Mind Science


Information Compression Via the Matching and Unification of Patterns as a Unifying Principle in the Workings of Brains and Nervous Systems

Authors: J Gerard Wolff

This paper presents evidence for the idea that much of the workings of brains and nervous systems may be understood as compression of information via the matching and unification of patterns. Information compression can mean selective advantage for any creature: in the efficient storage and transmission of information; and, owing to the close connection between information compression and concepts of prediction and probability, in the making of predictions about where food may be found, potential dangers, and so on. Several aspects of our everyday perceptions and thinking may be seen as information compression. For example, many words in natural languages may be seen as relatively short identifiers or ``codes'' for relatively complex concepts. When viewing the world with two eyes, we see one view, not two. Random-dot stereograms provide confirmation that, in binocular vision, we do indeed merge information from our two eyes and thus compress it. Information compression may be seen in the workings of sensory units in the eye of "Limulus", the horseshoe crab. Computer models demonstrate how information compression may be a key to the unsupervised discovery of grammars for natural language, including segmental structures (words and phrases), classes of structure, and abstract patterns. Information compression may be seen in the perceptual "constancies", including size constancy, lightness constancy, and colour constancy. Mathematics, which is a product of the human intellect, may be seen to be a set of techniques for the compression of information, and their application. The "SP theory of intelligence" provides evidence for the importance of information compression in several aspects of human intelligence. Four objections to the main thesis of this paper are described, with answers to those objections.

Comments: 38 Pages.

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Submission history

[v1] 2017-07-11 12:35:27

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