Excerpt: Obviously perception is embodied. After all, if creatures were entirely disembodied, how could physical processes in the environment, such as the propagation of light or sound, be transduced into a neurobiological currency capable of generating experience? Is there, however, any deeper, more subtle sense in which perception is embodied?
The nature of cognition is being re-considered. Instead of emphasizing formal operations on abstract symbols, the new approach foregrounds the fact that cognition is, rather, a situated activity, and suggests that thinking beings ought therefore be considered first and foremost as acting beings. The essay reviews recent work in Embodied Cognition, provides a concise guide to its principles, attitudes and goals, and identifies the physical grounding project as its central research focus.
Minimalism is a useful element in the constructivist arsenal against objectivism. By reducing actions and sensory feedback to a bare minimum, it becomes possible to obtain a complete description of the sensory-motor dynamics; and this in turn reveals that the object of perception does not pre-exist in itself, but is actually constituted during the process of observation. In this paper, this minimalist approach is deployed for the case of the recognition of “the Other.” It is shown that the perception of another intentional subject is based on properties that are intrinsic to the joint perceptual activity itself.
Dynamicism has provided cognitive science with important tools to understand some aspects of “how cognitive agents work” but the issue of “what makes something cognitive” has not been sufficiently addressed yet and, we argue, the former will never be complete without the latter. Behavioristic characterizations of cognitive properties are criticized in favor of an organizational approach focused on the internal dynamic relationships that constitute cognitive systems. A definition of cognition as adaptive-autonomy in the embodied and situated neurodynamic domain is provided: the compensatory regulation of a web of stability dependencies between sensorimotor structures is created and pre served during a historical/developmental process. We highlight the functional role of emotional embodiment: internal bioregulatory processes coupled to the formation and adaptive regulation of neurodynamic autonomy. Finally, we discuss a “minimally cognitive behavior program” in evolutionary simulation modeling suggesting that much is to be learned from a complementary “minimally cognitive organization program”
Notions of embodiment, situatedness, and dynamics are increasingly being debated in cognitive sci ence. However, these debates are often carried out in the absence of concrete examples. In order to build intuition, this paper explores a model agent to illustrate how the perspective and tools of dynam ical systems theory can be applied to the analysis of situated, embodied agents capable of minimally cognitive behavior. Specifically, we study a model agent whose “nervous system” was evolved using a genetic algorithm to catch circular objects and to avoid diamond-shaped ones. After characterizing the performance, behavioral strategy and psychophysics of the best-evolved agent, its dynamics are analyzed in some detail at three different levels: (1) the entire coupled brain/body/environment sys tem; (2) the interaction between agent and environment that generates the observed coupled dynam ics; (3) the underlying neuronal properties responsible for the agent dynamics. This analysis offers both explanatory insight and testable predictions. The paper concludes with discussions of the overall picture that emerges from this analysis, the challenges this picture poses to traditional notions of rep resentation, and the utility of a research methodology involving the analysis of simpler idealized mod els of complete brain/body/environment systems.
A problem of action selection emerges in complex and even not so complex interactive agents: what to do next? The problem of action selection occurs equally for natural and for artificial agents for any embodied agent. The obvious solution to this problem constitutes a form of representation, interactive representation, that is arguably the fundamental form of representation. More carefully, interactive representation satisfies a criterion for representation that no other model of representation in the literature can satisfy or even attempts to address: the possibility of systemdetectable representational error. It also resolves and avoids myriad other problematics of representation and integrates or opens the door to many additional mental processes and phenomena, such as motivation.
Upshot: The “Extended Mind Thesis” claims that cognitive processes are situated, embodied and goal-oriented actions that unfold in real world interactions with the immediate environment, cultural tools and other persons. The body and the “outside” world, undoubtedly, have a crucial influence, driving human beings’ cognitive processes. In his book, Andy Clark goes slightly further by claiming that the mind is often extended into the body and the world.
W. Ross Ashby was a founder of both cybernetics and general systems theory. His systems theory outlined the operational structure of models and observers, while his cybernetics outlined the functional architecture of adaptive systems. His homeostat demonstrated how an adaptive control system, equipped with a sufficiently complex repertoire of possible alternative structures, could maintain stability in the face of highly varied and challenging environmental perturbations. The device illustrates his ‘law of requisite variety’, i.e. that a controller needs at least as many internal states as those in the system being controlled. The homeostat provided an early example of how an adaptive control system might be ill-defined vis – vis its designer, nevertheless solve complex problems. Ashby ran into insurmountable difficulties when he attempted to scale up the homeostat, and consequently never achieved the general purpose, brainlike devices that he had initially sought. Nonetheless, the homeostat continues to offer useful insights as to how the large analogue, adaptive networks in biological brains might achieve stability.
An understanding of how cognition is realized or instantiated in a physical system, especially a body, may require or be required by an account of a system’s embedding in its environment, its dynamical properties, its (especially phylogenetic) history and (especially biological) function, and its nonrepresentational or noncomputational properties.