Does Cognition Need More than a Brain?

Posted 28 May 2006 at 02:13 UTC by steve Share This

A paper by Lambros Malafouris suggests that cognition extends beyond the brain into the body and even the culture. The paper, titled The Cognitive Basis of Material Engagement: Where Brain, Body, and Culture Conflate (PDF format), forms chapter 5 of the book Rethinking materiality: the engagement of mind with the material world. Malafouris suggests that the reason Grey Walter's turtle robots worked well in the 1950s while traditional AI largely failed to produce any results is because cognition must be formed by a brain-body-environment feedback loop. Traditional AI tried to isolate cognition as a "disembodied information processing ghost". Grey Walter's autonomous machina speculatrix was based less on Turing than on the cybernetic feedback ideas of Norbert Weiner. So we shouldn't be suprised that Walter's turtles exhibited the same emergent, cybernetic behaviors that biological life does.

Old news, but still interesting, posted 4 Jun 2006 at 14:25 UTC by togelius » (Journeyer)

These ideas are at least 50-60 years old, see for example Merleau-Ponty's "The phenomenology of perception". Andy Clark has produced a very readable book about the mind as spreading out into the world in "Natural born cyborgs". I think he is essentially right, which definitely has interesting consequences for robotics - for example about the need for more complicated environments for robots to operate in.

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