I was thinking about how our understanding of brain evolution could contribute to the development of artificially intelligent machines. Ideally, the design and programming of such machines should approach that of human brain structure and function. If for reasons other than our technological inadequacies, truly intelligent machines may be years away because we are approaching their development through a perspective of the brain that does not consider its evolution. Human intelligence arose from the combined contribution of successive neurological adaptations influenced by the survival needs of ancestral animals over millions of years. If we desire to construct machines truly capable of humanlike intelligence, shouldn’t we predicate their design—if not their programming—on those crucial steps in brain evolution leading to human intelligence?
Because the brain is a product of very precise steps in its evolution, any effort to emulate how the brain learns and develops should be inclusive of those steps. From what we know of how the brain likely evolved, our very first step towards intelligent machines should involve the development of their afferent subsystems; specifically, the development of those subsystems that will deliver palpable information into the processing centers of these machines.
Those sensory subsystems capable of detecting physical (palpable) stimuli were likely the first to evolve in the brains of ancestral animals because such systems are what we find in the most primitive parts of the contemporary brain. In the myelencephalon of the contemporary human brain, we find afferent neural systems that deliver taste and tactile sensory information into brain structure. In intelligent machines, taste and tactile equivalent subsystem would be those that would activate the processing centers of these machines whenever they are tactilely stimulated. Evidence in the contemporary brain suggests that tactile sensory detection assumed a different form with the evolution of the metencephalon.
Contiguous with the myelencephalon, the metencephalon evolved those afferent neural systems capable of detecting the indirect perception of potentially tactile sensory through the detection of minute changes in air pressure. What we know as sound sensory detection is merely a sophisticated from of tactile perception. With the distinction sound sensory detection brings to intelligent machines, tactile stimuli processing could be categorized as either direct (physical stimuli) or indirect (sound stimuli). Tactile stimuli should be given the highest processing priority and such processing should initially evoke an assessment of the potential threat to the physical status of the machine. This threat assessment process should also initiate a visual equivalent recognition process.
The construction of visual equivalent subsystems should lead to the development of a sensory hub equivalent to what we find in the human brain through the function of the thalamus. This sensory hub should be capable of integrating divergent sensory data; i.e., it should be capable of assigning data cues that link incoming visual sensory with tactile sensory. These data cues are what the mechanized thalamus will summon to recall the entirety of a sensory experience and compare what it recalls to incoming sensory data. Instead of filing or storing incoming sensory data in its congruous form, the data should be sorted and stored by the details of its sensory type with the key data links that will pull together the divergent sensory. For example, the visual characteristics of hair would be stored by its distinct attributes such as length, textural appearance, color, shape, etc. Along with each attribute, a data link such as “hair” would be store with each to bring the separate attributes together to form the perception of hair in the brains of intelligent machines. The distinction in this type of processing would be that each attribute would be store without respect for their overall connection. For example, hair can be black as well as a coffee pot. Therefore, the color black may be stored with enumerable unique data links, which the mechanized brain will summon in response to appropriate stimuli.
This theorized construction of an artificially intelligent machine isn’t nearly complete without the drive, emotion, and conscience that make human brain function unique. There is evidence in the brain, suggested by its evolution, that these last three components may be essential to the design of our intelligent machine. However, their discussion is for another time.