The Quad Nets Project

The Quad Nets Project is a new approach to old questions:
"How do brains work?" and

"What is the meaning of freedom?"

Quad Nets are designs for new devices and systems, similar to electronics devices and systems, that produce movements like those of animals and that embody principles of freedom. In contrast to computational models that are based on states, the Quad Nets Project is based on action. Proposals for new Quad Net devices that produce and control movements of "engineered organisms" suggest answers to questions about brains and freedom.

Please see the sitemap for structured link lists of materials in the website.

The animated Image below shows very simple activity of a device part made from Quad Net material. It is easy to show very simple activity, but not more complex forms of Quad Net activity, such as Shimmering Sensitivity.

Step period (msec):
fine Quad Net:
coarse Quad Net:





© Robert Kovsky 2006
The animated Image shows a hierarchical system of Quad Nets where a purple pulse wave in the coarse (large-mesh) Quad Net is driving green pulse bundles in the fine (small-mesh) Quad Net. It is like an elevated railway above city streets only here wavefronts travel together. As shown in the enlarged view of junctions and spatial elements (adjacent Image), the coarse Quad Net (blue framework and yellow junctions) is connected to the fine Quad Net (black framework with red junctions) using a 1-to-9 arrangement of projections that end in orange junctions. Red, yellow and orange junctions function like three classes of synapses between neurons; and pulsing elemental devices in the spatial elements function like neurons. (This system is based on Images 5 and 6.)

One principle of the Quad Nets Project is that freedom is grounded in muscular movements and related bodily feelings of animal bodies. Further principles are (1) that voluntary muscular movements and freedom have a foundation in sensory-motor activity occurring around the spine and (2) that activities of a brain in a head are based on a spinal foundation. Movements of birds — rapidly changing, highly varied and precise — provide clear illustrations of principles of freedom.

Consider the movement of a bird hopping from one branch to another branch in a tree. The bird flaps its wings, detaches from its perch, rotates its body and comes to rest on a new perch. I suggest that this movement of a bird requires organized and coordinated movements of many different parts of the bird. There are a great number of separate movements of separate muscles where each movement must be accurately timed, each with a certain amount of strength. The many muscles of a bird, e.g., about the neck, along with their intricate attachments to the spine, are revealed by dissection of roasted chicken. Individual movements must be integrated to produce "a movement of the entire organism, and of each and all of its parts." (William James, Principles of Psychology (1890), The Production of Movement.) Integration includes both a single generative form that organizes all parts of the integrated movement and also interactive coordination between and among parts according to feelings that arise during the integrated movement. Successful performance of the integrated movement requires unification of form and feelings. The capacity of a bird to perform such an integrated movement with easy success seems marvelous to me.

In my approach, movements are based in the spine of a vertebrate animal. "The spine" includes "spinal brains" (networks of neuronal groups) inside each vertebra and "mini-brains" (neuronal groups) called "dorsal root ganglia" that are adjacent to vertebra. The "entire spine" extends up through the brain stem and includes medulla oblongata, pons and all the cranial nerves, e.g., the oculomotor nerve that locates objects in the organism's environment.

This website provides an overview of the Quad Nets Project, new principles of freedom, new technologies and the purposes behind them. Full statements are set forth in .pdf reports and essays.

Please see the sitemap for structured link lists of materials in the website..

Quad Nets were conceived during 2005 as a device embodiment of a physical principle of freedom that is based on properties of physical materials such as water or steel. I suggest that an animal's production of muscular movements resembles the production of snowflakes, with both astonishing varieties and beautiful symmetries, except that bodily feelings can modify muscular movements to adjust to circumstances. The original report on the Quad Nets Model was published in 2006. Parts of this page maintain the substance of the 2006 presentation.

Chief developments as of October 2018 are:

Please see the ( ... ) sitemap for structured link lists.

Conceptions that led to the Quad Nets Project originated in 1970 while I was working on a Ph.D. project in physics and materials science at the University of California (Berkeley). The Ph.D. project investigated electrical switching phenomena in glassy metal alloys. Such alloys can take on multiple physical forms ("phases") that have different electrical properties; a researcher can control changes between phases. One leading conception was that classes of phase changes in such materials could generate, control and interact with classes of electrical signals in large-scale collective ways that mimicked operations of brains. Such models would differ from computerized brain models where changes occur incrementally in bytes. (Other researchers had conceptions similar to mine, especially Sanford R. Ovshinsky, a pioneer in the field.)

As a result of my dis-satisfaction with the "modern scientific view," I left formal studies in technology. However, my conceptions continued to develop and evolve. Starting about 1992, materials were published online. (See the ( ... ) archive in the sitemap.)

A formal presentation of the 2006 Quad Net Model is set forth in a report discussed on a separate ( ... ) page. Essential principles are shown on this page, chiefly through ( ... ) Images. The focal idea is that a large number of pulsing elemental devices are hooked together in a tiled spatial arrangement, called a Quad Net. A stream of energy flows into each elemental device and energy is periodically discharged in pulses that can cause immediate interactive responses in nearest-neighbor elements and delayed responses in more distant elements. There are ways to control the pulses and the interactive responses so that elemental devices discharge collectively in desired waves, bundles and bursts of pulses. Pulses are like neuronal spikes or action potentials that are generated in brains and vertebra and that drive the muscles of animals. The controls are like volume and channel controls on a radio.

I suggest that principles of Quad Nets can be embodied in devices resembling electronics devices and manufactured in sheets of material, e.g., in a grid embedded in a flexible, stretchable plastic matrix with attached controls. A piece of Quad Net material resembles a tissue of neurons. Conceptually and in the Images, sheets of Quad Net are treated as construction materials. That is, "Quad Net device parts" are built from the construction materials. A Quad Net device part is designed to perform functions that resemble functions performed by parts of brains called "neuronal groups." Interconnected Quad Net device parts resemble assemblies of neuronal groups, assemblies that are sometimes called "mappings." (See G. E. Edelman, Neural Darwinism: the Theory of Neuronal Group Selection (1988). By means of interconnecting bundles of neurons, cells and activities in one neuronal group are "mapped" onto cells and activities in another neuronal group.)

Of central importance in the Quad Net Model is the principle of Shimmering Sensitivity. Quad Nets are designed to generate Shimmering Sensitivity. Imagine that a Quad Net device is operating cyclically. Each cycle, the pulse patterns and underlying energy configurations undergo a sequence of phase changes: a prepatory, meaningless condition of "blinking" or "checkerboarding" is changed into a population of germinal activity patterns that each potentially leads to a different final actual activity pattern. Multiple germinal activity patterns compete with each other. At first they coexist. As the cycle progresses -- passing through a critical moment -- one of the germinal activity patterns does lead to an actual activity pattern and the other germinal activity patterns are extinguished. This is a selection process that resembles a choice of action, e.g., taking one cookie on a plate instead of others. Then the selected actual activity pattern occupies the device part and influences other selections. Finally, the selected actual activity pattern is replaced by blinking and the cycle starts again.

A process of Shimmering Sensitivity is discussed on the ( ... ) web page concerned with "free-will puzzles" or you can start below with ( ... ) Image 35 and follow through to Image 38.)

When multiple Quad Net device parts are interconnected and pass through a critical moment together (synchronously), Shimmering Sensitivity unites the multiple selection processes and there is a single selection process extending over all the device parts. Shimmering Sensitivity is based on critical point phenomena that have been studied by physicists and applied in technology (e.g., in magneto-optical memory storage). Critical point phenomena are nonlocal and able to unite activities that are spatially distinct.

Quad Net Images

Images from the Abstract of "Quad Nets."
The Images provide a visual and conceptual overview of the Quad Net Model. Images 1 through 6 come from the introductory Survey, § 1 in the "Quad Nets" research paper available on a separate page. Beginning with Image 7 ( Primal Quad Net), you can follow the progressive construction of Quad Net devices up through the Phase Transfer Controller (Images 30 - 35). Images 36 through 38 show the Principle of Shimmering, that generates co-existing phasic fragments during a "critical moment of selection."

Superior views of Images are provided by computer, in contrast to Images printed on paper. Some Images of Quad Net constructions should be examined at several scales of magnification to balance views of collective structure with those showing granular detail.

Index of Images
Images 1 through 3
Images 4 and 5
Image 6
Image 7
Images 8 and 9
Image 10
Image 11
Image 12
Image 13
Images 14 and 15
Image 16
Images 17 and 18
Images 19 and 20
Images 21 through 24    
Image 25
Image 26
Image 27
Image 28
Image 29
Image 30 (including 30b)
Images 31 and 32
Images 33 and 34
Image 35
Images 36 through 37
Image 38
Image 39
Images 40 and 41
Images 42 through 44
Images 45 through 48
Images 49 through 51
Images 52 through 54
Images 55 through 57

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
Please write to the adjacent email address (shown in an image to minimize spam).

October 2018

Copyright © 2006, 2018 Robert Kovsky