Affiliation: Dept. of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science. UNED, Madrid, Spain
Title: The arrival of the Smartest: in favour of a pluralistic account of the evolution of cognition
Abstract: The turn of the millennium has brought novel and fecund theories in the areas of both evolutionary biology and of philosophy of mind. In the former, the preponderant role of selection in evolution has been challenged, and alternative mechanisms have been proposed as sources of novelties. In the latter, the representational theories of mind have been criticised for being unable to explain all aspects of human cognition, that is often inter-dependent on active external resources. The extensions of classical theories in both areas better capture the complex and interwoven realities of life and mind. Nevertheless, novel theories of mind often justify the appearance and fixation of cognitive abilities in terms of adaptation, and pluralistic accounts of evolution often recur to classical representational theories of mind. In this talk, I advocate for the integration of non-adaptationist and non-cognitivist hypothesis, as I believe such an integration could benefit our comprehension of what cognition is and how cognition evolved. In the first section, I discuss the novel approaches in theory of mind that go beyond the traditional view of cognition as the processing of representations taking place within the neural connections of a computer-like brain, e.g. : theories of ‘embodied’ cognition interpret cognition as an ability distributed among brain, body and environment; externalist positions (also known as embedded) grant an active role in cognition to the environment; in the extended mind hypothesis, the frontiers between brain, body and physical and cultural environment disappear with regards to cognitive states and processes, as all these elements are inter-linked through systemic relationships. I then review the criticisms to the adaptationist idea that selection is a necessary and sufficient condition for the appearance of novel phenotypic traits, and I briefly introduce some of the proposals of non-adaptationist sources of variation, sometimes collected under the name of Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES). I finally analyse some of the accounts of evolution of cognition available in the literature. The majority of them still relays on a pure adaptationist approach, although they have difficulties to demonstrate that there were differences in cognitive abilities among our remote ancestors, that these differences were heritable, and that they ensured a fitness advantage among individuals of the species, and not between species. Non-selective hypotheses avoid these critical issues because they often offer mechanistic and not historical accounts. I conclude stressing that there seems to be little communication between the new frontiers of evolutionary biology and of philosophy of mind: most evolutionary accounts in the philosophy of mind still follow the adaptationist paradigm, while the cognitivist-representational paradigm still reigns in evolutionary biology. We start thinking that intelligence is not just problem-solving, and that evolution is not just, in Darwin’s word, war of nature, famine and death. Merging our investigations about ‘who the smartest is’ and ‘where the smartest arrived from’ into a unified approach could greatly improve our understanding of both what cognition is and how it evolved.
Affiliation: International Research Area on the Foundations of the Sciences, Pontifical Lateran university of Rome
Title: Bodily Processing: What Progress Has Been Made in Understanding the Embodiment of Computing Systems?
Abstract: In the last two decades we are witnessing the arrested acceleration of microprocessor computing power: considering current solid-state physics, “by 2020 the speed, spatial scale, circuit size, energy dissipation, and manufacturing economics required by Moore’s scaling law for digital technology are not sustainable” (Crutchfield, Ditto, & Sinha 2010). In this context the research area of unconventional computing has emerged with the aim of developing models of computation that can provide outputs that are not Turing computable, simulating a broad class of complex dynamical systems (Calude 2015). Inter-sectorial research fields such as natural computing and morphological computing are promoting not only new technical solutions but also a radical rethinking of what it means for a physical system to store and process information (Rozenberg et al. 2012; Müller, & Hoffmann 2017; Properzi 2018). In this paper I will provide an overview of the theoretical state-of-the-art in morphological computing starting from the analysis of two recent cases, i.e., the cell-mediated re-modelling of the curvature in artificial corneas produced with a 3D-bioprinting technique (Isaacson, Swioklo, & Connon 2018) and the control structure in soft polymer microactuators (Tyagi, Pan, & Jager 2019). I will focus on the computational notion of “form” (morphé), namely the information exchanges embodied in the matter-energy exchanges of the physical body: my aim is to show how, within the emerging framework of digital humanism (https://www.informatik.tuwien.ac.at/dighum/wpcontent/uploads/2019/07/Vienna_Manifesto_on_Digital_Humanism_EN.pdf), this notion can be interpreted from the point of view of a phenomenological theory of the embodied cognition (Properzi 2019a-b). References Calude, C.S. (2015). Unconventional Computing: A Brief Subjective History. CDMTCS Report, 480, 1-10. Crutchfield, J.P., Ditto, W.L., & Sinha, S. (2010). Introduction to Focus Issue: Intrinsic and Designed Computation: Information Processing in Dynamical Systems-Beyond the Digital Hegemony. Chaos, 20, 037101. Isaacson, A., Swioklo, S., & Connon, C.J. (2018). 3D Bioprinting of a Corneal Stroma Equivalent. Experimental Eye Research, 173, 188-193. Müller, V.C., & Hoffmann, M. (2017). What Is Morphological Computation? On How the Body Contributes to Cognition and Control. Artificial Life, 23, 1-24. Properzi, M. (2018). On the Role of Quantum Computing in Grounding Morphological Complexity. International Journal of Current Advanced Research, 7(9), 15444-15448. Properzi, M. (2019a). The Constitutive Role of Corporality in the Era of Computing as a Natural Science, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Phänomenologische Forschung 2019 essay prize (2nd place). Properzi, M. (2019b). Corpo vissuto ed esperienza virtuale. Una prospettiva fenomenologica. Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia. In press. Rozenberg, G. et al. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of Natural Computing. Berlin-Heidelberg: Springer. Tyagi, M., Pan, J., & Jager, E.W.H. (2019). Novel Fabrication of Soft Microactuators with Morphological Computing Using Soft Lithography. Nature Microsystems & Nanoengineering, 5, 4. Werthner, H. et al. (2019). Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism. URL: https://www.informatik.tuwien.ac.at/dighum/wpcontent/uploads/2019/07/Vienna_Manifesto_on_Digital_Humanism_EN.pdf.