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Extensive enactivism: why keep it all in?

This open access from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Radical enactive and embodied approaches to cognitive science oppose the received view in the sciences of the mind in denying that cognition fundamentally involves contentful mental representation. This paper argues that the fate of representationalism in cognitive science matters significantly to how best to understand the extent of cognition. It seeks to establish that any move away from representationalism toward pure, empirical functionalism fails to provide a substantive “mark of the cognitive” and is bereft of other adequate means for individuating cognitive activity. It also argues that giving proper attention to the way the folk use their psychological concepts requires questioning the legitimacy of commonsense functionalism. In place of extended functionalism—empirical or commonsensical—we promote the fortunes of extensive enactivism, clarifying in which ways it is distinct from notions of extended mind and distributed cognition.

Radicalizing-Enactivism

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Extended cognition and the explosion of knowledge

Penultimate version.

The aim of this article is to show that externalist accounts of cognition such as Clark and Chalmers’ (1998) “active externalism” lead to an explosion of knowledge that is caused by online resources such as Wikipedia and Google. I argue that externalist accounts of cognition imply that subjects who integrate mobile Internet access in their cognitive routines have millions of standing beliefs on unexpected issues such as the birth dates of Moroccan politicians or the geographical coordinates of villages in southern Indonesia. Although many externalists propose criteria for the bounds of cognition that are designed to avoid this explosion of knowledge, I argue that these criteria are flawed and that active externalism has to accept that information resources such as Wikipedia and Google constitute extended cognitive processes.

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Swarm and Fuzzy

Stigmergy gets a bit of a mention in Newsweek.

Swarms often work by “stigmergy,” a term coined by French biologist Pierre-Paul Grassé in 1959 to describe termite behavior. He defined it as “the stimulation of workers by the performance they have achieved.” It has come to mean a mark left in the environment. Think of stigmergic marks as road signs: A termite makes a ball of mud laced with pheromones (chemicals that affect behavior through smell) and puts it down. The next mud-ball-making termite that happens along smells the first, makes its own ball and adds it to the pile. Millions of balls later, a hollow mud spire stands 8 feet tall, as outlandish as the towers of Turkey’s Cappadocia region—a magnificent termite-apartment complex.

Each individual in a swarm acts seemingly at random—scientists term this “stochastic”—yet as a group a swarm is amazingly focused, coherent and logical.

Translating nature to math can be staggeringly difficult.

Check out a preview of Francis Heylighen’s paper for Ted and my forthcoming Human Stigmergy: Theoretical Developments and New Applications, Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics. Springer.

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