Photos from the conference: an unqualified success.
Photos from the conference: an unqualified success.
Today marks the start of the Cosmos & Taxis conference to launch the associated journal. In attendance will be philosophers, economists, political scientists, sociologists, English profs, complexity theorists, computer scientists, urban geographers and more besides from North America, the Far East, Australasia, and Europe. Please consider submitting a paper, a review or discussion piece to C&T – it is an open access but fully referred journal, and given the nature of the subject matter, is very ecumenical. To keep apprised of developments, see the C&T Facebook page.
This from the WSJ
“The Road to Serfdom.” Hayek’s book, he explains, was originally translated into Chinese in 1962 as “an ‘internal reference’ for top leaders,” meaning it was forbidden fruit to everyone else. Only in 1997 was a redacted translation made publicly available, complete with an editor’s preface denouncing Hayek as “not in line with the facts,” and “conceptually mixed up.”
May 25, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Austrian School, complexity, distributed knowledge, Economics, Extended Mind, Friedrich Hayek, Road to Serfdom, social epistemology, Spontaneous order, Yang Jisheng hayek
Eliot’s intro and first section to his paper:
Human cognition mostly takes place in the context of other people. This is true in two ways. First, if we consider the immediate context of other people who are physically present, they may influence or even help constitute an individual’s cognition by providing information, agreeing or disagreeing, being part of a group decision-making process, etc. (Tollefsen, 2006 and Wegner, 1986). And as a broader context, the group memberships and socially defined identities that make each of us who we are (e.g. an American, a professor, a father) both motivate and potentially bias our cognition as we move through our lives. As Clancey (1997, p. 366) put it, the “overarching content of thought is not…[descriptions or symbolic representations of states of the world], but coordination of an identity” in a social context. If I sit alone in my office working on a paper for publication, my actions are nevertheless socially shaped, for they ultimately reflect socially defined identities and goals (e.g. to write an interesting paper; to win the approval of professional colleagues; to be a successful researcher; to earn a living for myself and my family). Indeed, a pure case of individual (nonsocial) cognition – cognition that is independent not only from immediate social influences but also from the individual’s network of social relationships, group memberships, and self-identities – is difficult to even imagine.
The field of social psychology has as its defining focus such social influences on individual cognition, affect, and behavior, in both forms (the immediate social context, and the larger web of relationships and identities that shape the individual). Thus, this special issue on situated/embodied/distributed perspectives on social cognition addresses issues that are central to the field of social psychology. For this reason it is interesting to note that these emerging perspectives have actually been introduced to the field only recently (e.g. Barsalou et al., 2003, Semin and Smith, 2002, Semin and Smith, in press and Smith and Semin, 2004) – as much as a decade or two after they were initially advanced within artificial intelligence and cognitive science (Brooks, 1986/1999, Clancey, 1997 and Clark, 1997). However, as argued elsewhere in more detail (Smith & Semin, 2004), despite its recent onset, the integration of situated/embodied/distributed perspectives with the substantive concerns of social psychology is likely to be extraordinarily fruitful, even revolutionary in many respects. The reason is that the merger of these new perspectives, which have mostly been applied to improve our understanding of individual cognition and adaptive behavior, and the emphasis of social psychology on the centrality of the social context of behavior, opens up new vistas for conceptual and theoretical exploration.
This article addresses the intersection of embodied and distributed cognition, a focus that holds special interest from the viewpoint of social psychology. We can conceptualize this intersection in three ways. The first point is simply what these perspectives have in common: both seek to extend our conception of cognition beyond information processing performed by the brain, to include the body and sensory-motor systems (embodied cognition) as well as other bodies and minds (distributed cognition). Second, the principle of embodiment has to date been applied mostly to understanding individual functioning (e.g. the role of motor representations in language comprehension). Adding a distributed cognition perspective suggests that embodiment also has implications beyond the level of the individual, for example with regard to interpersonal cooperation or relationships. Third, socially distributed cognition, such as group problem-solving, has mostly been conceptualized as involving abstract, amodal information processing. But adding the embodiment perspective calls attention to potential embodied influences on group interaction and collective cognition. In fact, it can be argued that an important function of embodiment is to externalize cognitive processes so they can influence and be influenced by others. For example, if someone looks puzzled and scratches his head when trying without success to solve a puzzle or retrieve some information from memory, it may cue others to jump in and offer suggestions or help. If cognition was disembodied – implemented purely by inner computation processes lacking any external signs – distributing cognition across a group of people would be much more difficult.
This paper will discuss two areas within the intersection of the embodiment principle and distributed cognition. First, there are embodied aspects of social relationships as well as of individual-level cognition, and some preliminary evidence is now available on this point. Second, we will examine some general properties of socially distributed cognition (e.g. group problem-solving) in comparison to individual-level cognition. Research in this area has only begun to examine embodiment effects, but we will suggest some relevant possibilities.
1. Embodiment of social relationships
The principle of embodiment has typically been applied in an effort to understand individual-level functioning. For example, research addresses how the physical properties of muscles and limbs ease demands for neural control in locomotion (e.g. Thelen & Smith, 1994) or how multimodal representations of concepts enable language comprehension (e.g. Barsalou, 1999). A broader look at the embodiment concept includes examination of how aspects of social functioning – specifically, social relationships – are signaled and regulated by embodied cues.
The most directly relevant framework for addressing this topic is the relational models theory developed by Fiske (2004), a cognitive anthropologist. Fiske holds that there are four fundamental types of social relationships. Communal sharing (CS) describes a relationship where people focus on what they have in common and share resources as needed; it is typically found between close kin, and among members of cohesive groups, clans, etc. Authority ranking (AR) describes relationships structured by ordered differences in power or status; they are typically found in workplaces and other hierarchical social institutions, and also in many cases between parents and children. Two other types of relationships are argued to be historically more recent developments, and we will have little to say about these. Equality matching (EM) describes equal sharing or tit-for-tat exchange relationships, and market pricing (MP) involves the exchange of goods using assigned values.
Fiske’s work (2004) includes detailed accounts, supported by anthropological evidence across numerous cultures, of the types of embodied cues that are associated with each of these four relationship types. Specifically, CS relationships are said to be embodied by sharing substances such as food, physical closeness and touch, and synchronized bodily movements; AR relationships are embodied by differences in size or vertical position in space. It is valuable to think of these embodiment hypotheses in terms of Barsalou’s (1999) Perceptual Symbol System model, which holds that conceptual knowledge is represented by abstracted and generalized perceptual experiences that can be simulated (partially re-enacted) in context-sensitive ways. Barsalou’s model goes beyond the idea that we use bodily metaphors for types of social relationships, holding instead that perceptual experiences of physical closeness or synchrony or of differences in size or height partially constitute our concepts of relational closeness or differences in power or authority.
May 19, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Cognition, Cognitive neuroscience, Cognitive science, collective intentionality, complexity, distributed knowledge, Eliot R. Smith, Embodied cognition, Extended Mind, Externalism, group rationality, philosophical psychology, Philosophy of mind, social externalism, Social psychology, Socially distributed cognition, Stigmergy extended mind, externalism
A survey of swarming, a sub-topic of complexity. No mention of stigmergy though.
Born on this day in 1899. It’s to analytical (social) epistemology’s (and philosophy of mind’s) impoverishment and shame that Hayek is not that well-known beyond the tiresome caricatures. For all my Hayekana see here. The featured image was very generously given to me by the highly exceptional Walt Weimer.
May 8, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Austrian School, complexity, consciousness, distributed cognition, distributed knowledge, Economics, Friedrich Hayek, philosophical psychology, Philosophy of mind, philosophy of social science, Political philosophy, Psychology, Sensory Order, social epistemology, Social Sciences, Spontaneous order, Stigmergy hayek
I’ve decided to dust off some of the papers from a themed issue that I co-edited five years ago since I happen to be very much in “extended mind” mode just now. First up is Larry Shapiro – below is his into; here is his abstract.
Where are minds? For most people the answer to this question is obvious: the mind is in the head. The tough questions about minds typically concern how the physical stuff in the head produces minds. Surprisingly, however, there is growing controversy among psychologists and philosophers over how to answer the first question I asked. Traditional cognitive scientists (henceforth cognitivists) continue to defend the obvious answer. Researchers in the area of extended cognition (henceforth extended cognitivists) have urged a different answer. According to extended cognitivists, the mind’s location is only partly in the head. In addition, extended cognitivists have argued, the mind is located in parts of the world outside the body.
Clearly there is much at stake in this dispute. If extended cognitivists are right, there is much about psychology that is wrong. Cognitive neuroscience, for instance, would have been grounded in the false belief that all cognitive processes emerge somehow from neural processes. Computational psychologists would have to look beyond the brain to specify in full the implementation of algorithmic processes that previously had been thought to occur only in the head. Studies of psychopathologies could not limit themselves to an investigation of brain disorders.
Moreover, the possibility of extended cognition suggests new lines of research within the domain of social cognition. If minds extend, the boundaries that define the units of social interaction become less certain. Perhaps minds overlap. If, as some extended cognitivists believe, features of the environment comprise parts of a cognitive system, then a single piece of the world might constitute a piece of distinct cognitive systems. More dramatically, perhaps parts of a mind of one individual may be located within the mind of another. Insofar as extended cognition can make such possibilities plausible, social psychologists will need to re-interpret the nature of social interaction, will need to re-examine how the motivations and emotions of a single agent can influence an extended cognitive system, and so on.
Perhaps more seriously, if minds are extended then our ordinary ways of describing and thinking about human beings must undergo dramatic revision. We might have to learn to make sense of claims like “Welch accidentally left his memory on the bus,” or “Dixon stubbed his mind on his way to work this morning.” To traditionalist ears, both these claims sound like category mistakes, as in this example from Gilbert Ryle: “she came home in a flood of tears and a sedan-chair” (1949, p. 22). Just as floods of tears and sedan-chairs belong to distinct logical categories whose combination is jarring, the re-conception of minds that extended cognition promotes is likely to strike many as at least unnerving and quite possibly incoherent.
Of course, the possibility of extended minds must rest on a theory of mind. By this I mean that talk of extended minds can make sense only given various assumptions about what minds are. For instance, if one thought that minds are identical to brains – that mental properties are identical to neural properties – then the claims of extended cognition could be rejected outright. Grounding extended cognition must be a theory of mind that is consistent with the possibility of extended minds. This point may make one wonder whether the dispute between cognitivists and extended cognitivists is in fact a dispute over theories of mind. If so, this would be disappointing. The controversy is interesting only insofar as its participants share a view about what minds are but disagree over how to draw the mind’s boundaries.
Fortunately, many involved in the dispute seem committed to a common theory of mind, viz. functionalism. From the perspective of functionalism, mental states are identical to particular functional roles. Agreement about this lets the controversy over extended cognition take place at the appropriate level: the dispute can now focus on where minds are given a common assumption about what minds are.
Unfortunately, or so I shall argue, functionalism is the wrong perspective from which to judge the merits of the extended cognition program. Indeed, commitment to functionalism makes arguments for or against extended cognition too easy. Consequently, the decision regarding the mind’s extent must take place against the backdrop of non-functionalist considerations.
In the first part of this chapter I show how functionalism has been used to support a case for extended cognition. I then consider an argument that tries to drive a wedge between functionalism and extended mind. Although this argument is compelling, I next present what I take to be a more significant barrier to those who use functionalism to motivate extended cognition. More specifically, I argue that functionalism is ill-equipped to answer a boundary problem that confronts decisions about the extent of a property’s realization. Because functionalism cannot solve the boundary problem, I conclude that any principled assessment of extended cognition must rest in part on non-functionalist grounds. Before starting on these tasks, however, I must say something about the content of functionalism.
May 6, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Cognition, Cognitive neuroscience, Cognitive science, cognitive systems, consciousness, distributed knowledge, Embodied cognition, Extended Mind, Externalism, functionalism, Gilbert Ryle, larry shapiro, philosophical psychology, Philosophy of mind, Psychology, social cognition, Theory of mind functionalism
April 24, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Artificial intelligence, Brain, Cognition, Cognitive neuroscience, Cognitive science, complexity, consciousness, David Chalmers, distributed knowledge, Embodied cognition, Extended Mind, Externalism, neuroscience, philosophical psychology, Philosophy of mind, Psychology, qualia, Stuart Hameroff consciousness
My chum Byron Kaldis’ big project has been brought to fruition. Bravo! My contribution: Hayek and the “Use of Knowledge in Society”. As you will see there is a terrific lineup – this is an exciting area to be in these days what with CogSci meeting social science – another project of Byron’s in the works.
April 16, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Austrian School, Byron Kaldis, cognitive closure, distributed cognition, distributed knowledge, Economics, Externalism, Friedrich Hayek, Hayek, Individualism, Liberalism, Philosophy of mind, philosophy of social science, rationalism, situated cognition, social epistemology, Social science, Spontaneous order hayek
Still on Hayek. Having just received my copy, I thought I’d give it another plug. My chapter Mindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension is in this collection. The full line-up as follows:
Foreword; V. Smith
Introduction; R. Frantz & R. Leeson
Friedrich Hayek’s Behavioural Economics in Historical Context; R. Frantz
A Hayekian/Kirznerian Economic History of the Modern World; D. McCloskey
Was Hayek an Austrian Economist? Yes and No. Was Hayek a Praxeologist? No.; W. Block
Error is Obvious, Coordination is the Puzzle; P. Boettke, W. Caceres & A. Martin
Hayek’s Contribution to a Reconstruction of Economic Theory; H. Gintis
On the Relationships Between Friedrich Hayek and Jean Piaget; C. Chelini & S. Riva
Cognitive Autonomy and Epistemology of Action in Hayek’s and Merleau-Ponty’s Thought; F. Di Iorio
Hayek’s Sensory Order, Gestalt Neuroeconomics, and Quantum Psychophysics; T. Takahashi & S. Egashira
Mindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension; L. Marsh
Hayek’s Complexity Assumption, Ecological and Bounded Rationality, and Behavioural Economics; M. Altman
Subjectivism and Explanations of the Principle; S. Fiori
Satisficing and Cognition; Complementarities between Simon and Hayek; P. Earl
The Oversight of Behavioural Economics on Hayek’s Insight; S. Rizzello & A. Spada
Complexity and Degeneracy in Socio-Economic Systems; G. Steel & H. Hosseini
April 7, 2013 0 Comments Short URL Austrian School, Bounded Rationality, Cognitive science, complexity, consciousness, distributed knowledge, Economics, Embodied cognition, Epistemology, Extended Mind, Externalism, Friedrich Hayek, Herbert Simon, Philosophy of mind, Political philosophy, Psychology, Sensory Order, Spontaneous order hayek