Publication 2329

Asaro P. (2008) From mechanisms of adaptation to intelligence amplifiers: the philosophy of W. Ross Ashby. In: Husbands P., Holland O. & Wheeler M. (eds.) The mechanical mind in history. MIT Press, Cambridge MA: 149–184. Fulltext at http://cepa.info/2329
This chapter sketches an intellectual portrait of W. Ross Ashby’s thought from his earliest work on the mechanisms of intelligence in 1940 through the birth of what is now called artificial intelligence (AI), around 1956, and to the end of his career in 1972. It begins by examining his earliest published works on adaptation and equilibrium, and the conceptual structure of his notions of the mechanisms of control in biological systems. In particular, it assesses his conceptions of mechanism, equilibrium, stability, and the role of breakdown in achieving equilibrium. It then proceeds to his work on refining the concept of “intelligence,” on the possibility of the mechanical augmentation and amplification of human intelligence, and on how machines might be built that surpass human understanding in their capabilities. Finally, the chapter considers the significance of his philosophy and its role in cybernetic thought.

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