evolution of cognition and cognitive theories
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DESCRIPTIONEvolution of Cognition and Cognitive Theories. Minds & Machines. Early Organisms: Perception and Action, but no Cognition. Sense. Act. Agent. Environment. Next Step: Cognition. Sense. Act. Think. Agent. Environment. Next Step: More (Better) Cognition!. Think!. Sense. Act. Agent. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
Cogno-Technology and Cogno-Engineering
Evolution of Cognition and Cognitive TheoriesMinds & MachinesEarly Organisms: Perception and Action, but no CognitionSenseActEnvironmentAgentNext Step: Cognition ThinkSenseActEnvironmentAgentNext Step: More (Better) Cognition! Think!SenseActEnvironmentAgentCognition is ThinkingTraditionally, Cognitive Science and AI have seen thinking as the pinnacle of cognition: Thinking includes reasoning, problem-solving, decision-making, and planningSensory perception and motor control is much less considered, if at all. These are often considered as peripheral devices or add-ons to the central reasoning system, just as the keyboard and monitor merely relay or transduce input and output.Devils, Angels, Aliens, Jesus, Mary, and Illinois!
An Experiment in Vision
Moral: Perception and Cognition are integratedIt seems that contrary to popular belief, perception is not a passive kind of data-collection process, passing interpreted snapshots on to higher-level cognitive processing.Rather, high-level processes (such as background knowledge or desires) affect how we perceive things (perception is constructive), and often ask the visual system to look for certain things in the environment that are needed for the task at hand (perception is selective).Situated CognitionSituated (or Embodied) Cognition is the view that we have to take into account the body and the environment in trying to explain, and think about, cognition.Situated cognition objects to the classical Sense, Plan, Act model of cognition, which many cognitive scientists, most AI researchers, have assumed in their view of cognition:we perceive the world, then think about it (i.e. cognize about it!), and then act on whatever plan we came up with.Instead, Situated Cognition proponents say, perception and action are integral to cognition.Catching a Fly BallHow do we catch a fly ball in the outfield?The traditional solution to this problem would be to say that we perceive the trajectory of the ball (Sense), then calculate (Think) where the ball is going to be when, and finally move to the right place (Act). However, on the situated view, you are much more interactive with your environment, and you follow a few simple rules: e.g. if in your field of vision the ball is moving left, you move left, and if it moves right, you move right: if you keep doing this, eventually the ball will come straight at you, so at least youre in the path of the ball. The World As its own Best ModelSituated cognition proponents like to point out that we dont always form some kind of internal representation of the outside worldExample: Blocks Experiment In this experiment, subjects had to copy a certain configuration of blocks by selecting blocks and dragging them to the corresponding place.The finding was that subjects would look at the original, then select a block, then look back at the original, and finally place the block.On the traditional view of cognition, the third step would be a surprise. But, on the situated view, it makes sense.The World as External MemoryIn fact, some Situated Cognition people say that the brain often uses the environment as a kind of external memory. Examples:Suppose you are taking apart your computer (or something else with many parts) and want to make sure that you can put it together again. One strategy that many people use is to line up (or otherwise configure) the parts as they are taking them out, so that they just need to reverse this.Any note that you often write to yourself to remember something.In fact, planners, calendars, even laptops can be seen as your external memory.Some Other ExamplesSome other examples to support this view:Tetris: People who play Tetris dont look at the block, think about how they would have to rotate or move it, and then act on it. Rather, people rotate and move the blocks as they are trying to figure out where it fit.Scrabble: People are finding words by moving the tiles around. If you would handcuff them, their cognitive ability to think of words would probably decrease. (final project someone?!)Long division: We have to use paper and pencil to do this!
Interaction as an Essential Part of CognitionBased on these examples, some proponents argue that cognition is implemented or realized through the interactions with the environment. That is, if you couldnt interact with your environment, you wouldnt have certain cognitive abilities! At the very least, the situated cognition people are claiming that certain cognitive acts can (only!) be understood and explained by reference to interactions with the environment.Objection: Higher-Order Cognition without InteractionsOK, but then what about someone who is just sitting in a chair, contemplating something or other? What about Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist who is in a wheelchair and whose motor neuron disease has left him with hardly any motor skills left?A Possible, and Highly Intriguing, AnswerInterestingly, even in the case of Stephen Hawking, situated cognition could argue that his (first-class!) high-level reasoning abilities depend on lower-level abilities:Maybe the thinking or reasoning that we do (including Stephen Hawking) is a kind of internalized dialogue: an imagined dialogue in which we discuss (using language of course) something or other with some one else, but where we have taken the role of this other person, and where the brain has simply made a short-cut between the motor cortex straight to the perception cortex.
Language: Our Best Tool?Language seems to be an especially powerful tool that we use to enhance our cognitive abilities:Expressions of language can be used to represent information and thus serve as external memory (see examples before)Expressions of language can be manipulated and thus reasoning and decision-making can take place through (logic, mathematics, science)Internal RepresentationsCognitiveSystem AWorldCognitiveSystem AWorldWorldCognitive System BExample: Terminatorhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUZgPfdkWishttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf31v0eiXQkNot Quite the Terminator ...
The Extended MindCan the boundaries of our cognitive self go beyond the boundaries of our biological self?If you would be willing to include a brain chip implant to be able to see again as part of the cognitive being youre dealing with, why should it matter whether this chip is actually inside our skull, or is in contact with the rest of our brain through radio-transmitter?Hammer-ManSuppose I have a hammer taped to my hand that never comes off. Maybe it is more natural to draw the line between me and my environment at the tip of the hammer, rather than between my hand and the hammer.As always in science, we want to parse the situation as naturally as possible so as to most leverage our explanatory and predictive powers.I myself would, just as with the sensory substitution cases, probably start perceiving the world with the hammer as part of me, not of my environment.Likewise, you would probably view me as hammer-man!
The Curious Case of OttoOtto has amnesia, but uses a notebook to keep track of his experiences, appointments, etc. If Ottos book is always-present and always-used, maybe it is better to consider the notebook as part of the cognitive entity we refer to as OttoWhy did Otto come to the appointment? Because Otto remembered it. Such a description would only make sense if the notebook is considered part of Otto.
Is there only one Cognitive Self?The question Where is the boundary between my mind and its environment? assumes that there is one cognitive self, one cognitive system.However, what if we drop this assumption?Maybe there are various cognitive systems that one can point to, and that one can usefully refer to in order to give explanations and predictions of cognitive behavior.This might play out quite nicely:The Chinese RoomCognitive entities using language (science, math, tools) to form a new, more cognitively powerful, entityThe Otto case: Otto1 and Otto2Language, Tools, Culture, and CognitionWhatever your stance on extended cognition or the self is, this much is clear: Language and other kinds of tools seem to greatly expand our cognitive capabilities.Moreover, language allowed us to write down thoughts and skills, and not only pass them to others around us, but also to people born long after we are dead: culture!Cultural Evolution of CognitionOnce culture is in place, cultural evolution can work on components of cognition.For example, such cognitive building blocks as concepts or ideas, but also fashions and values can be passed from organism to organism, where they compete for existence (certain ideas strike us as better ones than others, and can get mutated or combined with others: all the ingredients that an evolutionary process requires.Richard Dawkins coined the term memes for these kinds of entities that are subject to cultural evolution.
Application of the Idea of MemesThe history of science and mathematics is full of cases where two or more researchers come up with the same idea or result, but independently so. How strange!!However, there is probably a good reason for this, and that is that the concepts and ideas (the memes) they needed to put together in order to obtain the theory of evolution had been developing over time, and were ready to be combined at their time, i.e. the discovery was in the air. So, if they wouldnt have come up with it, someone else probably would have very soon after. Note that this makes it rather arbitrary to credit 1 particular person with a particular idea. More likely, ideas are the natural progression of the work of hundreds of people preceding the person that puts it all together.Wallaces ParadoxAlfred Wallace (a contemporary of Charles Darwin who came up with the theory of evolution independently of Darwin!) posed the following puzzle:Our ancestors fro