From David Warren-Smith:
Re: Brain lives at “edge of chaos” (March 18): The authors you describe have used brain imaging techniques to measure dynamic changes in the brain. This is a bit like saying lets use imaging techniques to observe the dynamic behaviour of electrical activity in a Pentium CPU chip between different programs running on a computer, in order to explain the behaviour of the Pentium chip. This seems very far fetched to me.
Trying to disguise a lack of understanding of the behaviour of the brain with a fancy expression like self-organized criticality is unconvincing and in this case not particularly conducive to a proper understanding of the problem. If you want a better starting point for research on brain activity you need to read my essay entitled “Intelligence-What it is and how it works”.
My essay is not about measuring intelligence but about the mechanism that produces it. Intelligence is the mechanism that enables animals, such as us humans, to function as independent creatures. I have been considering the question of intelligence produced by a biological brain and the significance of the peculiarities of the mechanism that produces it for some time. I see a well defined process involved, that describes the basics of the mechanism and draws relevant conclusions. Of course the authors of the concept that you describe might have a deeper concept that is not apparent from the brief description you give, which could put me out of order. Perhaps the authors you describe are developing their technique as a diagnostic tool and are not interested in mechanism.
In my view a degree of randomness is quite possible in the mechanism of the biological brain, but I see no need for calling on chaos as part of the description. A significant aspect of the function of the brain is to produce intelligence. The mechanism of intelligence is not a chaotic process. Another necessary aspect of the function of the brain is to produce perception. This is also not a chaotic process but part of physical consciousness. A physical description of biological intelligence is no weirder than the concept of self-organized criticality.
My essay is a cut down version of earlier work that I have arranged to reduce the technical content and make it easier to read. You would need to read the whole essay in order to criticise it. I intend to publish my essay if I can find someone prepared to publish it. I am prepared to send you a copy of my essay in PDF format if you specifically request it.
David Warren-Smith, MSc., CPEng.
Elizabeth Downs, near Adelaide South Australia