lawnmower men

[Avery Andrews 930926.1612]

I'm as much in the dark about how this stuff actually happens as anyone,
but three points on imagination:

  i) people actually aren't very good at it. In step 3. of my repair saga,
      I had the bright idea of first tying a knot in the cord to keep it
      from retreating into the pulley mechanism again, and then another
      one to hold the little metal bar that sits transversely in the
      handle, it wasn't until I actually saw this arrangement and that
      it sucked that I realized it was hopeless. Imagination failed here.
      Dennett notes that failures of imagination probably contain hints
      about the kinds of structures and representations being used, but
      I don't recall any substantive proposals.

  ii) we have reasonably clear ideas about how imagination in symbolic mode
      might be made to work - it's called `exploring problem spaces'.
      The methods are basically those of logic, and thus go back way
      beyond the birth of digital computers--to Peirce, Boole and
      Aristotle. Perhaps it is the applicability of com>puters to
      implement these basically rather old ideas that led to their
      quick acceptance as a substrate for intelligence, as opposed to
      the analog approach, wihtout such prestigious antecedents,
      and a large body of pre-existing results to draw on.

  iii) humans are the only creatures that talk, and appear to be by far
       the best at solving problems in imagination, tho monkeys and
       apes seem to have significant abilities in this direction (as
       when they get the hanging banana by shifting a crate to under
       it, and standing on the crate). So maybe symbolic ability
       *evolved* to support problem-solving, with the possibility of
       linguistic communication a fortuitous exaptation (SJ Gould's
       word for when a structure evolved for one purpose gets adopted
       for another, with concomitant further development.

As for me, I think it's time to follow Michael's advice and read UTC.