Monday, March 23, 2009

Cognitive science: The glad, sad, mad computer - or anyway, merry chrysanthemum!

As Joseph Dumit (STS, University of California Davis) will tell it tomorrow at York University tomorrow (Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 12h30 - 14h0), Paul A. Delaney Gallery (320 Bethune College):
True Demons of Cognition: When Computers were Glad, Sad, and Mad yet Logical; or, a Brief History of Experimental Epistemology at the End of Cognitive Science

This talk proposes that we are approaching the limits of a cognitive neuroscience approach that adopts a too-simple model of circuits to account for emotions, pathology, meditation, and subjectivity. During the 1950s and ‘60s, experimentation with circuits co-produced computers, cognitive psychology, cybernetics, psychiatry, anthropology and psychoanalysis, with sometimes disturbing results. This work valued circuits for their innate, pathological irrationality, and for the way in which they portrayed time (subjective, logical, existential and even psychoanalytic) as something that fed back into a better understanding of the wiliness of machines. Such conceptions of time, however, proved short-lived. They were erased, curiously, by the advent of a cognitive psychology that took computers as models of (human) rationality, and which subsequently generated an image of computers as taken-for-granted objects, completely understood.
I am not sure what any of this means. The human brain is nothing like a computer, and efforts to make it appear so are efforts at creating illusions. I have long thought that the brain is more like an ocean, in the sense that you can drop down a probe, and turn up something you never expected. And every brain is different, so there are billions of oceans out there. A research heaven, if only the researcher were immortal.

Merry Chysanthemum? Oh, that's the computer's first Christmas card. Gives you some idea what to expect.

See also:

Mind: Yet another effort to explain to materialists why minds are not like computers; Getting computers to pretend to converse is an extremely hard computational problem; Artificial intelligence: Conversing with computers or with their programmers?; Computers: Most engineers must have that they themselves are not robots; Artificial intelligence: A look at things that neither we nor our computers can discover; Can a conscious mind be built out of software?; Mind vs. meat vs. computers - the differences; Let the machine read your mind (We offer an installment plan!); Mind-computer blend: Who believes in this?; Artificial intelligence: Making the whole universe intelligent?; Brain cells release information more widely than previously thought.

(Note: Thanks much to kind PayPal donors. As media move online, it is best to support the news you want to see. - Denyse)

Hat tip: The Sheepcat

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