Saturday, May 19, 2018

Straw-man seeks Brain, and vice versa:
A new model of memory in spherical cows falling in vacuum

In the arena of Brain Learning (as opposed to kidney memories), the Paradigms are Shifting again! Fortunately we have fitted them with a tracker beacon so it is easy to find their new location.

It is immediately clear that Sardi et al.'s new Dendritic, non-synaptic paradigm of memory acquisition was inspired by the Codex Seraphinianus:

The paper is written in first person despite having six authors. The first-person "I" appears to be Prof. Ido Kanter, a reincarnation of Copernicus, who even remembers Copernicus' unrecorded thoughts.

It does not present any data, or any novel hypothesis... the paper is best understood as a paid advertisement for an earlier publication by the same group which did have a hypothesis and a lot of hand-wavy computer simulations, also some results from new types of experiment on vat-grown brains neuron-like cells onna plate, as the old-fashioned methods of neuroscience were not fit for the authors' purpose.

All becomes clear when we examine a press release for that earlier publication and discover that Prof. Kanter is a physicist. Stand back, neuroscientists! Here is a physicist, to explain how you have been neurosciencing wrong all these past seven decades!

The press release is a small masterpiece of dumbing-down, combined with imprecision, hubris, profound ignorance of the "century-old assumption" that the author intends to topple, and a grim determination to be not even wrong. By the second sentence, it has managed to overestimate the number of neurons by more than a factor of 10, which by the standards of physics is just experimental error:
Their number is approximately one Tera (trillion), similar to Tera-bits in midsize hard discs.
Towards the end it climbs to new heights of bafflegab:
The new results call for a re-examination of neuronal functionalities beyond the traditional framework and, in particular, for an examination into the origin of degenerative diseases. Neurons which are incapable of differentiating between "left" and "right"—similar to distortions in the entire human body—might be a starting point for discovering the origin of these diseases.
Neuroskeptic noted "the problem with dendritic learning as an exclusive mechanism of learning" (compared to the old pre-shift paradigm of post-synaptic modification learning) that it leaves each neuron with only two or three ‘degrees’ of information capacity.
A neuron can have thousands of synapses and if they are all independent, that’s a lot of potential information storage. Whereas if plasticity is confined to the primary dendrites, this massively reduces the information capacity of each neuron.
[See also S. Clyde, two months ago]
From the Physicist perspective, this stark simplicity is Feature not Bug... an index of how Nature should work, if only a physicist had been in charge of the design. If Kanter were right, Evolution would have been negligent by missing the opportunity to store information ('memories") in the medium of synaptic changes...
Clear out your desk, Evolution, you are fired.


H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

Santiago Ramon y Cajal is on the white courtesy phone.

Emma said...

The fact that Copernicus thought in English is chilling to the blood. The bones? It's 3:45AM.

fish said...


Smut Clyde said...

Fish reveals my secret inspiration.

Yastreblyansky said...

Hi Emma. That's why he had to articulate it loudly, because when he was thinking in English he was confused by his Polish accent. Like so many people, he thought it might help if he shouted.

Emma said...

Hi Mr. Blyansky! Riddled is where I first saw your blog, under a post about Randall Jarrell.
I'm not a creep, I just have an unusually good memory! I promise!

Smut Clyde said...

Now if Pro. Kanter had received a decent classical education, he would also be able to report Copernicus' thoughts from when he was thinking in Latin. But you know, kids these days.

under a post about Randall Jarrell.
Was David Brooks also involved? Misattributing opinions that George Wills had previously put in Jarrell's mouth, because reading actual source material is too much like work?

David Brooks does not have a good memory but there never was no danger of confusing him with Emma.

Emma said...

Aaaaaactually, I think it was (maybe) Ross Douthat or Jonah Goldberg, talking about how Jarrell's novel Pictures from an Institution signified the author's innate conservativity. Since I am the only person in the whole world who has ever read Pictures from an Institution (as far as I know), I objected that Jarrell's depiction was more nuanced than they were letting on, and also not exactly "political." And also that the writer of The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner was conservative like I am the motherfucking Queen of Spain.

American conservatives have never been able to understand that critiquing leftist subcultures from further left/outer space doesn't make somebody a Republican. It's one of their more interesting modes of failure.

Smut Clyde said...

My own recollection is that it was Brooks quoting a passage from PfaI, but (A) oblivious to the possibility that not all characters in literature are Mary Sues, and sometimes authors have their characters say things that are not the author's own opinion; and (B) attributing it to Dorothy Parker. With George Wills involved somewhere upstream along the human centipede of pre-digested opinionating.

Emma said...

Goddamn, you're right! I guess my memory isn't as great as I think it is. On the other hand, I guess you did write the thing.

To be fair! I had not yet delved deep into the waters of polite-company right-wing gobshitery, and perhaps (at the time) I wasn't ultra-familiar with the identities of the owners of those initials. Now I find them as horribly commonplace (and invasive) as bedbugs. The goalpost-thriving bastards. The very land itself has fallen, and all who reside therein are drowned.

Emma said...

"Thriving" was supposed to be "thieving." Blogger is also a bastard.