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Eric Holloway: How AI neural networks show that the mind is not the brain

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A series of simple diagrams shows that, while AI learns faster than the human brain, the human mind tackles problems that stump AI:

This example shows that the human mind is doing something the neural network cannot do. When you look at the checkerboard you can almost immediately see the pattern. If one or two squares are removed, it is trivial for a human to figure out what fills in the blank. However, the neural network is unable to discover the underlying pattern.

Now here’s the clincher: The reason why the neural network cannot discover the pattern is precisely the same reason it is able to learn in the first place. As we discussed at the beginning, the neural network is able to learn because of the incremental updates. However, it is these same incremental updates that prevent the network from making the large leaps necessary to get it unstuck from its chaotic partial solutions.

And that is why neural networks cannot learn as well as the human mind. Neural networks do not really learn patterns, they incrementally move lines around to fit data. And these lines can end up fitting the data in a way that has nothing to do with the real pattern in the data. Humans, on the other hand, learn the pattern itself.

Eric Holloway, “How AI neural networks show that the mind is not the brain” at Mind Matters News (August 8, 2022)

Takehome: Neural networks get stymied by complex decisions due to the very processes that enable them to make any decisions at all. That’s a fundamental limitation.

He makes a great case; easy to understand. Check it out!

Here are the first two parts of Holloway’s discussion of the question:

Artificial neural networks can show that the mind isn’t the brain Because artificial neural networks are a better version of the brain, whatever neural networks cannot do, the brain cannot do. The human mind can do tasks that an artificial neural network (ANN) cannot. Because the brain works like an ANN, the mind cannot just be what the brain does.


Can computer neural networks learn better than human neurons? They can and do; when artificial intelligence programmers stopped trying to copy the human neuron, they made much better progress. Humans can do things that AI cannot do, as we saw earlier, but those abilities are not due to the superior learning ability of a human neuron.

One Reply to “Eric Holloway: How AI neural networks show that the mind is not the brain

  1. 1
    Paxx says:

    Consciousness isn’t the brain. “Mind” is consciousness integrated with a brain. Brain is the tool of thought and interface to spacetime that consciousness uses.


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