Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Sixth Sense

Most people draw strict lines between two human acts, the act to feel something or work your emotions on it like listening to music and the act of understanding something like a theory written in logical or mathematical expressions.

Intuitively, recently I started to notice the similarity of my own interpretation to the two.

And when starting to analyze it, one can find that one of the keys to this analogy is the expression used in the English language when understanding something and call that it “makes sense”…actually this is one of the reasons that makes me think that “perfect translations don’t exist” as languages more or less represent different cultures with different interpretations to different phenomenon faced by humans in each of them.

So, if we looked deeply into it, we’ll find that one believes in things that “make sense” to her…this sense can include any of the five known senses…like for example you believe that there is a tree at your door step cause you see a tree everyday coming back from work at your door step…so you believe it just because you “see” it…and seeing is an act caused by one of the five sensors.

Similarly we can perceive logic ”I mean here logic in the wide sense that include complex operations performed in the human mind not the strict sense that expresses the use of logical expressions excluding for example probability theory and computations” as one of those senses, like when you believe that a guy is silly , that’s because of an act or more that you believe -according to the pre-defined social standards- lower than the average person’s sense of humor or lower than some defined level of your own…you can call this “Sense” in the context that you felt that the guy is just stupid…actually doing this is just due to the incapability of a conscious perception of the complex processes going in our minds.

As this simple example that may look very easy to interpret for the human mind and reach a conclusion quickly “a conclusion whether the guy is intelligent or stupid”…can include lengthy calculations in the human mind that will mainly include probability theory like the following (digging into details isn’t necessary for the uninterested reader):

given that the guy said some silly joke, ignoring the details of the process of speech recognition and interpretation of his speech as meaningful words in the mind....say the mind is structured to assign a continuous value ”degree” that defines how funny a joke is.

So the guy’s joke will take low such value , now your mind have the following predefined probability distribution P(J|guy is funny) and P(J|guy is silly) where J is the mentioned value assigned for the joke depending on how funny it is.

Now we have a specific J and we want to know P(guy is funny|J) and P(guy is silly|J)

According to Bayes rule then P (guy is funny|J) = alpha * P (J|guy is funny)/P (J) where alpha is a normalizing factor.

Now we need to know P (J)…consider that P (J) represents your prior expectation of how funny the joke is going to be before knowing the guy (at listening to a joke from some random person)…so assuming this is also defined the mind can calculate values for how likely they guy is funny or silly after telling the joke…and then depending on these values you can say whether you “feel” that the guy is silly or not.

Just for clarification I made the following assumptions in this example that I have to state:

1- The human mind uses probability theory to deal with uncertainties.

2- How funny a joke is can be represented by a single continuous variable not a function of more than one variable.

3- Judging a guy as funny or silly can be represented by a Boolean variable

In spite of the oversimplification used in the previous example, we can generalize this rule to more complicated examples….judging a flower as beautiful can “make” sense, seeing some object as alien to some group of object “the famous IQ question” can make sense, and most complicated of all taking personal decisions in relations with other humans like love and friendship can make sense.

Anyway, the five senses themselves are dummy in their nature…the ear for example just delivers the acoustic signals to the mind…it’s the mind that gives meaning to these signals…or more precisely, it’s the mind that “makes” these senses by interpreting their perceived information.

Note that the previous article isn’t intended to be for technical purposes because I’m not yet mature enough to write a technical article in such fields.