The Mind Within the Net: Models of Learning, Thinking, and Acting

Manfred Spitzer, Author
Manfred Spitzer, Author MIT Press (MA) $57.5 (375p) ISBN 978-0-262-19406-8
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-0-262-69236-6
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-0-585-09917-0
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In neural network theory, scientists use computers and mathematics to model complex brain functions. Here, Spitzer, professor and chairman of the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Ulm, Germany, offers lay readers an accessible introduction to the workings of that theory. His goal is not to reduce faculties of higher intelligence, behavior and emotion to the mechanistic. Rather, he hopes to further our understanding of the elaborate, elegant connections between the physical and the cerebral, with an eye toward practical benefits for humanity. Spitzer begins with basics, explaining what neurons are and how they work through electrochemical impulses. He moves on to distinctions between the organic minds of humans and the artificial intelligence of computers. Although computer models of neural networks are valuable tools in comprehending brain mechanics, Spitzer is careful to keep visible the differences between human and machine. And results from the latest experiments in brain chemistry and neural linkages, he reports, contradict some cherished hypotheses on learning and behavior. He explains, for instance, how recent work in the field gainsays widely held linguistic theories concerning deep-seated universal capacities for language. He also explores the relationship of experience to learning and behavior, challenging some contemporary epistemological assertions. Easy-to-follow diagrams and a practical glossary will help readers with limited knowledge of this intriguing yet esoteric realm. Illustrations throughout. (Apr.)
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