Foundations

I tried to understand Stephen Downes’s “Philosophical Foundations of Connectivism“. Here is what I excerpted and remixed: below, or better on an interactive map, or in the  transient wiki.

Screenshot of an interactive map that mirrors the wiki mentioned in the text

Sensations from anywhere

“We don’t just sense what we see, feel, touch, etc.; our sensations might arise out of interactions among neurons anywhere in the brain.” … (source section ‘Mind’)

“we experience our thoughts about objects and the like in the same way we experience sensations” (source section ‘Intentionality’)

“Why would the brain feed us sensory images that are ‘not real’ (that is, not caused directly by external sensations)?” (source section ‘Mind’)

Reflections also feed such images.

We experience

“here’s the story: the human brain is composed of layers of connected neurons. The top layer (or outermost layer) is the sensory layer. These neurons are densely interconnected with the next layer of neurons, and the next, and so on. Conscious experience is the firing of these inner layers of neurons.” (source section ‘Mind’)

Connected

“two major types of knowledge: qualitative and quantitative. Distributed knowledge adds a third major category to this domain, knowledge that could be described as connective.” …

“Connective knowledge is emergent.” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

Emergent

Emergence is a hard concept, but at this point I can gloss it with a simple characterization: emergence is interpretation applied to connections.” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

Interpretation

“What we ‘know’ about the world is irreducibly interpretive. That is to say, we do not through our senses and cognition obtain any sort of direct knowledge about the world” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

Direct

“we do not through our senses and cognition obtain any sort of direct knowledge about the world” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

but

“Our thoughts about objects are not representations of the external world, they are not inferred from experience, they are sensations of the external world (which J.J. Gibson would call direct perception), and are experienced directly.” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

(My takeaway: Once we acknowledge the interpretation, there is no more need for puzzling about how the external universals etc. get into the mind.)

Emergence and recognition

slide 36 and video, 52:48

showing the relationship between emergent and recognition

Recognition

“Knowledge is recognition” (source section ‘Knowledge’)

See also: Practice

See also: Emergence and recognition

Practice

Over time, if we see something that is similar, like we see a cat every day, a characteristic set of connections between neurons will form. Makes sense? See a cat, get a certain pattern of connections. Over time. Doesn’t happen after the first cat. It takes maybe, I don’t know, a hundred cats, to meet the same cat, meet different cats. You have this pattern of connectivity in the mind.”

“Such that, the next time you see a cat, that same pattern of neurons is activated.”

“Even better, the next time you see part of a cat, the patterns of neurons for the whole cat are fired.” (See Recognition)

(audio, 33:50)

“There is no ‘magic’ to obtaining knowledge, no secret short-cut, save for practice and reflection – Hebbian and Boltzmann connectivism.” (source section ‘Learning’)

Hebb

Association mechanisms: Hebbian, back propagation, Boltzman, contiguity” (source section ‘Learning’)

See also Practice

Distributed

“The concept of ‘redness’ is an example of distributed meaning. There is no particular place we could point to where the ‘meaning’ of ‘redness’ is located. (We could say ‘meaning’ = ‘connective similarity’?)”

“When the meanings of words are distributed, the basis of their meanings – the smaller subsymbolic entities that make up the meanings – are intermingled.”

(source section ‘Meaning’)

Subsymbolic

“meaning, both socially and neurally, have the same origin: meaning is an emergent phenomenon, arising from the connections between underlying entities. Socially, the underlying entities are speakers of the language, while mentally, the underlying entities are neurons and subsymbolic neural structures.” (source section ‘Meaning’)

Underlying entities

“if a human mind can come to ‘know’, and if a human mind is, essentially, a network, then any network can come to ‘know’, and for that matter, so can a society.” (source section ‘Personal and Social Knowledge’)

“meaning is an emergent phenomenon, arising from the connections between underlying entities. Socially, the underlying entities are speakers of the language, while mentally, the underlying entities are neurons and subsymbolic neural structures.” (source section ‘Meaning’)

Social

“What makes some knowledge part of ‘social knowldge’ and other knowledge (merely?) personal knowledge? Why would a community accept (reliability) some things as ‘known’ and not others?” (source section ‘Personal and Social Knowledge’)

Reliability

“the mechanism for attaining the reliability of connective knowledge is fundamentally the same as that of attaining reliability in other areas; the promotion of diversity, through the empowering of individual entities, and the reduction in the influence of well-connected entities”

“Just as a network with no connections has no capacity to generate knowledge, a fully connected network has no defense against jumping to conclusions. What is needed is to attain a middle point, where full connectivity is achieved, but where impulses in the network ebb and flow, where impulses generated by phenomena are checked against not one but a multitude of competing and even contradictory impulses”

(source section ‘Truth’)

Ebb and flow

“What is needed is to attain a middle point, where full connectivity is achieved, but where impulses in the network ebb and flow, where impulses generated by phenomena are checked against not one but a multitude of competing and even contradictory impulses.” (source section ‘Truth’)

See also Reflection

See also Reliability

Reflection

“Knowledge in the mind is not a matter of mere numbers of neurons being activated by a certain phenomenon; it is an ocean of competing and conflicting possible organizations, each ebbing and subsiding (ebb and flow) with any new input (or even upon reflection).” (source section ‘Truth’)

“There is no ‘magic’ to obtaining knowledge, no secret short-cut, save for practice and reflection – Hebbian and Boltzmann connectivism.” (source section ‘Learning’)

Boltzmann

Association mechanisms: Hebbian, back propagation, Boltzman, contiguity” (source section ‘Learning’)

See also reflection

Infer

“The creation of scepticism creates the requirement that we infer from the mental to the physical” (source section ‘Scepticism’)

“The problem of qualia (ie., subjective experience) arises only when I am making inferences about the external world.” (source section ‘Intentionality’)

“a presumption that our thoughts and beliefs about objects and principles and the world at large are the result of a logical inference from sensations to beliefs. We now know that there is no such inference.” …

“There is no principle of logic or reason that will allow an inference from concrete experience to abstract universal. ” (source section ‘Mind’)

Abstract

And there is not, in human nature, a separate mental realm that reasons abstractly about the physical realm. (source section ‘Scepticism’)

Universal

“The Cartesian view – the nature of, and the behaviour of things (language, logic, mathematics, physics) was explained by universals. This fails (cf Hume).” (source section ‘Mind’)

Representations

“Consider a hockey game. We have memories of hockey, thoughts of hockey, but we don’t actually have a hockey game in our head. A cognitivist would say we create a semantic representation of hockey in our mind,” (source section ‘Meaning’)

Semantic

“Connectivism attempts to describe what is *actually* happening in thought and consciousness (because it’s not a semantically based language of thought).” (source section ‘Meaning’)

Similar

“The central idea of association is this: two things that are relevantly similar become connected in the mind.” (source section ‘Learning’)

See also: practice

Association

“The central idea of associationism is this: two things that are relevantly similar become connected in the mind.”

“Association mechanisms: Hebbian, back propagation, Boltzmann, contiguity”

(source section ‘Learning’)

 

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