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Society of Mind

22.2 isonomes

We introduced the concept of a polyneme to explain how an agent could communicate with many other kinds of agencies. In order for a polyneme to work, each of its recipients must learn its own way to react. Now we've seen a second way, for a pronome is also an agent that can interact with many other agencies. The difference is that a pronome has essentially the same effect on each of its recipients — namely, to activate or to assign a certain short-term memory-unit. I'll introduce a new word — isonome — for any agent that has this sort of uniform effect on many agencies.

An isonome has a similar, built-in effect on each of its recipients. It thus applies the same idea to many different things at once. A polyneme has different, learned effects on each of its

recipients. It thus connects the same thing to many different ideas.

Why should isonomes exist at all? Because our agencies have common genetic origins, they tend also to be architecturally similar. So they'll tend to lie in roughly parallel formations like the pages of a book, operate in generally similar ways, and have similar memory-control processes. Then any agent whose connections tend to run straight through the pages of that book from cover to cover will tend to have similar effects on all of them.

Both isonomes and polynemes are involved with memories — but polynemes are essentially the memories themselves, while isonomes control how memories are used. Pronomes are a particular type of isonome; there must also be interruption isonomes that work similarly but manage memories on larger scales — for example, for storing away the several pronome memories of an entire Trans- frame all at once. (We'll see how something like this must be done whenever we encounter a grammar word like who or which.) Yet other types of isonomes must be involved whenever an agent is used to control the level-band of activity in another agency without concern for all the fine details of what happens inside that agency. So the power of polynemes stems from how they learn to arouse many different processes at once, while isonomes draw their power from exploiting abilities that are already common to many agencies.