Website Author, History and Related Publications


Celebrating nephew Steve's birthday

An example of "family resemblances"
   Robert Kovsky, B.S.E.E., MIT, 1968, Tau Beta Pi; M.A., Physics/Materials Science, UC Berkeley, 1971; J.D., UC Berkeley, 1974.

Lacking an institutional affiliation, I am grateful for the Internet as a publishing medium.

My career as an attorney included representation of technology developers in copyright litigation adverse to Movie Studios and in privacy litigation adverse to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). I represented Elizabeth Boardman, a Quaker whose religious practice of war tax resistance appears to have been targeted by the IRS for suppression. Please see my ( ... ) personal website.

My alternative approach to brain science had its inception in 1970 and was based on graduate school research into phase changes in glassy metal alloys and their potential uses in associative memory systems -- which had its origins in pioneering work of Sanford R. Ovshinky.

Associative memory systems have potential application to legal research, an application I explored in my first attempts at alternative models of brains. The results are represented by a device model of a legal research system published in 1997 as part of ( ... ) Technology of Freedom. (Technology of Freedom was in the nature of a "reconnaissance" of long-range goals and paths to the goals. The project ( ... ) correctly envisioned some essential features of the Quad Net and timing devices systems.)

While at MIT, I encountered the proposition that "brains are computers." Previously, I had built a computer out of pinball machine relays saved from law enforcement incinerators by my high school science teacher, Frank Gasper. I had also learned assembly language and applications programming for mainframe IBM machines and I had a pretty good idea about how computers work.

My immediate response was that the proposition "brains are computers" was false, absurd and unworkable. My views on this subject have never changed but have developed in several ways. The proposition is contrary to the working of the Spirit that I experience directly as freedom. Factually, the proposition "brains are computers" has not led to any substantial intellectual development despite more than 60 years of intensive research. Notwithstanding many valuable uses of computers, e.g., in medical procedures, I do not know of any substantial practical benefits that have been developed from the proposition itself. I hold that the proposition is not only false, it is seriously injurious to human beings and to Western civilization. The proposition would deny freedom and squeeze freedom out of our activities, substituting a culture of meaningless mechanisms, continual distractions and unreal imagery for the authentic lives of persons.

My work provides different answers to questions that are supposedly answered by the proposition "brains are computers."

Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
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In my approach, new device designs for brain models provide foundations for a psychological model applicable to human intelligence. The psychological model is used to investigate and compare multiple human endeavors, including physics and natural science, the laws of the courts and the Christian religion. The focus of interest in the larger work is personal freedom, especially as expressed through actions of and decisions made by persons in institutional situations. Of course, we also exercise freedom in wilderness situations, but institutional principles are human inventions and more amenable to modeling.

From the perspective of the larger work, engineering and scientific projects make up a solid core and are intended to serve as practical foundations for technological development. Presentations of psychological, philosophical, personal and spiritual matters are much more tentative, even sketchy – but they also provide direction and have suggested particular inventions and pathways of development. For example, the Ear for Pythagorean Harmonics had a personal foundation in my auditory investigations into "Three Seraphim" by Claudio Monteverdi, accessible on the ( ... ) Shimmering Silences website.

... )  A.  Chief Works
... )  B.  History of Timing Devices
... )  C.  Philosophy of Science

A.    Chief Works

Please see the (...) opening page for a description of the Quad Nets project. As stated there, Quad Nets were conceived around May 1, 2005. Highlights of developments as of January, 2016 are:

Quad Nets (2006)-- Quad Nets are the foundation of my alternative device models of brains.

... ) Quad Net web site separately organized

... ) download the formal paper titled Quad Nets: Material Foundations for Thermal Device Models of Brains (.pdf format, 1.1 Mb)

... ) web page discussing the formal paper

Timing Devices (2007-2011) started from a simplified version of the Quad Net Model and grew into an independent technology, as discussed in "History of Timing Devices," below.

Philosophy of Science. Principles and publications are discussed ( ... ) below. A formal paper, ( ... ) A Patchwork of Limits: Physics Viewed From an Indirect Approach (2000), a .pdf file (157 kB), is discussed on a separate ( ... ) web page.

... )  Testimony of Freedom is a separate web site, under development, for investigations into personal, psychological, legal, social and spiritual matters.

... )  Embodiment of Freedom is a separate web site that shows prior stages of development. The site contains the Archive of work that was published up to April of 2005 when Quad Nets were conceived.

Return to (... ) top of page.

B.  History of Timing Devices

The timing devices system was developed from Quad Nets, noted above. I published the Quad Nets Model online in October of 2006 and posted a notice on the "" blog. Readers of the neurodudes blog offered criticism and suggestions. "Timing devices" had their conception in an exchange I had with some critics.

In brief, a Quad Net "device part" is made up of a large number (e.g., thousands) of elemental device units that are organized through "tiling" principles and collectively activated; and a Quad Net device part is a model of a "neuronal group" that is a chief organizing unit in brains. The basic architecture of the human brain involves a large number of inteconnected neuronal groups. (See Gerald M. Edelman, Neural Darwinism: the Theory of Neuronal Group Selection (1987). I rely on Edelman's discussions of anatomy, physiology and prenatal development. Statements on pages 4-8, 18, 46-47 and much of Chapter 8 ("Action and Perception") have been especially helpful; but I don't subscribe to "Darwinism.")

The central principle of the Quad Net Model - the principle of Shimmering Sensitivity that I suggest resembles human consciousness - is embodied in collective activity. Such collective activity cannot be tracked mathematically (at least as far as I know) and chief means of description are Images and operational charts.

In a dialogue with me that extended over several messages, Eric wrote:
It would really help if you dissected an individual 'tial' mathematically. That is, what rules do they follow? What are the rules for how they interact with one another? Is there an example of a computation that they can perform? E.g., xor.
Bob: without an equation to describe how an individual element works, it's impossible for me to say anything more. Even if you need six to get a cycle, it would be very helpful to know what is cycling, what the rules governing the individual elements of the cycle. It is usually pedagogically most useful to start simple, with equations that govern how an individual element (whether it be neuron, capacitor, etc) works, and then build up slowly to more interesting behavior.
[Eric noted comparisons to:]...cellular automata, but the rules governing the behavior of individual cells is quite explicable. My main point is, that as a sociological fact, few people will read or understand your theory unless you take what you call the 'atomic-molecular' approach.
also it would be good to fill out in more detail the input-output transform being implemented by an individual element: a drawing that specifies the inputs, outputs, and the transform between the two.

Mike wrote:
Here's my advice, from 20 years in the industry.
  1. Define what each unit does.
  2. Describe how the units interact.
  3. Show that the interaction causes the units to generate a representation.

The "six" units Eric referred to were Quad Net elemental devices shown in connection with the Simple Cycler device assembly in § 4.a of the Quad Nets paper. Following the advice of Eric and Mike, the elemental devices in the Simpler Cycler were reduced to become primal timing devices. Section 4.e of Quad Nets involved "one pulse triggers" and "two pulse triggers" that reduced to the "one-pulse trigger rule" and the "two pulse trigger rule" for timing devices. Controller operations discussed in § 4.f had been conceived with prior gate devices in mind, namely, relays, vacuum tube triodes and bipolar junction transistors; and gated timing devices devices followed directly.

Return to ( ... ) top of page.

C.    Philosophy of Science

Conventional brain science affirms the principle "brains are computers" in disciplines of "computational neuroscience" and "artificial intelligence." "Cognitive psychology" is congruent with computational principles. "Brains are computers" is part of a belief system that I call the Mechanical Cosmology or "platonic science" and that includes other propositions: "all things are made of atoms" and "the Universe is governed by laws of physics, like the law of conservation of energy."

Beliefs about atoms and laws of physics have been developmentally productive and wonderfully fruitful in practical ways  – in contrast to "brains are computers"  – but all such beliefs are false and misleading when they are declared to provide authoritative statements about reality. There are no "atoms" outside of transient laboratory phenomena, e.g., "atomic beams." It is possible to buy materials, such as minerals, metals, refined chemical reagents, vegetable materials, animal materials and synthetic materials; but it is not possible to buy "atoms." The material that is closest to "atoms," refined helium, shows complex, collective, "non-atomic" properties when the temperature gets very low and the helium liquifies.

"Energy" is never "conserved." Common usage that treats "energy" as a substance like salt is false to the facts and leads to false concepts. Such usage reproduces the error of the "calorique" concept that was discarded in the 19th century. "Conservation of energy" is an ideal that is never attained, although billiard tables, vacuum chambers and ball bearings rather approach it and make exact calculations possible under some circumstances. "Conservation of energy" is a mental construction. More generally, "laws of physics" are constructed by persons using our limited human intelligence. Such constructions have succeded in situations where matter is absent or where matter comes in forms reduced to the tiniest possible "particles;" but they have not been generally successful in dealing with the properties of matter in complex bodies like animal bodies.

The Mechanical Cosmology teaches that all of reality is made up of particles and laws of physics. Some parts of reality are well modeled by methods based on this belief but other parts of reality  – e.g., the reality of persons and the reality of conflicts between organizations of persons  – cannot even be recognized. As to real materials, like brains and blood, applications based on beliefs about laws of physics, e.g., imaging techniques, do not deal with changing conditions. Applications are designed to work on imaginary systems of atoms and the real stuff provides close approximations to the imaginary systems for some practical purposes. Claims that "all things are made of atoms" and that "laws of physics govern the Universe" are false in their generality, inflating limited successes into comprehensive knowledge.

In my view, there is valuable knowledge about physical materials yet to be discovered that is outside and beyond limited views about "particles," "atoms" and "laws of physics."

My works on these subjects are not as compactly organized as my engineering and scientific works and the themes run through many diverse works

Works related to Philosophy of Science

... ) A Patchwork of Limits: Physics Viewed From an Indirect Approach (2000), a formal paper available as a .pdf file (157 kB), that is also ( ... ) noted above. The methods and conclusions of the paper provided guidance in developing Quad Nets and Timing Devices. The "alternative view of physics" developed in the paper contrasts the thermodynamic critical state, the physical basis for later-developed Shimmering Sensitivity, with the Ideal Gas, the point of origin of Maxwell's and Boltzmann's versions of kinetic theory, Gibbs' statistical mechanics and other mechanical models of matter.

Please see ( ... ) "Personal Freedom vs. the Mechanical Cosmology" in Testimony of Freedom for an informal presentation.

A separate ( ... ) web page, "Facts About Snowflakes," discusses the problem of accounting for the generation of snowflakes from gaseous water vapor. Snowflakes can be beautifully symmetrical. Physicists are unable to account for this phenomenon because the proposed atomic processes are independent of one another and distant from each spatially. I argue that the attempt to explain the phenomenon by means of atomic processes is a failure. This failure is exemplary of the failures of physics to explain classes of phenomena of phase changes, of which the change from water to ice is the most familiar. I hold that important brain activities are phase changes and outside the reach of the Mechanical Cosmology.

A broad statement of my alternative view accessible to the lay reader, with a critical analysis of conventional physics, is in § 6 of "An Objective Kind of Freedom," an archival paper in the form of a ( ... ) .pdf file (618 kB.). The paper was published online in January of 2005 and the first six sections were foundational of my development of Quad Nets later in the year.

Please see also ( ... ) "On Cosmological Principles in Natural Science," a .pdf file (23 kB), suggestive of future approaches.

Return to ( ... ) top of page.

Link List

"Brain Models Built From Timing Devices"

... ) Opening Page
... ) A Kit of Parts
... ) An Eye for Sharp Contrast
    ( ... ) Eyes That Look at Objects
... ) An Ear for Pythagorean Harmonics
    ( ... ) A Procrustean Group of Harmonies
... ) Fundamentals of Timing Devices
... ) Author & History

... ) top of page

Related Materials

... ) Testimony of Freedom (intermediate draft of a long-range project, c. 2008)

... ) Embodiment of Freedom (archives of development, materials prior to the invention of Quad Nets in 2005)

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

January 2016

Copyright © 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 Robert Kovsky