Sunday, August 20, 2006

Robots and Chimpanzees (that's us folks)

You would think that in the intellectually respectable world of the chattering classes, someone like Stephen Pinker a Harvard Proffessor of Pyschology no less, would in his writing on culture, and the mind, know a false meme when he saw it.

Yet he perpetuates the mythology of autism we have inherited down through the changeling of mediaeval legend through Bettelheims exported Freudian metaphor to Simon Baron Cohen’s Theory of mind hypothesis (by way of Philip K Dicks Androids, and the Voight Kampf test)

Fact and fiction seamlessly integrated, for on page 62 of Stephen Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” (Penguin London 2002) He states “Autism is an innate neurological condition with strong genetic roots. Together with robots and chimpanzees. people with autism remind us that cultural learning is possible only because neurologically normal people have innate equipment to accomplish it.”

The notions seem to be lifted straight out of Simon Baron Cohen’s 1995 (and well out of date) tome, Mindblindness, an Essay on Autism and Theory of Mind. for he also states :

“A mind unequipped to discern other peoples beliefs and intentions, even if it can learn in other ways, is incapable of the kind of learning that perpetuates culture. People with Autism suffer from an impairment of that kind. They can grasp physical representations like maps and diagrams, but cannot grasp mental representations …”

For a professor of psychology Pinker seems extraordinarily ignorant about what language, culture and representation actually are as concepts and how they relate in terms of cognition. In other words he has no idea of my world, it’s levels of complexity and richness.

This whole network of blogs we belong to on the Autism Hub, if it proves nothing else proves that we have representation (in more one sense of the word) and the means of transmitting culture for if this is not it, what is?

So what is it then the robot as exemplified by culturally complex character Roy Batty of Blade Runner, or the sophisticated Chimpanzees of the Planet of the Apes.?

Beware Professor Pinker, the Autists might take over the planet one day and strip you of your academic credentials.


abfh said...

The Planet of the Apes analogy seems quite apropos.

When you consider how many autistic professors (and professors who have autistic family members) there are at most universities, it's definitely time for the academics among us to plant a large boot in the butt of their prejudiced colleagues.

Autiemom said...

“Temple Grandin says animals think like autistic humans. She should know.”--Discovery Magazine

Joseph said...

That's a disappointing bit about Steven Pinker. I had read him before and found his theories on linguistics reasonable and intriguing. I think he also doubts the autism spectrum.

laurentius rex said...

Well it is true I have not completed the book yet, as you can guess I got up to page 62 and like Blake when he saw a Robin in Cage, all of me was set in rage.

I read varios texts in pyscology and unfortunately for all the erudition of the authors they are suckers for accepted thery, they question everything but what they chose to accept from whom they chose to be amongst the circle of confidants, that is to say the authors you will find on there shelves.

I see Berkeley (trees that one) and Len Talmey and George Lakoff in his bibliography which is good.

But I see no mathemeticians, Penrose, Godel which is bad

We find Kropotkin and Kubrick but we do not find Kurosawa.

The post modernists are there only for him to sneer at and to mock, in the pose (as surely a pose as any cock rock metal musician strikes) which his position in society has brought him to.

Me and him we speak different languages, he is convergent and I am not.

mike stanton said...

You wont be surprized to learn that Pinker is also a close friend of Simon B-C and greatly admires his male brain thesis. As i recall h eis also very critical of Steven Rose and Stephen Jay Gould.

laurentius rex said...

No Mike, did you realy suppose I would not have supposed so.

In fact I have already issued a challenge to SBC to post his responce here :)

I dunno, there is Rose and then there is Pen Rose (lets not go into Welsh)

but if you have not seen Rashomon, you know nothing of subjectivity,

Lakoff has written a book deconstructing mathematics in exactly the way I wold have done if I had his publishers confidence, and no doubt with a securer academic foundation than I could ever do so, but the mathemeticians, from an entirely different perspective have misunderstood Lakoff and attacked not the premise of the book, but his understanding of mathematics, which is to miss the point.

I know where Lakoff is coming from and I also know where the mathemeticians are, so I suppose that is far too much thery of academic mind for an autist to have.

Now you see by Lakoffs thesis however (and perhaps Pinkers when I finish the book) I cannot think outside of the bounds that my neurology allows, unfortunately from this lofty position, I have to regard all those luminary (and sublunarary) authors as somewhat cognitively challenged when I read what they stumble around at in there wordy anglophile conceptions.

I love those languages that don't have numbers beyond about five, and why don't they, because they don't need them.

How can these sophisticates with (there unacknowleged and Egyptian River notions) literary and social constructs ever think inside my mind? who really lacks the thery, me or them?

Now Cilla might have in popular culture have posited the notion of singing a rainbow, I can think a book but in far less time, because my thinking is different and even located differently in the notions (used that word already) of time and space (go back to the aborigines of Tasmania to get that one) to be able to explain that in these blasted tokens of falsity that we call words.

laurentius rex said...

The more I read of this book, the less I like the author and the book, and the more disingenous I find him. It seems more and more a sneering political diatribe against notions he does not like, a reactionary piece altogether not a scientific analysis at all.

BTW I think I was a bit drunk when I wrote my last post, what I meant at the end is I can think a video, not a book, indeed there is no script to "Terra Incognita" which I will finish one day.

Julia said...

Pity Pinker is so clueless on this.

He provided me with my first clue on "status", with an evolutionary psychology theory. In light of that, "status" makes some sort of sense, at least intellectually. (I have no intuitive understanding of "status", and figure I never will.)