronic brains to do would be to perceive the world, because that’s so easy for us, whereas the difficult things for these computers to do would be to play chess, because that’s so difficult for us. But it turns out – not that long ago, that the computer has been built that beat the best chess player in the world, by they’re still very bad at perceiving things, or reading handwriting, or anything like that.

My friend, Daniel Wolpert, has this nice example that you can make a computer that can play chess but no one has really developed a computer that’s particularly good at picking up the chess piece and moving it to the new position on the board. So, we get a very strange idea of what’s easy and what’s difficult from our introspection.

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