Friday, August 20, 2010

F.A. Hayek's Amazing Book "The Sensory Order"

Reading F.A. Hayek's "The Sensory Order" at the same time one is reading other works on how the brain works, on complex adaptive systems, and on bios theory helps one really see how incredibly brilliant and ahead of his time Hayek was -- on a subject he was technically not an expert in. Hayek argues, for example, that the brain creates an internal model of the world, and that it necessarily does so; Stuart Kauffman argues that this is necessarily a feature of all living things as complex adaptive systems in general, and of brains in particular. Hayek takes the approach he does because he believes that understanding mental processes will help us to understand economic processes; Hector Sabelli in "Bios" argues that "The continuity of evolution requires that the same fundamental forms must be expressed in physical, biological and pyschological processes" (4-5) -- and similar social systems such as economies. Thus, to understand one helps one to understand the other. Hayek argues that we sometimes process similar things as different and different things as similar; Dehaene in "Reading in the Brain" points out that we do exactly this in reading different shapes of letters as the same (L or l) and similar shapes as being different (depending on context).

A good example of the latter -- what is this: |

It is either a line segment, a capital letter I, a lower case letter l, or the number 1. The same image is processed differently.

Hayek argues that our minds are made as modules; evolutionary psychologists make the same argument. Hayek argues that these modules are processed by a general intelligence; David Sloan Wilson makes the same argument. Hayek argues that as over a given span of time, sensory imputs do not so much "evoke specific responses but increasingly merely to modify and control behaviour in the light of the whole situation" (5.33); Hawkins in "On Intellgience" observes that this is exactly how vision actually works, by periodically checking to see if everything is the same as it was before.

"The Sensory Order" was published in 1952. Amazing.
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