Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Artificial Intelligence and the Bible: The Golden Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees, Part I

Part I, II

Abstract

This is a continuation of my series on artificial intelligence and the Bible. I claim that I get my understanding of intelligence and the brain (see Secrets of the Holy Grail) by interpreting certain metaphorical passages in the books of Revelation and Zechariah. Previously, I argued that the ancient texts contradict modern statistical approaches to perceptual learning. Essentially, current perceptual learning models, such as the Bayesian Brain and Deep Learning Networks, assume that events in the world are inherently uncertain and that the job of an intelligent system is to discover the probabilities. But according to the ancient texts, the brain is not a probability thinker. Counterintuitively, the brain assumes that events in the world are perfectly consistent even though the sensory space is noisy and incomplete. Its job is to find the perfection that is in the world.

In this article, I show that, based on my interpretation of the metaphors, short-term memory has a seven-item capacity and can be grouped into chunks. Furthermore, both pattern and sequence memories are organized hierarchically like a tree, short-term memory being just an active branch of the sequence tree.

The Golden Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees

Chapter 4 of the book of Zechariah is a veritable goldmine of knowledge about what is probably the most important aspect of intelligence: the organization of long and short-term memory. In this light, is it a coincidence that the Hebrew name 'Zechariah' means 'Yahweh remembers'?
Zechariah 4: 1-14
1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”
4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?”
5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
6 So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’says the Lord of hosts.
7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”
8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.
10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”
11 Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?”
12 And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?”
13 Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
14 So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”
Commentary
1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And he said to me, “What do you see?”
Zechariah is having a vision but he is awakened within the vision by the same angel who was talking to him earlier. The return of the angel tells us that the subject matter is the same as before. But the fact that Zechariah is awakened by the angel is significant. I interpret it to mean that what comes afterward has something to do with paying attention. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time. We pay attention to something by "waking up" its representation in memory. And while we are focusing on something, everything else is asleep.
2 [...] So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps [...]
This is as powerful as it gets. The fact that the lampstand is of solid gold means that it represents something very important, something crucial. Lamps are artifacts that can be turned on or off. They can emit light and thus make it easy to see in the dark. The lampstand has a bowl, i.e., an oil reservoir that supplies oil to the seven lamps. So we can surmise that the lampstand will stay lit until the bowl runs out of oil.

In verse 10, we learn that the seven lamps represent the seven eyes of God that move about in memory. In my opinion, the lampstand is the main mechanism of conscious attention and short-term memory. Over the years, psychologists have determined that short-term memory has a seven-item capacity. This seems to be in accord with the Biblical revelation. I will get back to this later.
2 [...] with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
This is almost certainly a mistranslation. Other translators have it as 'forty-nine pipes' or 'seven pipes to each of the seven lamps.' The original Hebrew text literally says 'seven seven pipes to the seven lamps.' So it seems that the number or pipes is forty-nine, not seven. Here is an illustration.
That is one strange looking lampstand, isn't it? Given that a lamp needs only one pipe for oil, the seven pipes attached to each lamp must have a special meaning. I interpret the lampstand metaphor to also mean that memory is organized hierarchically and consists of seven-node sequences, As we saw in the previous article, these are the building blocks of memory. Each node in a sequence consists of seven lower level nodes (think of an upside-down tree) and so on. At the bottom level, the nodes are pattern detectors which get their inputs directly from the sensors.
3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”
A tree symbolizes a hierarchical structure. But why two trees? For a long time, I had assumed that the two olive trees represented the two memory hierarchies of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Although it seemed plausible at the time, it caused me to be stuck in a rut for years. It finally occurred to me that the Biblical metaphors used to describe the organization of the brain always pertain to one hemisphere unless the text specifically associates a metaphor with 'the whole earth' as seen in verses 10 and 14. So I figured that both pattern and sequence memories are organized hierarchically like a tree. Recall from the previous article that there are two distinct but complementary types of memory, symbolized by the place of the vine (sequence memory) and the place of the fig tree (pattern memory).
4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?”
5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
This is a strange exchange. Why is the angel surprised that Zechariah does not know the meaning of the symbols? I think it is a clever way of linking verse 5 to verse 13 where a similar exchange occurs. More on this later.
6 So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’says the Lord of hosts.
Zerubbabel is the builder of the temple, the symbol of memory. This seems to indicate that the moving of consciousness (the seven eyes of God) through memory is not controlled by a physical mechanism but by a spiritual entity.
7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
It took me many years to figure this one out. Although the memories are organized hierarchically and signals must propagate from the bottom layer to the top layer of each hierarchy, propagation time is assumed to be instantaneous. In the brain, this means signals must propagate within 10 milliseconds. The brain uses electric synapses to accomplish this. What this means is that, to the rest of the brain, the hierarchies appear flat, as if they had only a single layer.
7 [...] And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”
The word 'capstone' is probably better translated 'top stone', i.e., a stone that is placed on top of another stone. Grace is forgiveness for imperfection. I think this means that the timing for the high level sequences needs not be very precise.

Coming Up

In Part II, I will finish the interpretation of the rest of Chapter 4.

See Also:

Secrets of the Holy Grail
Artificial Intelligence and the Bible: Message to Sardis
Artificial Intelligence and the Bible: Joshua the High Priest

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