Elod P Csirmaz’s Blog: August 2013

16 August 2013

My Brain is Too Simple to Be Writing This

One often hears the argument for dualism (which maintains that humans are not mere physical beings, but also have a divine spark, a soul, a non-material mind, a psyché that enables them to think, talk, and be intelligent) that the mostly homogenous grey mass that is the brain is too simple, too undifferentiated, too mundane to give rise to the amazing range of human creativity and activities that we see around ourselves.

And it indeed looks to be so. Sure we know which region is responsible for visual processing, speech recognition, language production, positive feelings, and so on. Sure some neuron activity patterns can reveal whether I’m thinking of tennis or the Labour Party, but where is an individual, logical thought? Which neuron is the one that “knows” that rain needs clouds? Which is the one that’s to be or not to be, and which is the one that’s that is the question?

I’m sure it’s there. We can’t see it yet, but we get to know more and more about the brain each day, and to maintain the position that the physical brain is incapable of experiencing or creating feelings, music, poetry, drama and parking tickets in the face of a deluge of evidence to the contrary is to turn a blind eye to the wonders of this amazing object.

Take the analogy between the brain and a computer. Look around your desktop (or your mobile home screen) as you’re reading this. You see the myriad things a computer can do: zoom and rotate images, decode text from a network stream and render it on a pixellated screen; display 3D objects from multiple angles in real time, play music, find words in a dictionary even if you misspell them, redesign traffic in cities and call mom on her birthday. You see meaning; you even see intention. And now open the part of the computer that you know is responsible for all this behaviour: the CPU. With some magnification, you’ll see something like this:

Now let’s imagine that you are an extraterrestrial who has access to a working CPU, but has no idea how it works. You’d do what anyone would do in this case: leave it on, take it apart, and prod it with knitting needles until it bursts into flames. This line of enquiry (not unlike the one we used to amass what we know about the human brain) will tell you that if you poke the top orange part, the computer suddenly forgets what it was doing a moment ago, and if you jab a green-yellow square, it will mess up multiplication one in four times. What does this remind us? Oh, yes, the regions in the brain.

Admittedly, they look less regular and less rectangular. But just like the extraterrestrial and the CPU, we know little more about these regions than that messing with them causes the patient to lose the ability to speak, or recognise shapes, or it triggers amnesia.

So where is that YouTube video of a kitten in the CPU? We have good reason to think it’s in there, but a knitting needle is simply the wrong tool to extract it from the intricate network of transistors it’s made of. If that is imaginable, why would we think this blog post or Shakespeare is anywhere but in the brain? It’s there: not between, above or beyond the slimy pool of neurons, but in it.

8 August 2013

Changing the language in Gimp 2.8.6 when entries are missing from the language drop-down

I installed Gimp 2.8.6 on a Windows 7 machine where the language of the operating system was English. I made sure that the translations were also installed, but, strangely, when I started Gimp, only "System language" and English were available in the language drop-down in the preferences window. I couldn't find anything by searching for this particular problem, and all the other suggestions about changing the language of Gimp like adding a LANG environment variable or deleting all locales except the desired one failed.

After reading almost all configuration files, fortunately I found [SYSTEM_DRIVE]:/Users/[USER_NAME]/.gimp-2.8/gimprc, which already had a line in it setting the language to English. (You may need to toggle the language setting in the preferences before it appears.) Changing it manually to the name of the locale (take a look at the [SYSTEM_DRIVE]:/Program Files/GIMP 2/share/locale/ folder for the available ones) solved the problem (although the language drop-down still doesn't work).