Thoughts on Neural Networks

I’m nearing the completion of On Intelligence, past the point where the author stops presenting his sketch of a theory of intelligence, and moves into the land of speculation. He has answered the question “what is consciousness” in a rather straight-forward manner (it is the experience of being intelligent), but has not yet tackled the question of free will.

Listening to this book has lead me back to reading articles from the rather large collection of journals I have on the topic of computational intelligence. The journals are IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks, on Evolutionary Computation, and on Fuzzy Logic. The papers in the first two journals (I have not actually read any of the Fuzzy Logic journal to date) are mostly very narrow investigations of esoteric topics in their fields. A neural network applied to this problem needed to be modified from its traditional form in such and such a manner, and either solves, or sort of solves the problem. Other papers are taxonomies of algorithms or computational structures all falling under the same heading – and the author adds some little twist to the last category he describes. These are the papers that can usually be skipped without missing anything essential – and they are all written by grad students, with some professor listed as one of the authors.

Occasionally, there is a massive article that introduces some fundamentally new concept. But (so far) even those fundamental concepts are not so fundamental as to significantly advance the field. Even rarer are articles that seek a border between theory and reality, or the rarest of all – theory and philosophy. They are in there, but they are tough to spot.

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