Sunday, February 13, 2011

The mechanics of embodiment: a dialog on embodiment and computational modeling

I tend to think that any effort to create a computational model of consciousness, especially embodied consciousness, is doomed to failure - the reasons for my position comes down to a difference in how one defines consciousness. I believe that consciousness is both extended (as proposed and elaborated by Andy Clark, among others) and culturally embedded (as proposed and elaborated by Kenneth Gergen in his social constructionist model).

On the other hand, there are a lot of neuroscientists who believe that we simply need to create a computational model that can incorporate "sensorimotor grounding as intrinsic to cognitive processes." They believe that consciousness is simply a function of brain/body activity, as though the organism exists in a vacuum and is not shaped and changed by its environment, both physical and socio-cultural.

While they might be able to do this, and doing so would get them closer to a computational model of consciousness, it will never be able to incorporate the infinite variables that would come with the extended mind and socially constructed mind models.

That is my disclaimer - now to the paper. The whole paper is open access and available at the link below.

The mechanics of embodiment: a dialog on embodiment and computational modeling

Embodied theories are increasingly challenging traditional views of cognition by arguing that conceptual representations that constitute our knowledge are grounded in sensory and motor experiences, and processed at this sensorimotor level, rather than being represented and processed abstractly in an amodal conceptual system. Given the established empirical foundation, and the relatively underspecified theories to date, many researchers are extremely interested in embodied cognition but are clamoring for more mechanistic implementations. What is needed at this stage is a push toward explicit computational models that implement sensorimotor grounding as intrinsic to cognitive processes. In this article, six authors from varying backgrounds and approaches address issues concerning the construction of embodied computational models, and illustrate what they view as the critical current and next steps toward mechanistic theories of embodiment. The first part has the form of a dialog between two fictional characters: Ernest, the “experimenter,” and Mary, the “computational modeler.” The dialog consists of an interactive sequence of questions, requests for clarification, challenges, and (tentative) answers, and touches the most important aspects of grounded theories that should inform computational modeling and, conversely, the impact that computational modeling could have on embodied theories. The second part of the article discusses the most important open challenges for embodied computational modeling.

Full Citation:
Pezzulo G, Barsalou LW, Cangelosi A, Fischer MH, McRae K and Spivey MJ. (2011, Jan. 4). The mechanics of embodiment: a dialog on embodiment and computational modeling. Frontiers in Psychology, 2:5. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00005

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