Review of The world in your head, by Steve Lehar.
The Lehar manuscript is a creative, bold, forceful presentation of a computational basis for the Gestalt view of conscious perception. The creativity exemplified by the ms provides for a thoughtful new approach to many problems in the field. In this regard the manuscript is a positive contribution to science and an advancement of knowledge.
All my comments are made in the spirit of supporting the difficult task faced by this manuscript. To communicate its ideas to a difficult-to-convince- audience it must be first-class.
Now what do I mean by creative and bold and forceful.
First, the idea of global determination through analog computation is a beautiful handle on Gestalt principles. The principles were always accepted, but a mechanism that caused their emergence was missing. Here the manuscript provides a means of imposing order on a complex problem through a very simple device. This is creatitivity at its best. Simplicity and elegance.
Bold. These ideas are a challenge to some established doctrines. It is a bold step that moves our ideas forward by suggesting alternatives. Actually the step forward is supported by the very doctrines the manuscript challenges, for these provide the basis for newer work. Then, too, the challenge is also an extension of previous developments and a synthesis of ideas handed to us by Fechner, Mach, Wertheimer, and a string of more recent scientists, including Gibson, Grossberg, and Marr.
Forceful. The intensity of the presentation reflects the belief in the ideas. There is no timidity here. The manuscript compares and contrasts this work with thatof recent scientists, thereby establishing an extensive knowledge of current developments.
Yet the manuscript must be improved. It is poorly written, argumentative, and disparaging of people who, if anything, created the crucible in which these ideas developed. These are the characteristics that should be purged from the manuscript before it is published.
Passive voice and page-long paragraphs lacking any leads, or including many leads, detract from the presentation. A reading of Zinnzer's "On Writing Well" could assist in improving the communication.
Comments in the preface suggest that further reading of previous authors like Ernst Mach might be an additional source of inspiration and important knowledge. A review of Fechner's resonance theory in Elemente V2 may prove useful too.
Disparaging remarks about other scientists, some who fostered this development, are entirely inappropriate and amateurish. New ideas are hard to establish. Ask Grossberg.
There are also scientific and logical problems. For one, the manuscript derides reductionism. Yet the harmonic resonance model is a reductionist model. Isn't this a contradiction?
There is a disturbing tendency for the manuscript to state an idea as if it is true, without creating a foundation for the veracity of the idea. Just saying something does not make it so. The use of "therefore", "For", and other connectives as justification for ideas does not replace the requirement for a logical argument as a predecessor to the conclusion. Saying Therefore does not replace the logical argument needed to justify the use of the connective, "Therefore".
Also, the scientific value of this presentation can be enhanced by illustrating how the model accounts for previously unaccounted for phenomena. It is not sufficient to say that a computer rendition of the model can account for something. The manuscript must somehow prove that this can be done. Otherwise the argument is too vague, too remote from possible testing and challenge, to be considered an element of a scientific presentation. To be scientific the manuscript must act scientific.
There are loose sentences and thoughts. For example, with reference to Information Theory (p. 76)
"This is the theory of how information can be compressed for example in digital communications in order to minimize the amount of data that must be sent along a transmission line. The central idea in information theory involves the elimination of redundancy...."
This rendition of what Information Theory is, is several orders of understanding removed from the actual theory.
I made a number of comments and editorial corrections to the preface. These illustrate some of the difficulties mentioned above. I can send these back to you.
In conclusion, this is an outstanding approach to a very difficult problem. The manuscript needs better writing, maybe by a professional science writer, in order for the ideas to be more clearly communicated and logically developed. I would ask the author about the possibility of rewriting and look very favorably on a resubmission.Author's Response