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Posts Tagged ‘embodied cognition’

Andy Clark

Andy Clark


Andy Clark is currently a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he is also Chair in Logic and Metaphysics. Previously, he was director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University in Bloomington.

His extensive publications on embodied cognition, connectionist neural networking and cognitive science have made him one of the key figureheads in the field, which he has helped to popularize and make accessible. This includes the keystone book, Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again, as well as Natural Born Cyborgs and Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Cognition and Cognitive Extension. He has also written a fabulous introduction to the philosophy of cognitive science, titled Mindware. You can access a list of his publications, and you can view many of them too, from his page at the University of Edinburgh.

Clark might be classified as an anti-representationalist, believing that mental representations are not detailed internal constructions of the world, as in a Cartesian theater, but rather that cognition is constructed by the world. That is, the world acts as cognitive scaffolding, and cognition is constructed through an intricate environmental interplay between mind, body and world. Clark’s position is typically referred to as the theory of the extended mind.

He also anticipates the development of cognitive prosthetics, electronic enhancements to aid the integration of the human mind with technology.

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Rafael E. Núñez

Rafael E. Núñez


Rafael E. Núñez is a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego. He is, of course, a major proponent of embodied cognition and his monumental work, Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being, written with George Lakoff, has revolutionized the understanding of mathematical cognition.

The publication essentially debunks the romantic Platonic myth that mathematics is transcendent, that mathematical knowledge is an ideal view of ultimate reality, and that reasoning is logical and that logic is mathematical.

His vast interdisciplinary interests also include cognitive linguistics, neuroimaging, conceptual metaphor, the empirical study of spontaneous gestures, as well as field research investigating spatial construals of time in the Aymara culture of the Andes.

He is also the director of the Embodied Cognition Laboratory at UCSD.

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vitruvian
Michael L. Anderson has put together a nice field guide to embodied cognition (PDF) which you can access online by following that link.

Centrally, the article outlines that the field of embodied cognition is:
(1) Starkly opposed to Cartesianism.
(2) Denies the conceptual divide between humans and animals, reconnecting our conception of humanity to an evolutionary continuum.
(3) Against cognitivism, or the view that cognition is rule-based manipulation of symbols.
(4) In favor of the view that intelligence emerges from situated, active integration within an external environment and context, rather than primarily within the internal confines of an individual brain or enclosed entity.
(5) On the cutting edge of artificial intelligence design, as well as showing immense potential in enhancing human intelligence through computation.

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Roomba

Roomba


Need a last minute holiday shopping idea for the ultimate gadget geek? Does your loved one obsess over embodied cognition or robotics, or just have trouble keeping their floor or gutters clean?

iRobot might just be the perfect gift. Co-founded by embodied robotics guru Rodney Brooks, the iRobot store has an arsenal of high tech robots, based upon an embodied, bottom-up programming approach (the stuff that works well!), all of which make your life at home that much easier. There’s Roomba, a handy vacuuming robot; Scooba, who specializes in floor washing; Dirt Dog for sweeping; Verro will clean your pool; and Looj, for the grimiest job of them all: cleaning out your backed-up gutters.

There are also communication robots, like ConnectR, which is basically like a mobile webcam, and there are research & education robots too, for the burgeoning roboticist.

Full on robot maids may still be a long way off, but these have got to be the next best thing.

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sarahconnor_main
A blog over at Discover Magazine pointed me toward the latest episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which alludes to the importance of embodiment in the development of Artificial Intelligence. During the episode, which was first aired on December 15th, an Artificial Intelligence researcher poignantly notes that “…tactile experience is integral to A.I. development.”

Indeed! Classically, researchers in A.I. have attempted to build the mind first– a disembodied approach which implies that real time interaction with the world is not a necessary condition for intelligence. Rather, it turns out that the most successful A.I. programs have flipped this approach upside down. By starting with the body and a perceptual system instead, intelligence develops as that system learns to cope with its environment.

It’s good to see popular science fiction taking note of the latest developments in embodied cognition, and hopefully we’ll see more of this in the future with the series. It may have just won at least one newly intrigued viewer.

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robot
In conjunction with the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, a robotics exhibition is being held, called the Mobile Manipulation Challenge, from July 13-16 in 2009 in Pasadena, CA.

They need contributions, and are looking for demonstrations of physically embodied robots performing mobile manipulation tasks. Areas of interest include: Point-and-fetching, assembling structures, and searching for hidden objects.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent out March 20th of 2009. Go here for more information.

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robot
In this recent NY Times article, we get asked: “What happened to all of those early promises of having cogent robots, fully or partially integrated into our society, helping us out with all of our daily tasks?” Where are our robot maids, like in The Jetsons? Robots to dramatically and obnoxiously warn us of impending dangers, such as in Lost in Space? Robot pets? It’s already just about 8 years after Stanley Kubrick’s ominous prediction of 2001, so where are they?

‘Artificial intelligence’ has become a radical misnomer with the focus more on the ‘artificial’ rather than the ‘intelligence’. Cutting edge roboticists at the MIT robotics laboratory have an astute answer. Quite simply, early models of artificial intelligence took it for granted what seem to us to be simple bodily tasks, motor functions and perceptive abilities. It turns out that those are actually the most difficult kinds of abilities to program.

If cognition is fundamentally embodied, then it’s no surprise that intelligence hasn’t emerged in robots. Before you can have real, versatile intelligence, you have to master simple motor tasks in non-structured environments. It turns out our ability to do things like reach and grab for objects or walk through a changing environment has more to do with higher cognition than anything else. And so far, we can’t even put together a robot with the same motor capabilities of a newborn; or a cockroach, for that matter.

On the bright side, there’s also no foreseeable danger of assassin terminators taking over the world, either.

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iCub

iCub


The RobotCub Project is fascinating, ongoing research which is studying cognition through the construction of a robot, called the iCub, which is a humanoid with roughly the appearance and size of a 3.5 year old child– which is currently about the same age as the project. This is the kind of research that is revolutionizing our knowledge of embodied, enactive cognition.

Even better, the project is entirely open source and public. At their website at robotcub.org, you can find source files, publications, pictures, videos and updates on the project. You can view the iCub software files. They’re always open to new international collaborators and partners.

The project also runs a yearly “summer school” where students have the chance to experiment with the iCub, and which helps to encourage embodied artificial cognitive systems research.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff


If any single figure could be considered the guru for the current embodied philosophy movement, it has to be George Lakoff. Although technically a linguist, he is probably best known for his extensive interdisciplinary work in cognitive science, conceptual metaphor and politics. His published work includes the closest thing to a bible in the embodiment movement, Philosophy in the Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, which he co-authored with Mark Johnson. And he co-authored the breakthrough book, Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being, with Rafael Núñez, which has spearheaded the entire field of embodied mathematics.

Arguably, Lakoff’s original foray into embodiment began within his work with conceptual metaphor, which has revolutionized the importance of that subfield within the embodiment movement. His work there can be most accessed in the books, Metaphors We Live By (with Mark Johnson) and More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor (with Mark Turner). And one work which bridges many of these earlier ideas is Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind. His other contributions to linguistics have included proposing generative semantics as a substitute to Chomsky’s generative syntax.

Obviously Lakoff’s work here has been canonical, but he’s also well known for his political work, which primarily regards political rhetoric and political linguistics. As a political strategist, Lakoff has often been hailed as the “liberal Karl Rove”. He is the founder of the progressive think tank, the Rockridge Institute.

George Lakoff is currently a professor of Cognitive Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972.

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coldshoulder2
A new study appearing in the journal of Psychological Science suggests that the metaphor of social coldness can make the body actually feel cold.

Subjects in the study, when shrugged off and left socially isolated, believed that room temperature was significantly lower than subjects who were involved in social interaction. The study also found that socially shrugged individuals had a stronger craving for hot drinks and food, such as hot chocolate and soup.

This demonstrates more than just how conceiving of things through bodily metaphor (such as the notion of social isolation being ‘cold’– i.e., ‘being given a cold shoulder’) can influence the actual state of the body. Perhaps more aptly, it suggests that our bodily experiences of a particular situation can frame how we conceive of that situation.

The study supports the hypothesis within embodied cognition that conceptualization must be essentially metaphorical. That is, conceptualization is tied to how the body is situated, thus higher-level, conscious understanding is conceived through bodily metaphor.

Researchers also said the findings may suggest that hot chocolate could be a better comfort food for rejection than ice cream.

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