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Evolution and Cognition Minds and Machines. Neil deGrasse Tyson on Human Intelligence

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Presentation on theme: "Evolution and Cognition Minds and Machines. Neil deGrasse Tyson on Human Intelligence"— Presentation transcript:

1 Evolution and Cognition Minds and Machines

2 Neil deGrasse Tyson on Human Intelligence

3 Early Organisms: Perception and Action, but no Cognition SenseAct Environment Agent (No Brain)

4 Cognition SenseAct Environment Agent (Brain)

5 Next Step? Think! SenseAct Environment Agent (BRAIN!)

6 Wallace’s Paradox

7 One Possible Answer to Wallace’s Paradox: Exaptationism Our ancestors from a hundreds of thousand years ago *did* need big brains. –Social Brain Hypothesis: our ancestors increased social relationships to keep track of and reason about Later, all this brain power was put to a different use. –Mathematics –Science –Philosophy

8 Assumption: Intelligence is a Function of the Brain Common Idea: intelligence and cognition is a function of the brain –Bigger brains -> bigger intelligence/cognition –We also see this in phrenology In particular: ‘big’ or ’complex’ cognition (reasoning, logic, math, science, philosophy) requires ‘big’ brains. This may well be a mistaken view on cognition (e.g. about 1/3 of our brain is devoted just to vision!)

9 Sense, Plan (Think), Act Cognition SenseAct Environment Agent (brain)

10 Situated Cognition Situated (or Embodied) Cognition is the view that we have to take into account the body and the environment in trying to explain, and think about, cognition. Situated cognition objects to the classical ‘Sense, Plan, Act’ model of cognition, which many cognitive scientists, most AI researchers, have assumed in their view of cognition: Instead, Situated Cognition proponents say, perception and action are integral to cognition.

11 Catching a Fly Ball

12 Copying Blocks Experiment OriginalCopy Bins Task: Subjects have to make a copy of the configuration of blocks on the left by ‘grabbing’ individual blocks from the bins at the bottom and placing them on the right

13 Results Blocks Experiment The finding was that subjects would look at the original, then select a block, then look back at the original, and finally place the block. On the traditional view of cognition, the third step would be a surprise. But, on the situated view, it makes sense.

14 ‘Epistemic moves’: Moves that are not part of a solution, but help find one Rotating Slamming

15 No Opposable Thumbs …

16 The World as External Memory Situated Cognition people say that the brain often uses the environment as a kind of ‘external memory’. Examples: –Taking apart your computer: how do you lay down the pieces to get it back together? –Notes you write to yourself –Planners, calendars, cellphones, laptops

17 Language: Our Best Tool? Language seems to be an especially powerful tool that we use to enhance our cognitive abilities: –Expressions of language can be used to represent information and thus serve as external memory (see examples before) –Expressions of language can be manipulated and thus reasoning and decision-making can take place (logic, mathematics, science)

18 Cultural Evolution: Memes Once culture is in place, cultural evolution can work on components of cognition. For example, such cognitive ‘building blocks’ as concepts or ideas, but also fashions and values can be passed from organism to organism, where they ‘compete’ for existence (certain ideas strike us as better ones than others’, and can get mutated or combined with others: all the ingredients that an evolutionary process requires. Richard Dawkins coined the term ‘memes’ for these kinds of entities that are subject to cultural evolution.

19 Calculus Leibniz Newton (building on the work by Archimedes, Kepler, Fermat, Roberval, Cavalieri, Descartes, Lagrange, Huygens, Barrow, and many others …) Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

20 Evolution Darwin Wallace

21 E = mc 2 Einstein (1905) of course! Conceptually, however, he was not the first to show a relationship between light, energy and and mass –Newton (1717): Matter and light are “convertible into one another” –Swedenborg (1734): matter is disposition of “pure and total motion” Sure, but what about the equation? –Poincare (1900): E em = m em c 2

22 Back to Wallace’s Paradox Remember that the assumption implicit in Wallace’s paradox is the view that our cognitive capacities are the result of our brain alone. However, as argued in previous slides, our cognitive capacities may be partly derived from the artifacts (tools, language, and in particular science and math) we have created around us and pass along from one generation to the next. Moreover, the cultural evolution of cognitive building blocks such as concepts and ideas works *much* faster than genetic evolution. Neil deGrasse Tyson was right … and wrong! –Our brains are indeed not all that different –But difference in intelligence is not merely due to differences in brain

23 Next Step! Process SenseAct Environment Agent 1 Tool ActSense Agent 2

24 Tools to Enhance Cognition To become smarter, then, we don’t need bigger brains, but better interactions with our environment. Indeed, we can see the use of tools as a straightforward example of enhancing our abilities, so why not have cognitive tools?

25 Blind-Cane-Man Bob is blind, and uses a cane to feel around. Is the cane part of Bob? It isn’t part of Bob as a biological being. But is it part of Bob as a cognitive being? –There is a cognitive agent here, perceiving the world, thinking about the world, etc. –Is the cane part of the cognitive agent, or part of the world? (Is Bob a cyborg?)

26 Hammer-Man! Hammers don’t hit Nails, People Do! “If all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail” - Bernard Baruch

27 The Google Effect The Google effect is that people forget those things that they can ‘Google’.Google effect Some people lament this, saying that people have become ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’, not unlike how the calculator has made people worse at basic arithmetic. But in reality, this was in fact a very smart move of the brain. Incorporating the internet as external memory is not ‘lazy’, but efficient. And while brain alone = less smart, brain + internet = smarter! Most importantly, the brain naturally integrates its environment if it makes sense: we don’t control this!

28 Copying Blocks Experiment II OriginalCopy Bins Same task as before. However, original is hidden by square, and you have to click on it to reveal the original. Moreover, it takes a certain amount of time for original to appear. Result: the more time it took for original to appear, the more subjects started to rely on internal memory (brain).

29 How our Brain Integrates Technology: Perception (Click on pic for vid)

30 How our Brain Integrates Technology: Action (click on pic for vid)


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