Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In studying human behaviour and its relation to higher cortex functions two schools of thought have developed. Those adhering the connectivism school believe that the actions of all living things are determined by the networks between separate “units” or compartments within the brain, and given the right amount of neurons between them distinguishes the activation of certain functions. This reduces complex human behaviour to little more than a series of predetermined and limited actions. Given the proper amount of neutrons linked in a certain manner- x, y and z will occur. On the other side of the argument are the computationalists, who believe that actions are determined not by an underlying brain structure, but by our manipulation of neurons to produce separate and distinct functions. In this event we can choose to allow z to follow z to follow x if we so desire.

Of course you all must be wondering…how does this relate to zombies?

It’s been argued for a while now that zombies are subject to coarse intrinsic brain functions which propel them to eat human flesh; it would appear that most people who consider the science of zombies are in fact connectavists. I too held this line, but extended it a little deeper to incorporate allowances for other emotions, or “emotion like” phenomena, subject to a limited and decomposing instinct. However modern zombies now have a tendency to exhibit other manifestations of more refined cybernetics, comprising of systems control (most notably visual, auditory and olfactory systems) and logic modelling (determined task orientation). For this to be true there must be a sort of internal manipulation of separate brain function to produce varied outcomes dependant on the circumstances.

It is common for zombies to continue to associate in some manner with their past life; this routine behaviour is the bread and butter of the connectivists. However the ability for a zombie to use old tools in new and gory ways is an argument for computationalism. A zombified baseball player who uses a baseball bat which they utilized in life, to pry open fences in order to get at fresh human tissue and then bludgeon their victim, is an example for problem solving, or taking several factors into consideration and using the means available to accomplish a specific task. The fact that the task is predetermined and that the zombie themselves has no say over the reasons for completion of the task, only the method in which it is completed, is of no concern. There still appears to be a level of computation on behalf of Scary Bonds as he attempts to gorge himself on human flesh.

So depending on what you believe will determine where you place that final bullet (before the one reserved for yourself that is) as the monstrous corpse of you college roommate bears down on you as you cower in a corner. If you’re a connectivist you will aim for the brain stem which controls gross motor skills guided by hardwired networks in their rotting brain. If you’re a computationalist you will fire into their frontal lobes to splatter their reasoning and decomposing faculties all over the wall.

I guess you only get one chance to prove which one is right….better choose wisely, that is of course if its not already pre determined for you :)


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