Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Metaphor of Object-Oriented Programming
Metaphors can sometimes be helpful. Although the neural network does not correspond to a digital computer in most ways, I believe the metaphor of "object-oriented programming" may be helpful. The brain’s cognitive functionality and memories are widely distributed. I believe there are many thousands of tiny local functional modules operating in parallel and hierarchically with recurrent and reentrant connections operating recursively. This brings to mind object oriented programming, which is used in a number of modern programming languages.
Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a programming paradigm using "objects" – data structures consisting of data fields and methods together with their interactions. Objects can be thought of as wrapping their data within a set of functions designed to ensure that the data are used appropriately. An object-oriented program will usually contain different types of objects, each type corresponding to a particular kind of complex data to be managed. (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_programming)
The computer simulations of neural network functions analyzed by Edmund Rolls provide an indication of the way in which methods and data can be clustered together in tiny local modules. (e.g. Rolls; Memory, Attention, and Decision-Making, 41)
Thousands of these tiny modules, providing a variety of specialties, can operate in parallel and hierarchically with reentry and recursion. Rolls indicates some of the neural functions such as short-term memory, associative memory, etc.
The cognitive functions named by Joaquín Fuster conform to the metaphor of object oriented programming:
Joaquín Fuster has coined the term "cognit" as a generic term for any representation of knowledge in the cerebral cortex. The cognit is made up of assemblies of neurons and connections between them. (Fuster; Cortex and Mind, 14)
All five essential cognitive functions of the human brain -- attention, perception, memory, intelligence, and language -- consist of neural transactions between and within the cognitive networks of the cortex, termed "cognits," comprising units of knowledge (functions) and memory (data). (Fuster; Prefrontal Cortex, 335)
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