In this interview we talk to Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman who is director of The Neurosciences Institute in California. Separately, he is Professor at The Scripps Research Institute and chairman of the department of neurobiology at that institution.
He presents his theory to explain the development and organization of higher brain functions in terms of a process known as neuronal group selection. This theory was presented in his widely known 1987 volume Neural Darwinism. To prove it's consistency he has been implementing his theory of the mind in robot-like brain-based devices (BBDs) that interact with real-world environments. In this months edition of Science on robotics, the Darwin BBD's, embedded with an artificial nervous system, instantiate learning and episodic memory.
So what's the next step? How about an implementation of the process of consciousness based on conclusions from ECGs and hard scientific facts rather than abstract philosophy? Gerald Edelman gives us some insight as to how Neural Darwinism might account for this process and what to expect in terms of conscious robots.
Books of interest include his 1989 volume The Remembered Present. A subsequent book, Bright Air, Brilliant Fire, published in 1992, continues to explore the implications of neuronal group selection and neural evolution for a modern understanding of the mind and the brain. His book published with Giulio Tononi, entitled A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination, presents exciting new data on the neural correlates of conscious experience. In his book published in 2004, entitled Wider than the Sky: The Phenomenal Gift of Consciousness, Gerald Edelman offers a model of the biology of consciousness. His latest book, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge (Yale University Press), appeared in October 2006. He is also the author of over 500 research publications.