Image 01

Posts Tagged ‘Embodiment’

On the role of embodiment in the emergence of cognition

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Rolf Pfeifer
AI Lab,
University of Zürich,
Switzerland

Traditionally, in robotics, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience, there has been a focus on the study of the control or the neural system itself. Recently there has been an increasing interest into the notion of embodiment in all disciplines dealing with intelligent behavior, including psychology, philosophy, and linguistics. In an embodied perspective, cognition is conceived as emergent from the interaction of brain, body, and environment, or more generally from the relation between physical and information (neural, control) processes. It can be shown, and this is one of the underlying assumptions of the eSMC project, that through the embodied interaction with the environment, in particular through sensory-motor coordination, information structure is induced in the sensory data, thus facilitating categorization, perception and learning. The patterns thus induced depend jointly on the morphology, the material characteristics, the action and the environment. Because biological systems are mostly “soft”, a new engineering discipline, “soft robotics”, has taken shape over the last few years. I will discuss the far-reaching implications of embodiment, in particular of having a soft body, on our view of the mind and human behavior in general: Cognition is no longer centralized in the brain, but distributed throughout the organism, functionality is “outsourced” to morphological and material properties of the organism, which requires an understanding of processes of self-organization. Because in “soft” systems part of the functionality is in the morphology and materials, there is no longer a clear separation between control and the to-be-controlled, which implies that we need to fundamentally re-think the notion of control. The ideas will all be illustrated with case studies from biology — humans and animals — and robotics and will be summarized as a set of four “message” for embodied systems.

Rolf Pfeifer: “On the role of embodiment in the emergence of cognition” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Discussion: Brain, body and world

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Reply here to provide your challenge to the speakers of the fourth day’s general discussion. This should take the form of: i) a tweet-like question (maximum of 144 characters) and ii) a follow up explanation, abstract or set of bullet points with a minimum of 150 words and maximum of 300, in the following format:

Group Name
Short description of challenge in bold
Content of the summary or abstract or bullet points

 

Mind in life and life in mind

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Evan Thompson
Department of Philosophy,
University of Toronto,
Canada

The guiding idea of this talk is that living is sense-making in precarious conditions. The guiding question is whether living, so understood, is necessary for mind. Along the way I will review some of the main concepts of the enactive approach — autonomy, autopoiesis, sense-making, enaction — highlighting important advances and findings since the proposal of the enactive approach in The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch, 1991). Attention will also be given to related developments, such as neurophenomenology, and to the broad philosophical question about the relationship between lived experience and the scientific study of lived experience — the motivating and animating question of The Embodied Mind.

(Revised) presentation slides (ppt)

Evan Thompson: “Mind in life and life in mind” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Michael Wheeler
Department of Philosophy,
University of Stirling,
UK

Given the often impressive advances made by contemporary research within the embodied cognition paradigm, it is perhaps surprising that one of the most basic concepts that defines the field, namely that of embodiment itself, has not yet been articulated in a satisfactorily clear or precise manner. In an attempt to present the ‘state of the art’ with respect to this foundational issue, I shall begin by drawing a distinction between two broad notions of embodiment that are operative within embodied cognition research. According to the first notion, which I shall call implementational embodiment, the body is conceptualized as ‘no more than’ a bridge to new realizations of functionally specified cognitive architectures. To theorize in terms of implementational embodiment is to hold that the same mind might be embodied differently. According to the second notion of embodiment, which I shall call vital embodiment, bodily acts and structures make a nonsubstitutable contribution to cognition, with the precise nature of that contribution determined by certain local theoretical commitments and interests. To theorize in terms of vital embodiment is to hold that different bodies will think differently. Having positioned a number of alternative versions of embodied cognition research (e.g., enactivism, the extended mind) in relation to this distinction, I shall use the resulting analysis to say what kinds of considerations might lead us to choose between those alternatives. Finally, in a more speculative register, I shall endeavour to look to the future, by adapting and extending some work on embodiment from recent feminist phenomenological thinking in order to take us beyond the very distinction between implementational and vital materiality with which we began.

Presentation Slides [pptx]

Michael Wheeler: “Cognition at the crossroads: from embodied minds to thinking bodies” from eSMCs on Vimeo.

Discussion: Experience, embodiment, intersubjectivity

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Reply here to provide your challenge to the speakers of the third day’s general discussion. This should take the form of: i) a tweet-like question (maximum of 144 characters) and ii) a follow up explanation, abstract or set of bullet points with a minimum of 150 words and maximum of 300, in the following format:

Group Name
Short description of challenge in bold
Content of the summary or abstract or bullet points