index Biohistory journal, Autumn, 2002
Biohistory journal, Autumun, 2002: Index > Humans from the viewpoint of information
Is the human brain special?
Kenichiro Mogi and Keiko Nakamura
Kenichiro Mogi, Researcher Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.
Keiko Nakamura, Gneral Director, JT Biohistory Research Hall

    Mogi is attempting to discover the essence of the brain through such subtle concepts (qualia) as the difference between the red of a rose and the red of a traffic signal. I imagined that his only interests were human beings and computers. Quite unexpectedly, he brilliantly incorporates biohistory, which examines the history of biology. He described the human brain from the perspective of evolution. A happy discovery!
After the dialog
Kenichiro Mogi
    I was captivated when I saw the compact and lovely appearance of the JT Biohistory Research Hall. Whenever I think about how consciousness is created from the brain, I am mesmerized by the immense conceptual world of neural networks and information theory. Perhaps I tend to be forgetful of the readily apparent wisdom that the brain is a living organ; this wisdom is secret, yet identifies our essence.
    One hundred billion neurons are activated, creating consciousness filled with qualia. During the evening of my discussion with Keiko Nakamura, I became convinced that this is one manifestation of the phenomenon of life. When a butterfly floats in the sky, its small nervous system receives nearly imperceptible information from the environment, including light, shadow, temperature, odors, and wind movements. It quivers and ripples, and this is reflected in its subtle control of flight. While they may not yet have the experience of verbalization as in human consciousness, there are definitely traces of the long, continuous steps of evolution that lead to our present spirit.
    At the JT Biohistory Research Hall, I was first shown samples of the nervous systems of different insects, heard the story of the genealogy of carabids, and conducted a dialogue with Ms. Nakamura in a room in which I somehow sensed the presence of biohistory in the decorations. Without this series of events, my brain may not have followed the path it did during the dialogue. Both of the history of biology and the history of the brain of a single human being are filled with singular events. That’s why I love it so much.
Qualia—the encounter of reality and the hypothetical
    There are two types of qualia. One is a sensorial qualia, a texture in which colors, odors, sounds, and other external realities are directly reflected. The other is the qualia of orientation, based on the concept of identifying objects and ideas. If the former is perceived as reality and the latter is perceived as supposition, then awareness is created by the encounter between the two. From the perspective of the brain, it may well be the case that awareness is created by the encounter between the bottom-up information processing of the primary sensorial area and the top-down information processing coming from the frontal association area.
Kenichiro Mogi
    Born in Tokyo in 1962, Dr. Mogi is a researcher at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. He assumed his present position after completing his doctorate at the University of Tokyo School of Science, studying at RIKEN, and performing post-graduate studies at University of Cambridge in Great Britain. He is attempting to elucidate the problem of the brain and the spirit from a philosophical and technological perspective by focusing on qualia.


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