Functional Brain Anatomy for AIs
Perhaps the most storied and well known (at least in name) brain area we have is the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC for short) yet it is equally shrouded in mystery, I imagine it gets mentioned a lot in casual conversations ( well we are smart because we have a prefrontal cortex, duh ) but if pressed can you explain in simple terms what it does ?* That’s what we are after here and beyond that what we want is to get a systems point of view and see what if anything can be ported to AIs.
* Not trying to be condescending here, simplifying a complex system is though because you also need some knowledge about the many other systems that make this one system work and analogies only get you so far, an orchestra conductor is the closest I've come up with, but it begs the question what does the brain conduct ? what music does it produce ? and so we are back to explaining what every instrument does along with the music notation needed...
What does it do ?
If you are looking for a quick answer the PFC main role in the brain is Executive Function via Temporal Integration which might leave you wanting, so let’s unpack.
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If I may take you back to the beginning of this series I mentioned that the basic system of the brain (perception - action) is one in which it senses something and then acts or not based on primordial goals and action plans ( survive, reproduce, fight or flight), memory and attention are sophisticated upgrades to this simple scheme, attention accounts for our limited resources and automatically picks up relevant information about the world while memory allows storage and recollection of new knowledge including plans and goals.
Now these two upgrades have some limits, on one hand complex linked memories take time to consolidate ( think months ) and automatic attention mechanisms are too slow to change ( think generations). It would be useful if…