Wilson & Clark: How to Situate Cognition

[Readings] (08.20.08, 10:18 pm)

Understanding the idea of “situated cognition” by comparative terms. Concludes that definitive characteristic is *cognitive extension*. Embodied cognition is a continuation of this idea.

History of cognition: Individualistic cognition, mind alone, wedged between perception and action.
Approach also suggests that cognition takes place on the features of symbols, as opposed to features of the individuals themselves.
Significant works in the individualistic thread include Fodor, Pylyshyn, and Newell and Simon. Pure example is the Cyc project, which (as we know from Alison Adam) promotes a sort of “view from nowhere”, presenting a sort of assumed identity.

Putnam and Burg
e challenged individualistic perspective, leading to perspective of taxonomic externalism, and these have been extended to more radical theories of externalism. Externalism pushes the idea that cognition extends beyond the individual thinker, even past the flesh and into the environment. When externalism is first introduced, when cognition is pushed outside of the brain (or abstract symbol system) into the body, then it becomes a slippery slope to determine where the edge of cognition stops. This naturally leads to a diversity of conflicting theories.

Extended computation (or wide computationalism, which is a synonym), is not a severe departure from computation, but simply an extension thereof. These are ideas that look at computation as taking place spread across an environment, as opposed to inside the skull of the thinker. Computationalism is not incompatible with situated or extended cognition, but those rather extend from it.

Examples of extensions are bodily extensions, technology and prosthetics. Symbolic thinkers have also used the analogy of prosthetic, but emphasized the prosthesis of the mind, eg Vannevar Bush. This idea has been continued with Don Norman with the notion of affordance. This is described in Wilson and clark as “cognitive augmentation”. Part of the issue with this is how augmentation extends, but also restricts. Augmentation fits with the planning-oriented perception of the world, but stumbles when faced with the idea of expression or limitations (a hammer encourages you to think in terms of nails).

Social structures are mentioned. A crucial example is writing (in terms of cognitive supplement).

An example given is the “task specific device” or TSD. This is something that exists either in the environment or in the actor, and is used to enable certain types of action. Like the case with prosthetics, it promotes an instrumental and intentional model of behavior. Related to TSDs are “transient extended cognitive systems” or TECSs, which seem to be ways of approaching cognition on a per-context basis. The idea of the TECS is similar to the tool oriented approach, but seems to be much more flexible and free-form.

Looking at the boundary between cognition and non-cognition. An argument against extended cognition is the “Dogma of Intrinsic Unsuitability”, which states “Certain kinds of encoding or processing are intrinsically unsuitable to act as parts of the material/computational substrate of any genuinely cognitive state or process”. At odds with Intrinsic Unsuitability is the “Tenet of Computational Promiscuity”, which is the property of computation to spread out across many parts of mind and body.

Another challenge to extended cognition is embedded cognition, which claims that cognition is embedded in things external to the body. One idea in this is memory. Other ideas are the confusion associated with examining changing thinker+tool combinations as cognitive subjects. The authors dispute this because embedding implies heirarchy and order which is missing in application.

Reading Info:
Author/EditorClark, Andy and Wilson, Robert
TitleHow to Situate Cognition: Letting Nature Take its Course
ContextGives a background and argument towards extended cognition. This notion is very useful for rationalizing contextualized situational behavior in AI based agents, expecially relating to the believability of The Sims, etc.
Tagsai, embodiment
LookupGoogle Scholar

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.