[Bmi] The Brain Principles Manifesto: with links

Juyang Weng weng at cse.msu.edu
Sat Feb 21 15:31:35 EST 2015

Dear Colleagues:

Sorry, somebody asked for links.  So added.

Please feel free to forward this message to your colleagues and friends.

----- draft version 5 ------

The Brain Principles Manifesto

Feb. 21, 2015

Historically, public acceptance of science was slow.  For example, 
Charles Darwin waited about 20 years (from the 1830s to 1858) to publish 
his theory of evolution for fear of public reaction.  It took about 20 
years (by the 1870s) the scientific community and much of the general 
public had accepted evolution as a fact.   Of course, the debate on 
evolution still goes on today.

Is the public acceptance of science faster in modern days?  Not 
necessarily so, even though we have now better and faster means to 
communicate.   The primary reason is still the same but much more severe 
--- the remaining open scientific problems are more complex and the 
required knowledge to convincingly understand goes beyond any single 

For instance, network-like brain computation --- connectionist 
computation --- has been long doubted and ignored by industry. Kunihiko 
Fukushima introduced Convolutional deep networks by at least 1980.  
Weng, Ahuja and Huang published Max-pooling in deep fully automatic 
learning networks by 1992.  However, Apple, Baidu, Google, Microsoft, 
Samsung, and other major related companies did not show considerable 
interest till after 2012. That is a delay of about 20 years.  The two 
techniques above are not very difficult to understand.  However, these 
two suddenly hot techniques have already been proved obsolete by the 
discoveries of more fundamental working principles of the brain.

Industrial and academic interests have been keen on a combination of two 
things --- easily understandable but superficial tests and which 
companies are involved.  However, the newly known brain principles have 
told us that the ways to conduct such tests will give only vanishing 
gains that do not lead to a realistic zero error rate, regardless how 
many more images can be added to the training sets and how long the 
Moore’s Law can continue.  Do our industry and public need another 20 
years?  Or more?

Oct. 2011 a highly respected multi-disciplinary professor kindly wrote: 
“I tell these students that they can work on brains and do good science, 
or work on robots and do good engineering.  But if they try to do both 
at once, the result will be neither good science nor good engineering.”  
How long does it take for the industry and public to accept that that 
pessimistic view of the brain was no longer true even then?

The brain principles that have already been discovered would bring 
fundamental changes in the way humans live, human countries and 
societies are organized, and the way humans treat one another.  The 
following questions point to some concrete fundamental changes that 
benefit all humans.  However, conventionally, scientists in natural 
sciences do not address politics.  Albert Einstein and Norm Chomsky are 
among exceptions.

The brain of anybody, regardless of his education and experience, is 
fundamentally short sighted, in both space and time, determined by the 
known brain principles.  Prof. Jonathan Haidt documented well such 
shortsightedness in his book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are 
Divided by Politics and Religion 
although not in terms of brain computation.

In terms of brain computation, the precise circuits in your brain 
self-wire beautifully according to your real-time experience (the genome 
only regulates) and their various invariance properties for abstraction 
also largely depend on experience.  Serotonin (e.g., caused by threats), 
dopamine (e.g., caused praises) and other neural transmitters quickly 
change the way these delicate circuits work but you feel everything 
inside the brain is normal.  Therefore, you make mistakes but you still 
feel normal in the brain.   Everybody is like that, including the 
politicians in the questions below.

Surprisingly, to understand how the brain works requires sophisticated 
automata theory in computer science (J. Weng, Brain as an Emergent 
Finite Automaton: A Theory and Three Theorems 
IJIS, 2015).  This automata brain model proposes that each brain is an 
automaton, but also very different from all traditional symbolic 
automata because it programs itself --- emergent.  No traditional 
automata can program themselves in the sense of Turing Machine but a 
brain automaton does.

The automata brain model predicted that neural circuits precisely record 
the statistics of experience, roughly consistent with neural anatomy 
(e.g., Felleman & Van Essen, Cerebral Cortex, 1991).  In particular, the 
model predicted that “shifting attention between `humans’ and `vehicles’ 
dramatically changes brain representation of all categories” (J. Gallant 
et al. Nature Neuroscience, 2013) and that human attention “can regulate 
the activity of their neurons in the medial temporal lobe” (C. Koch et 
al. Nature, 2010).  The model raised questions to claims that neurons 
encode exclusively sensory information like the “place” cells in the 
work of 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine instead of a 
combination of both place and top-down attention context reported by 
Koch et al. and Gallant et al. and theoretically predicted by the 
automata brain model.

Unfortunately, the automata brain model implies that all neuroscientists 
and neural network researchers are unable to understand the brain of 
their studies without a rigorous training in automata theory.   For 
example, traditional models for nervous systems and neural networks 
focus on pattern recognition and do not have the capabilities of a 
grounded symbol system (e.g., “rulefully combining and recombining,” 
Stevan Harnad, Physica D, 1990).  Automata theory deals with such 

Understanding brain’s automata would enables us to see answers to a wide 
variety of important questions, some of which are raised below.  We do 
not provide yes/no answers here, only raise questions.  The automaton 
brain model predicts that there is no absolute right or wrong in any 
brain but its environmental experiences wire and rewire the brain.

How can our industry and pubic understand that the door for a great 
opportunity that has opened up for them?  How can they see the 
economical outlooks that this opportunity brings with it?

How should our educational system change to prepare our many bright 
minds for the new brain age?   Has our government been prompt to 
properly respond to this modern call from the nature?

How should our young generation act for to this new opportunity that is 
unfolding before their eyes?  Is a currently narrowly defined academic 
degree sufficient for their career?

Is it consistent with the U.S. people’s interest for the respected Mr. 
Barack Obama to have authorized the bombing of ISIS, sanctioned Russia 
because of what happened in Ukraine, rejected conversations with North 
Korea for what Mr. Kim Jong-un did, increased extra tax on Americans who 
create many jobs, and planed to tax Americans’ overseas ventures which 
encourages them to drop U.S. Citizenship? Shortsighted?

The same ISIS bombing question goes to the respected Mr. François 
Hollande.   What is the relationship between the armed attacks on the 
weekly Charllie Hebdo and the French ISIS bombing that killed many more 
innocent civilians as well as racial discrimination existing in France?

Is it consistent with the Chinese people’s interest for the respected 
Mr. Jinping Xi to conduct anti-graft struggle using the Communist Party 
rules without the due process of the Chinese legal system and to bicker 
about islands with China’s neighbors like Japan, Vietnam, and 
Philippines that negatively affected economy and tourists’ safety?

Is it consistent with the Israelis people’s interest for the respected 
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu to take his current approach to Israel’s Arab 

How should all government officials take advantage of the new knowledge 
about their own brains?  Should people in every country require them to 
learn brain theory and correct their feel-normal mistakes?

We are from all walks of life and from all regions of the world.  At 
present, we do not understand the scientific underpinnings of the 
material in this Manifesto, just like the public of Darwin’s time.  
However, these issues are relevant to the future of our nations and our 
lives.  We declare to form the Brain Principles Society, in order to 
promote human communication and understanding of brain principles and 
their implications to human societies so as to improve the quality of 
life for all human beings on this planet.  There is a lack of society 
that regards social sciences as part of brain science and considers 
automata theory to be relevant to brain science and social sciences.  
However, we are all governed by the same set of brain principles.

--- end ---


Juyang (John) Weng, Professor
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
MSU Cognitive Science Program and MSU Neuroscience Program
428 S Shaw Ln Rm 3115
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824 USA
Tel: 517-353-4388
Fax: 517-432-1061
Email: weng at cse.msu.edu
URL: http://www.cse.msu.edu/~weng/

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