Report on Psychology Group Meeting - Meeting, Friday, 19 February 2016

In this meeting we were delighted to be able to welcome two new members: Pauline and Christine who we hope will find us sufficiently interesting to become regular attenders. As mentioned in the website reminder we shifted the original focus of our meeting from Artificial Intelligence to that extraordinary organ that some workers in that field try to emulate, the human brain. We then watched the first of six episodes of the brilliant new BBC documentary series, “The Brain”, written and presented by the American psychologist Dr. David Eagleman. In this episode he uses the latest evidence from a whole variety of sources to not only amaze us by describing the complexity of the brain but also to make the case that what we take in life to be our external reality is in fact a construction generated by the brain. From this he further asserts that even our sense of consciousness, our self-awareness, is a property that emerges from all the trillions of interactions going on between the very many connected and widely dispersed centres of activity within our brain. Though we are of course aware of our conscious thoughts Dr. Eagleman makes it clear that the great majority of the incredibly complex processing that produces what we take to be us is of necessity preconscious. Barrie, following some research, did produce a block diagram which suggested the flow of information between our conscious and preconscious minds but we unfortunately ran out of time before we could look at this and I hope to bring that up as an item at our next meeting.

Having watched this description of the brain’s amazing complexity, even in those few parts we have any clear understanding of, it seemed to us that any meaningful attempt, for whatever reason, to create an artificial simulation of it, the so called ”strong AI approach”, remains in the realm of science fiction. The continued development of this technology as an invaluable adjunct to human thought, however, the so called “weak AI approach”, seemed to us to be the much more fruitful path to follow.

At our next meeting on the 18th March our main topic will be an exploration of our sense of identity. As ever if any members have any items of interest they have gleaned from the media or other sources they are very welcome to present them to our meeting.
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