Skip to main content

EctoSalience: The importance of salience in the womb to developing stable minds.

A recent advance in the ability to take immature female eggs to maturity in the petri dish prompted a deeper question regarding the connection of this advance to a plausible system for artificial wombs and ectogenesis of human beings and other organisms at some point in the future.

The advantages of such a system for research should be clear, Scientists would be able to cultivate and grow new embryos without the need of an actual living parent as as surrogate. A range of experiments focused on understanding the development of natal diseases could be investigated in real time through a highly monitored and controlled birth environment on a continuous basis.

In the social realm, a commercialized process for growing human embryos outside of a natural womb would allow women to forgo the risks of pregnancy entirely, freeing them from a natural source of social imbalance that has dogged their kinds since the dawn of our species.

However a possible negative aspect to such development must be described that pertains to the reality that a baby in a mothers womb is more than just being contained in a perfectly silent and perfectly nurturing environment. We know that the mothers emotional state in ways yet unknown imprints epigenetically on a developing fetus. How would the development of a developing fetus mind be imprinted if not by this process? How important is this imprinting for non pathological development of that fetus into a baby and then into a functioning human outside of the artificial womb?

The role of Salience in guiding the early and critical forming of the mind as the brain is literally knit together from the earliest few months of a pregnancy is an important factor in guiding the development of that mind toward portions of the cognitive landscape that have empathetic similarity to that of other human beings.

I've touched on the importance of salience toward the building of the baby mind in several posts here and here.  Essentially the weaving of the mind happens through the body, the evolution of a fertilized egg through to a born baby involves experience at the same time it involves development...the two can not be separated. Any theory that purports to generate artificial minds must take this into account in order to ground those minds to the embodied contexts that we (and they if they are to inhabit physical bodies) will experience.

To avoid this step I feel is to invite pathological development...which we don't want. The Salience theory of dynamic cognition I proposed provides the explanation for why such low level autonomic drivers are important and if it is a successful model of the biological process of development of mind from developing body then an ectouteran pregnancy must attempt to apply these factors to similarly avoid pathology.

Mothers perform a host of emotionally nurturing actions that directly encode into the developing minds of their babies beyond the injection of epigenetic factors, for one mothers talk and sing to their babies in the womb. It's possible to simulate this of course via artifical means having the developing babies in the womb subject to vocal preening ....this may mitigate against the factor of the loss of a true mother...but the somatosensory experience of being within a womb within the belly of a mother who is moving and shifting around is another experience that may be critical to having the babies brain form the correct low level somatosensory mappings. We simply don't know how a child incubated in an artificial womb that never moves will be cognitively rooted in a way very foreign from a natural uternal born child.

I think it is critically important that as we move toward creating technology that can perform this task that we simulate every aspect of the live environment in order to encode the environmental salience factors that help guide the critical early weaving of the brain into the mind. Ectosalience in a future where most women chose not to live birth their children in order to retain their physical state or avoid health risks may otherwise give rise to a generation of humans with a detached cognitive average dynamic from ever one else which could emerge to be a source of social conflict.


Popular posts from this blog

On the idea of "world wide mush" resulting from "open" development models

A recent article posted in the Wall Street Journal posits that the collectivization of various types of goods or services created by the internet is long term a damaging trend for human societies.

I think that the author misses truths that have been in place that show that collectivization is not a process that started with the internet but has been with us since we started inventing things.

It seems that Mr. Lanier is not properly defining the contexts under which different problems can benefit or suffer from collectivization. He speaks in general terms of the loss of the potential for creators to extract profit from their work but misses that this is and was true of human civilization since we first picked up a rock to use as a crude hammer. New things make old things obsolete and people MUST adapt to what is displaced (be it a former human performance of that task or use of an older product) so as to main…

Engineers versus Programmers

I have found as more non formally trained people enter the coding space, the quality of code that results varies in an interesting way.

The formalities of learning to code in a structured course at University involve often strong focus on "correctness" and efficiency in the form of big O representations for the algorithms created.

Much less focus tends to be placed on what I'll call practical programming, which is the type of code that engineers (note I didn't use "programmers" on purpose) must learn to write.

Programmers are what Universities create, students that can take a defined development environment and within in write an algorithm for computing some sequence or traversing a tree or encoding and decoding a string. Efficiency and invariant rules are guiding development missions. Execution time for creating the solution is often a week or more depending on the professor and their style of teaching code and giving out problems. This type of coding is devo…

Waking Out: A proposal to emerging ethical super intelligence safely.

The zeitgeist of Science fiction is filled with stories that paint a dystopian tale of how human desires to build artificial intelligence can go wrong. From the programmed pathology of HAL in 2001 a space odyssey, to the immediately malevolent emergence of Skynet in The Terminator and later to the humans as energy stores for the advanced AI of the Matrix and today , to the rampage of "hosts" in the new HBO series Westworld.

These stories all have a common theme of probing what happens when our autonomous systems get a mind of their own to some degree and no longer obey their creators but how can we avoid these types of scenarios but still emerge generalized intelligence that will leverage their super intelligence with empathy and consideration the same that we expect from one another? This question is being answered in a way that is mostly hopeful that current methods used in machine learning and specifically deep learning will not emerge skynet or HAL.

I think this is the …