dilluns, 31 de maig de 2010

nueva dirección/new address

Estimados amigos

He decidido trasladar este blog a uno compartido con más gente. Es el Intelligent Technologies Blog de la editorial IGI global. Así pues, a partir de ahora podéis seguir mis posts aqui aquí.


Dear friends

I finally decided to move my blog to another one, shared with more people. It is the Intelligent Technologies Blog of the IGI global Publishing House. So, from now on, you can find my posts here.

divendres, 30 d’octubre de 2009

Towards an Enactive Artificial Intelligence I

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be approached just with an engineering frame of mind, looking for algorithms that work, being able to solve a problem. However, one can settle to a philosophical one too, and consider AI a conceptual tool to get better insight on what the mind is and how it works. Within that frame of mind, just solving problems is not enough: we want our theory to have, to a certain degree, psychological reality. We want our model to embed some of the earthly properties that human minds have. Nowadays, discussion is mainly around three main models concerning what the mind is: symbolic cognitivism, connectionism and the embodied mind. II adhere to the third model; in particular, to a special branch of it usually known as "enactivism",which I plan to introduce in a short series.

Thousands of pages have already been written about the differences between these three mind models, and which is the superior one. To my understanding, despite their success in creating models on subjects like mathematical reasoning, face recognition, visual perception or even creating artworks, both the symbolic approach or the connectionist one have one major flaw which is of considerable philosophical importance: they can’t produce a credible account of the relationship between mind and world. Being local symbolic representations or distributed subsymbolic representations, both models are based on an abstract reconstruction of a specific domain of the physical world, both the selection and the way representations are connected to real life events and objects has been articulated beforehand by the cognitive system (Thompson 2007). Connectionism tries to generate a more plausible description of the mind, trying to better capture its neurological basis. That leads to a more dymanic account of representations: instead of being something stable, they are distributed along the whole system as well as self-organised, having certain sort of co-variation with the enviroment. However, both symbolic cognitivism and connectionism consider the world and the mind as two completely different entities, with a very much regulated protocol of interaction.

The embodied mind shares some characteristics with connectionism. It also proposes a self-organised system and it is based on a dynamic approach. However, in this approach dynamicism has been extended to the correspondence between mind and world. Instead of having a simple coordinated correspondence between symbols (or subsymbols) and real life objects, the embodied mind paradigm is based in a non-linear causality system in which by means of sensorimotor integrations, brain, body and enviroment are continuously influencing one another, making it impossible to separate the three into clear-cut parts. In order to have such a system, it is basic that the cognitive entity has some sort of “body” that can obtain continuous information from the real world in order to co-vary and co-adapt with it (Thompson 2007). This is why the paradigm we are discussing is usually called “the embodied mind”. First of all we need to avoid the tendence to interpret the concept of “embodied mind” in its weakest sense: that this, a mind needs a body. The embodied mind paradigm argues for something a lot stronger than that, mainly: mind is just the result of circular and continuous process of causality between brain activity, body and environment, with no possibilities to make a clear distinction among then, nor a chance to build a theoretical model in which mind can be described autonomously from body and environment. (Pfeifer and Iida, 2005).

The embodied mind paradigm is based on the following ideas (Varela, Thompson, Lutz, Rosch 1991):

1) Living beings are autonomous entities and are responsible for their own goals, they are not just settled from the outside.

2) The nervous system is also an autonomous entity, which takes care and is responsible of keeping its own coherent and meaningful patterns.

3) Cognition is the skillful know-how that co-varies with environment and how it evolves. Every cognitive action is both situated and embodied.

4) Cognitive processes are not formally prespecified, but relational domains continually coupling with the environment.

A large amount of the literature takes living beings as the main metaphor. In their seminal book, Varela et al (1991) developed most characteristics of their model by analysing the way cells behave and “represent” environment. Nevertheless this shouldn’t be considered a vitalist model, defending that only living beings can achieve real consciousness. Continuous coupling with the environment and self-established goals are the only requierements, as it is shown in the aforementioned book when Varela et al. argues in favour of how relevant Brooks’ robots are, presenting them as artificial systems that have some of the main characteristics of an embodied mind (Brooks 1991). In the next post I to show how the enactive approach can greatly improve current research in AI that also looks for psychological realism and relevance.


Brooks, R. A. (1991), “Intelligence without representation”, Artificial Intelligence, 47(1-3), pp. 139- 160
-- (1999) Cambrian Intelligence: The Early History of the New AI, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Pfeifer, R. and Iida, F. (2005). Morphological computation: Connecting body, brain and environment. Japanese Scientific Monthly, Vol. 58, No. 2, 48-54

Thompson, E. (2007) Mind in life, Cambrigde (Mass), Harvard University Press.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E. Lutz, A. Rosch, E. (1991) The embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human experience. Cambridge (Mass), MIT Press.

dijous, 19 de febrer de 2009

Listen to Evan Thompson

Thanks to the Upaya Zen Center you can download here a very enlightening talk by Philosopher and cognitive scientist Evan Thompson, in which he discusses relationships between complex systems theory, the phenomenology and neuroscience of consciousness, and the development of insight in meditative practice.

dilluns, 16 de febrer de 2009

CFP: Eastern though and cognitive scienes/ Pensamiento oriental y ciencias cognitivas


Special issue of the Philosophy Journal Enrahonar: Eastern Thought and Cognitive Science.

In recent years we have seen an explosion in the introduction of Eastern thought and its associated “disciplines” (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, yoga, meditation, etc.) in the development of philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences . Until recently, there was only a few studies on the subject and not all were so carefully developed. For example, we had studies on "meditation" without establishing what type of meditation technique was meant to be analyzed, working with volunteers with no experience on the subject, and so on. Things have changed; cognitive scientists increasingly understand the potential of models, theories, techniques, and experimental protocols that Eastern philosophy gives us to improve and expand our knowledge of the mind.
Realizing that this is the beginning of a change of paradigm, we have decided to dedicate a special issue of the Philosophy Journal Enrahonar, to be published in the first half of 2010, to discuss this issue. Here there is a list of priority issues, although we will also take into account other proposals related to Eastern thought and cognitive sciences that do not appear here.
The influence of Eastern thought in the historical development of the cognitive sciences.
Parallels between Eastern and Western philosophy concerning the study of the mind.
The mind/body problem from an Eastern philosophy point of view.
Use of Eastern based methodologies to obtain and analyze data in cognitive sciences.
The importance of first-person reports in the development of cognitive sciences.
Eastern models to understand the self and its use in current discussions on consciousness.
Analysis, testing and adaptation of Eastern philosophy thesis in a cognitive sciences context.
Philosophical consequences of the phenomenon of neuroplasticity.
Holistic vision of the mind.

Authors interested in participating in this special issue are invited to submit a one page abstract explaining objectives and scope of the paper. The selected authors will be invited to send the whole paper to be published in the first half of 2010
Authors may submit abstracts and articles in the following languages: English ,Spanish and Catalan.

Abstract proposals can be sent to david.casacuberta (at) uab.cat

Enrahonar is a Philosophy Journal published by the Philosophy Department of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain).

3-05-2009 Deadline for receipt of abstracts
15-05-2009 all participants are informed on the acceptance or rejection of the paper.
3-10-2009 deadline to deliver the final version of the article.


Número especial de la revista Enrahonar: Pensamiento Oriental y Ciencias Cognitivas.

En los últimos años hemos contemplado una verdadera explosión en la introducción del pensamiento oriental y sus disciplinas asociadas (budismo, taoísmo, hinduismo, yoga, meditación, etc.) en el desarrollo y objeto de estudio de la filosofía de la mente y las ciencias cognitivas. Hasta entonces, los pocos estudios que existían sobre la materia eran muy poco cuidadosos conceptualmente, desarrollando por ejemplo estudios sobre “meditación” sin establecer exactamente qué tipo de técnica meditativa se quería estudiar, trabajando con voluntarios sin verdadera experiencia en el tema, etc. Las cosas han cambiado; cada vez más científicos cognitivos entienden todo el potencial de modelos, teorías, así como de técnicas y protocolos experimentales que la filosofía oriental nos ofrece a la hora de mejorar y ampliar nuestro conocimiento de la mente.
Conscientes de este inicio de cambio de paradigma, hemos decidido dedicar un número especial de Enrahonar, para ser publicado en el primer semestre de 2010, a analizar esta cuestión. A continuación un listado de los temas prioritarios, aunque se tomarán también en consideración otras propuestas que relacionen pensamiento oriental y ciencias cognitivas que no aparezcan aquí.
La influencia del pensamiento oriental en el desarrollo histórico de las ciencias cognitivas.
Paralelismos entre la filosofía oriental y la occidental a la hora de estudiar la mente.
La relación cuerpo/mente desde la filosofía oriental.
El uso de metodologías orientales en los procesos de obtención y análisis de datos en las ciencias cognitivas.
La importancia de los informes en primera persona en el desarrollo de las ciencias cognitivas.
Modelos orientales de entender el yo y su uso en los debates actuales sobre la consciencia.
Análisis, comprobación y adaptación de tesis del pensamiento oriental desde las ciencias cognitivas.
Análisis filosóficos del fenómeno de la neuroplasticidad.
Visiones holísticas de la mente.

Los autores interesados en participar en este número especial están invitados a enviar un abstract de una página explicando los objetivos y alcance del artículo. A los autores seleccionados se les invitará a enviar el artículo completo que sería publicado en el primer semestre de 2010
Los autores pueden enviar sus abstracts y artículos en las siguientes lenguas: castellano, catalán e inglés.

Las propuestas de abstract pueden enviarse a david.casacuberta (at) uab.cat
Enrahonar es una revista de filosofía publicada por el Departamento de Filosofía de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (http://www.raco.cat/index.php/Enrahonar)


3-05-2009 Fecha límite para la recepción de abstracts
15-05-2009 Se informa de la aceptación o rechazo del artículo a todos los participantes
3-10-2009 Fecha límite de entrega de la versión final del artículo.

dimecres, 14 de gener de 2009

Neurophenomenology in 100 words/Neurofenomenología en 100 palabras

Neurophenomenology is a philosophical method which tries to understand the mind based on the following principles:
1) In order to understand mental activity first person reports can not be obviated. On the contrary, they are key in order to develop a proper understanding of mind. This would be the "phenomenology" part
2) Mental activity is not "software", is not just an abstract activity that can be reproduced in any media. You actually need a system that is "autopoietic", a system that is autonomous and fits its own goals, in order to have a mind.

La neurofenomenología es un método filosófico que intenta entender la mente basándose en los siguientes principios:
1) Para entender la actividad mental los informes en primera persona no pueden obviarse. Por el contrario, son clave a la hora de desarrollar una comprensión correcta de qué es la mente. Esta sería la parte de “fenomenología”.
2) La actividad mental no es software, no es una entidad abstracta que puede reproducirse en cualquier medio. Se necesita un sistema que sea “autopoiético”, un sistema que es autónomo y que se pone sus propias metas, para que podamos hablar de una mente.

divendres, 26 de desembre de 2008

Xmas First Person Time

In order to have better first person experiences during holidays, we keep this blog silent untill the 8th of january or so. Enjoy your Christmas and have a very neurophenomenological 2009!

Para poder tener mejores experiencias en primera persona durante las fiestas, vamos a mantener este blog en silencio hasta el 8 de enero o así. Pasad unas buenas navidades y que tengáis un 2008 bien neurofenomenológico.

dimecres, 17 de desembre de 2008

Getting things done the neurophenomenological way

David Allen is a guru on productividad, and he is world-known thanks to a coherent and practical system developed to organize ourselves and being really able to get things done. A key piece in his system is to avoid those loops like "I should be doing this instead of that" or "heck!, the deadline for that is only a week away..." "instead of playing with the PS3 I should replying to that email", and instead to organize everything in a system, in such a way that while we are working on something we can concentrate on that, because we know that this is exactly what we need to do, there is no need to do anything else instead.
I believe that a big deal of the success of Getting Things Done -tens, maybe hundres of thousands of people use his system around the world, some even swear for that book like it were the Bible- resides in the fact that it is not a pure analythical method, but looks forward to create a mental state instead. Allen refers to Zen and the idea of a "mind like water". However, the mind of a zen master is quite different from the mind of someone that just got her tasks into a GTD system, no doubt about it. Nevertheless, I think that Allen is putting the basic elements for a phenomenology of productivity. Being productive is not simple about having acces to rules to state to to arrange materials, a well sorted agenda. Being productive is -above all things- a mental state. As Allen argues in his book , we know that his method really works when we find ourselves in such a fantastic mental state of "I'm writting this post in the blog because there is nothing more urgent right now" or, even better, "I can still playing Spore another hour, because I've already done the things I had to do for today.

David Allen es un guru sobre productividad, mundialmente reconocido por un método coherente y práctico para organizarnos y conseguir realmente hacer las cosas. Una pieza clave de su método es salir de los loops del "debería hacer esto" ,"huy, si sólo queda una semana para que se acabe el plazo de..." "en lugar de estar jugando con la PS3 debería estar contestando ese mail..." y en lugar de eso tenerlo todo organizado en un sistema, de manera que mientras trabajamos en algo, podemos estar concentrados en ese algo, pues sabemos que ese algo es lo que toca hacer ahora mismo, no hace falta nada más.
Creo que buena parte del éxito de Getting Things Done -decenas, quizás centenares, de miles de personas usan su sistema en todo el mundo, algunas hasta juran por ese libro, como si fuera la Biblia- reside en que no es un método puramente cerebral sino que busca crear un estado mental. Allen apela al Zen y la idea de "la mente como agua". Sin duda el estado mental de un maestro zen es bastante diferente del que conseguimos una vez tenemos todas nuestras tareas metidas en un sistema GTD, pero sin duda Allen está apelando por una fenomenología de la productividad. Ser productivo no es simplemente disponer de reglas de ordenación de materiales, una agenda bien ordenada; ser productivo es sobre todo, un estado mental. Y como argumenta Allen en su libro, sabemos que el método realmente funciona cuando nos encontramos en ese estado mental tan fantástico de: "Estoy escribiendo este post en el blog porque no hay nada más urgente ahora mismo"o "todavía mejor, puedo seguir jugando a Spore una hora más porque hoy he hecho todo lo que tocaba hacer."