13 October 2006

Brainmaps, Ulysses, and the yahoo zodiac

"Kidneys were in his mind..." --James Joyce

ever since Herophilus (300BC)
anatomists have speculated
on the location in the brain
of specific patterns of thought

with nmri scans now able
to objectively pinpoint
increased activity

but i'm skeptical how far we can get
in unifying this nmri data
without first introspecting
a general model of thinking

that such introspection
is the domain of novelists
is illustrated best by Joyce's Ulysses
where every sentence
in Bloom's stream-of-consciousness
represents an explicit joycean hypothesis
about how thoughts evolve

for example
cartoonists regularly parody brainmaps [eg]
by offering diagrams
of how some celebrity
or some class of persons
allocate brain regions
to characteristic topics

so we could tally
what percentage of Bloom's thoughts
concern his past vs his future
his business vs his family
science vs art
Molly vs Martha

but the idea of the yahoo zodiac
is to challenge the AI community
to exercise their novelist's imagination

by mapping out
the sets of concepts required
for any sort of thought

so with Bloom's kidneys
we can imagine mapping
all Bloom's favorite foods
vs an average Dubliner's
or all Bloom's favorite activities

and we might envision
tracing those differences
down Bloom's biographical 'branch'
on the Tree of Life
to their (possibly freudian) origins

and in the same way
draw concept-maps
for each of Bloom's 10,000 explicit thoughts

and from this beginning
eventually gain a purchase
on the unification
of those nmri brainmaps