Here's an update on the progress of the next book. It's coming along, and below is a sneak preview of some of the new diagrams and the book cover, in this photo album below. The new book has a lot of diagrams, well over a hundred! and mostly completely new. I'll also be using these in future public talks and the upcoming videos.
Things are slightly delayed on the multimedia and book production front because over the past 3 or 4 weeks I've had a massively productive and inspired theoretical phase where some huge ideas have emerged and some large pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place. In a brief nutshell this is what has become crystal clear to me very recently.
For the past year I've been learning a lot about genomics, the workings of DNA etc, and have come to the conclusion that the genome works like a little fractal brain, genes are as neurons, arranged in hierarchies like brain hierarchies, and that the mode of recursive computation by which a genome calculates a body from a fertilized egg i.e. ontogenesis, is exactly the same as the way the brain generates thoughts and behaviour. And the connection is not merely superficial but very deep and described in the same discrete formalism, right down to how the brain codes space and time, and the way the genome navigates orthogonal x,y,z space to specify spatial patterns and precisely locate body parts and regions. Anyway, the new big idea is this. In the same way the genome is changed through the process of evolution and phylogenesis, so it is that learning and adaptation in the brain is also a process of evolution. This is nothing new of course, and relates to existing ideas of 'neural darwinism', 'memes' and genetic algorithms and genetic programming. But what is very new in the progress of the theory of evolution is all the new results coming from molecular biology, i.e. gene regulatory networks, Cis regulatory modules or CRMs, evolution by retrotransposition of CRMs and also all the cell fusion, symbiosis/synergy and whole genome duplication ideas. Anyway what I've been able to do is to synthesize all this new thought into the existing fractal brain theory to show that to every one of these phenomena there corresponds identical processes in the brain, but of course working on a different substrate and with greater temporal and spatial complexity. On a basic level, it means I've figured out a better way to do genetic algorithms, but on a far deeper level it means I can see very clearly now that there really is on an abstract level, a perfect equivalence to on the one hand what we think of as life, i.e. genomics, ontogenesis and phylogenesis, and on the other hand what we think of as intelligence, i.e. brains, behaviour, thought, learning and problem solving. So life and intelligence are really just manifestations of the same underlying process that is explained by a single theory. I know this is not a new idea but what I've managed to do in the past year and especially in the past few week is to work it all out in minute detail and incorporate all the latest findings from genomics and molecular biology. If previously I was mainly considering the ontogenesis, i.e. body from fertilized egg aspect, in the past few week I've managed to fully incorporate the phylogenesis or evolutionary aspect.
And there's more! The mathematization of the brain theory is progressing nicely and this goes hand in hand with the long term goal of completely coding the brain theory into software, which is its ultimate expression and which is really to create AI and realize a new kind of whole brain emulation based on the fractal brain theory. Anyway, what is really exciting is that I've managed to explain all the above in terms of recursively self modifying functions. It's as if all the brain, psychological, genomic and evolutionary stuff is a vast collection of data points, and somehow you have to fit a function to all these myriad data points. Of course it's impossible to do this using the toolkit of traditional physics and the mathematics of differential equations. So what you need is what Gregory Chaitin calls 'postmodern mathematics' which is discrete, combinatorial and algorithmic. But the real power of algorithmics I believe is recursive functions and especially recursively self modifying ones and all the complexity of the brain, mind, life, ontogenesis & phylogenesis all emerge from recursively self modifying functions; after all the process of evolution, cell division and progenitor field formation, thought and behavioiur are all recursive functions. But there is a special and most exquisite twist which is needed to join all the dots and explain all the above. The fractal brain theory describes recursive functions which modify themselves, so that operand is also the operator and vice versa. And the function and the parameter is expressed in the same coding and so is able to work on itself, and recursively modify itself. And also recursively modify itself so that it can later recursively modify itself in better ways.
All the patterns of thought, evolution and life exist as broken symmetries. Biologists actually use this expression 'broken symmetry' to describe ontogenesis and also the process of speciation and phylogenesis, as do some mathematicans. So what the fractal brain theory describes is the process by which that which breaks the symmetry is itself a broken symmetry, to creatively generate recursively broken symmetries of myriad and infinite variety. This is really the trick behind life and intelligence. I call it 'Self Modifying Recursive Symmetry Breaking' SMRSB. The much anticipated Technological Singularity is also a process of recursive self modification and symmetry breaking happening on a planetary scale; and the polar frontal cortex, the one part of the human brain which can be said to be uniquely human can be shown to allow the human brain to implement fully recursive self modification and SMRSB(This is explained in the new book). So this powerful idea has now been extended to not just explain the brain and mind, but also the process of ontogenesis and all the new evolutionary thought.
The AI philosopher Nick Bostrom writes in his widely read book Superintelligence, which I read only recently, that he thinks that recursive self modification is something that happens in some complex AI, but really it actually occurs at the most basic, simple and abstract levels, i.e. at the level of the fertilized egg and the genomic processes working within it. He thinks it's possible that true, strong and general AI will emerge from nowhere and much sooner than everything thinks, what he calls the lone hacker scenario. He thinks it's unlikely, I think different.
I read the new Master Algorithm book by Pedros Domingos recently with some interest and watched some of his lectures online. He's a professor of AI specializing in machine learning and seems to be highly rated by some big names in AI. He admits that his attempt at the master algorithm isn't really it and he also writes and says in his talks that he thinks the true master algorithm will come from outside the AI and machine learning community. He has attempted to create a sort of master algorithm by bolting together some popular ideas in AI, i.e. neural networks, markov chains, bayes, genetic algorithms, support vector machines etc. But the real master algorithm is able to subsume all these seperate technologies into a single self modifying recursive algorithm, and also incorporate a whole load of other powerful AI algorithms, and also double up as a comprehensive theory of brain, mind, genomics and evolution. He also wonders aloud in his book whether the AI and machine learning community have missed or neglected some big idea and even speculates that it might be 'ontogenesis'. I can't help thinking that he's been influenced by my ideas and perhaps not, but I know he'll totally get the fractal brain theory.
So I've been digesting and mulling over this flood of new ideas relating to the new evolutionary thinking, genomics and self modifying recursive symmetry breaking, in the past few weeks, so this has taken me away from work on the book, but we're back on it now. It's looking good, it's basically the book about the brain, mind and AI which I always wanted to get hold of but never found, so now I writing it! Some of the new genomics and evolutionary ideas will be incorporated into the fractal brain book, but I already know what the book after that will be about, the fractal genome and new evolutionary theory. Better get the brain book finished though.....
If anyone would like to do some proof reading of the new book and is good at his sort of thing, then please contact me on facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org, the new book has 10 chapters, so if you'd like to go through a chapter or two of pdf and mark in corrections then drop us a line.