In Part I, I gave an interpretation of verses 1 to 7 of the third chapter of the book of Zechariah. I claimed that Joshua the high priest is a metaphor for a sensorimotor mechanism in the brain's sequence memory. I wrote that the Joshua chapter was a continuation (or complement) of the metaphors found in the message to Sardis in the book of Revelation. I claimed that the Biblical model of perceptual learning sharply contradicts modern statistical approaches to machine learning. In todays post, I interpret verses 8 to 10 of the same chapter. The main thrust of these verses is that memory consists of sequences of patterns and that the sensory space is assumed to be perfect even though it isn't. But first, a few words about the Rebel Speech demo and the question of my sanity.
Just Call Me a Lunatic
It feels like I am preaching in the wilderness but this is something I just got to do. To repeat, my claim is that I get my understanding of intelligence and the brain (see Secrets of the Holy Grail) from certain symbolic passages in the books of Revelation and Zechariah. In due time (be patient), I will release the Rebel Speech demo program that will corroborate my claims. Rebel Speech is completely unlike any other speech recognizer. It is both a learner and a recognizer. In addition to being able to learn to recognize speech in any language, it will also have the ability to handle any type of non-speech sounds such as animal calls or the sounds of machinery or musical instruments. It will be fast, noise tolerant and able to recognize spoken words and phrases before the speaker is finished saying them. It will be a game changer.
I could have waited until the demo is ready before divulging my source of knowledge but it would not have the effect that I am after. I prefer to call my shots ahead of time. I realize it all sounds crazy, especially considering that the scientific community is openly hostile to religion. Only a fruitcake like me could dream up something as farfetched as this and I admit it. I am not asking anybody to believe any of this. Feel free to call me a crackpot or a lunatic if you wish. Many do and it is a good thing they don't put food on my table. Laugh out loud. To the others I say, just wait until I release the demo and then you can make up your mind. There are big surprises on the horizon.
Joshua the High Priest
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.
2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.
6 Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying,
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here.
8 ‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
9 For behold, the stone That I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”
Verses 8 to 10 pack an amazing amount of information about the structure of memory in just a few words. It is important to understand that all the metaphors pertain to a single memory mechanism. In fact, multiple metaphors are used to describe different aspects of the same mechanism. This is made explicitly clear by the repeated use of the word 'For' which ties one metaphor to the next. We saw earlier in Part I that Joshua was given clean garments to wear, meaning that the sensory space is assumed to be perfect even though it is noisy and incomplete. Below, I explain how and why this happens.
8 ‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you,As I will show, everything that comes after this sentence has to do with Joshua and his companions and what they symbolize. Note that the Hebrew word for 'companions' is often translated as 'associates' or 'friends'. Note also that Joshua's friends are not standing but sitting before him. This is crucial because it tells us that, unlike Joshua who is standing and has permission to walk around the temple, his friends do not have that authority and thus do not perform motor actions.
Also, the fact that they are sitting in front of Joshua is meaningful because the metaphor is repeated in the next verse. But what do Joshua's friends symbolize? In my opinion, each one represents a sensory pattern detector or recognizer. I explain why below.
8 [...] For they are a wondrous sign;The Hebrew word translated 'a wondrous sign' has several meanings. Other translations have it as 'a symbol', 'a sign of things to come', 'men of portent', etc. I interpret this to mean that Joshua's friends symbolize pattern recognizers. The recognition of a pattern represents, or rather, symbolizes the occurrence of a complex sensory phenomenon. Patterns are inherently predictive. For example, a phoneme in a speech segment is usually followed by a small number of other phonemes to form a word. Words follow other words to form sentences, etc. Visual patterns are even more restrictive in their predictions. The word 'For' at the beginning of the sentence indicates that Joshua's friends are important precisely because they are predictors and represent complex events in the environment.
A few Bible translators believe that the word 'they' refers to both Joshua and his friends. It would make sense because, as I will explain later, memory is organized hierarchically and a sequence of patterns can itself be a node in a higher level sequence.
Another important thing to note here is that, although Joshua is strongly associated with patterns, the pattern recognizers themselves are not connected directly to motor effectors. Note that there is a part of the brain (cerebellum) that uses sensors to directly control motor output but that has to do with non-volitional or automatic motor behavior, e.g., the handling of such routine tasks as maintaining posture and balance. This is a topic for a future article but suffice it to say for now that Joshua is involved only with volitional motor control.
8 [...] For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the branch.The Hebrew word for 'branch' actually means 'sprout' in English. The word is used again in chapter 6 of the book of Zechariah with the same meaning. Chapter 4 talks about two olive branches but it is referring to a different type of branch altogether, the branches of an olive tree to be precise (more on that in a future post). At first glance, we can say that 'branch' in verse 8 above symbolizes something that grows in a given direction like a branch or a vine. The word 'For' at the beginning of the sentence tells us that the 'branch' metaphor is tied to the fact that Joshua's friends are predictors. This suggests that Joshua's friends together represent consecutive patterns linked together to form a sequence. A sequence is, after all, a prediction mechanism.
9 For behold, the stone That I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes.The use of yet another 'For' signifies that what is about to be said is tied to everything that was said before. A stone is a building block used in construction. This particular stone has seven eyes and is placed in front of Joshua. Some translators think that the 'eyes' are just facets cut into the stone. However, we find that the same Hebrew word translated 'eyes' is used in verse 10 of the next chapter. Since Joshua's friends are also sitting in front of him, we can surmise that the metaphor signifies that each building block of memory is a sequence of seven pattern recognizers (seven eyes). In this context, I think the 'eye' is an excellent metaphor for a pattern recognizer. Each eye sees or recognizes a different pattern.
9 [...] Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ Says the Lord of hosts,In ancient times, stone masons were known to inscribe a name or identifier on every finished stone. The inscription told the builders precisely where to place the stone. Thus every inscribed stone was unique and could not be confused with another. Likewise, every pattern sequence represents a unique transformation in the sensory space and belongs in a specific place in memory.
9 [...] ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.This one is a little tricky. Note that only the iniquity of 'that land' is removed, not that of the whole earth. This tells us that 'that land' is referring to a small part of memory. It is safe to conclude that, using a unique sequence of patterns, the system can collect enough sensory data via the eyes (i.e., the pattern recognizers) to conclude that a particular phenomenon occurred. This is true even if the data is noisy and incomplete.
10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.This is a terrible translation, in my opinion. This is what happens when translators inject their own erroneous understanding into metaphorical texts. The original Hebrew verse says nothing about invitations or anybody in possession of either a vine or a fig tree. After studying the interlinear translation and various other translations, I came up with my own as seen below.
10 In that day, says Yahweh of Hosts, every man shall call out to his associate under the vine and under the fig tree.Now we know exactly what was meant by 'that land' in the previous verse. The word 'vine' is a shoe-in for sequence whereas 'fig tree' is almost certainly a symbol for a pattern detector. But what does it mean to call out to one's associate? In my opinion, it is a way for the patterns and the sequence to clean up the imperfectly recorded timing of the sequence. In order words, once the brain is satisfied that a sequence actually occurred, it will act as if the sequence was perfect.
But there is more to the 'calling out to associates' metaphor. The brain uses a winner-takes-all mechanism of recognition. In other words, there are many sequences in memory that compete for the opportunity to be chosen and become activated. Once a particular sequence is recognized, it is considered the winner and it is a good idea to suppress the other competing sequences (the losers) in order to prevent them from activating. The brain uses inhibitory interneurons between columns to accomplish this.
After much research, I am fast coming to the conclusion that the Joshua metaphor represents a single cortical column in the brain's neocortex. I have written about cortical columns before and I intend to write more about them in the future.
In my next article, I will explain the metaphors of the golden lampstand, the two olive trees and the two olive branches. They represent the structural organization of pattern and sequence memories.
Secrets of the Holy Grail
Artificial Intelligence and the Bible: Message to Sardis