Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

2007-2008 seminars

Autumn Term 2008

  • Week 1 (October 7th) Dr. Jim Hopkins (Philosophy, King's College London): Psychoanalysis, Dreams, and Biosemantic Representation
  • Week 2 (October 14th) Professor Kevin Warwick (Cybernetics Intelligence Research Group, Reading): Robots with Biological Brains and Humans with Part Machine Brains
  • Week 3 (October 21st) Professor Ruth Kempson (Philosophy, King's College London): Preliminaries for Agent Coordination: The Dynamics of Conversational Dialogue
  • Week 4 (October 28th) Professor Geraint Wiggins (Computing, Goldsmith's): Closing the Loop: Computational Creativity from a Model of Music Cognition
  • Week 5 (November 4th) Dr. Chris Thornton (Informatics, Sussex): Music from Inverted Analysis: Creativity or Just Copying?
  • Week 6, Lecture 1 (November 11th) Visiting Professor Paul Brown (Informatics, Sussex): Art, Science and Technology in the Late 20th Century - A Revisionist View of a Revolution That Never Was
  • Week 6, Lecture 2 (November 13th) Stephen Macknik, PhD (Director, Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology, Barrow Neurological Institute) - The Role of Feedback in Visual Awareness and Attention
  • Week 7 (November 18th) Dr. Inman Harvey (Informatics, Sussex): Misrepresentations
  • Week 8 (November 25th) Dr. Nicholas Maxwell (Science and Technology Studies, University College London): The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: From Knowledge to Wisdom - Video available
  • Week 9 (December 2nd) Dr. Marek McGann (Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland): Times, Minds and Bodies - Video available
  • Week 10 (December 9th) Professor Aaron Sloman (Computer Science, Birmingham): A New Approach to Philosophy of Mathematics - Design a Young, Mathematically Disposed Explorer - Video available

Week 1

Date: Tuesday 7th October 2008
 Dr. Jim Hopkins (Philosophy, King's College London)

Psychoanalysis, Dreams, and Biosemantic Representation

In this presentation I will discuss Freud's account of dreams as it relates to (i) Millikan's biosemantic account of representation and (ii) recent work in neuroscience on dreaming, motivation, and memory. The aim is to outline an account in which both wishfulfilment and the consolidation of memory appear as part of the evolutionary function of dreaming.

Week 2

Date: Tuesday, 14th October 2008
 Professor Kevin Warwick (Cybernetics Intelligence Research Group, Reading)

Robots with Biological Brains and Humans with Part Machine Brains

In this presentation a look is taken at how the use of implant and electrode technology can be employed to create biological brains for robots, to enable human enhancement and to diminish the effects of certain neural illnesses. In all cases the end result is to increase the range of abilities of the recipients. An indication is given of a number of areas in which such technology has already had a profound effect, a key element being the need for a clear interface linking a biological brain directly with computer technology. The emphasis is clearly placed on practical scientific studies that have been and are being undertaken and reported on. The area of focus is notably the use of electrode technology, where a connection is made directly with the cerebral cortex and/or nervous system. The presentation will consider the future in which robots have biological, or part-biological, brains and in which neural implants link the human nervous system bi-directionally with technology and the internet.

Week 3

Date: Tuesday, 21st October 2008
 Professor Ruth Kempson (Philosophy, King's College London)

Preliminaries for Agent Coordination: The Dynamics of Conversational Dialogue

In this talk, I address the challenges posed by the modelling of ellipsis in dialogue.

On the one hand, in standard frameworks, ellipsis is treated as heterogeneous: part syntax, part semantics, part pragmatics, with little or no attention paid to ellipsis in dialogue. On the other hand, conversational dialogue involves elliptical fragments that have been used as evidence that dialogue constitutes a distinct use of language, with fragments posing clarification requests, acknowledgements, helpful rejections, etc., all said to be dialogue-specific types of structure.

In this talk, I shall argue that by shifting into a perspective in which natural-language grammars are seen as mechanisms for tree-growth reflecting the build-up of interpretation in context, an integrated account of ellipsis becomes possible applying to both parsing and production, with tight coordination between the two; and all mechanisms for interaction between dialogue participants are mechanisms for the incremental development of information growth in context.

Week 4

Date: Tuesday, 28th October 2008
 Professor Geraint Wiggins (Computing, Goldsmith's)

Closing the Loop: Computational Creativity from a Model of Music Cognition

This talk is about computational modelling of a process of musical composition, based on a cognitive model of human behaviour. The idea is to try to study not only the requirements for a computer system which is capable of musical composition, but also to relate it to human behaviour during the same process, so that it may, perhaps, work in the same way as a human composer, but also so that it may, more likely, help us understand how human composers work.

We take a purist approach to our modelling: we are aiming, ultimately, at a computer system which we can claim to be creative. Therefore, we must address in advance the criticism that usually arises in these circumstances: "a computer can't be creative because it can only do what it has explicitly been programmed to do". This argument does not hold, because, with the advent of machine learning, it is no longer true that a computer is limited to what its programmer explicitly tells it, especially in a relatively unsupervised learning task like composition (as compared with the usually-supervised task of learning, say, the piano). Thus, a creative system based on machine learning can, in principle, be given credit for creative output, much as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is deemed the creator of The Magic Flute, and not Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, teacher and de facto agent.

Because music is a very complex phenomenon, we focus on a relatively simple aspect, which is relatively easy to isolate from the many other aspects of music: tonal melody. In order to compose music, one normally needs to learn about it by hearing it, so we begin with a perceptual model, which has proven capable of simulating relevant aspects of human listening behaviour better than any other in the literature. We also consider the application of this model to a different task, musical phrase segmentation, because doing so adds weight to its status as a good, if preliminary, model of human cognition. We then consider using this model to generate tonal melodies, and show how one might go about evaluating the resulting model of composition scientifically. We place the discussion in the context of current models of creative cognition.

Week 5

Date: Tuesday, 4th November 2008
 Dr. Chris Thornton (Informatics, Sussex)

Music from Inverted Analysis: Creativity or Just Copying?

Although it generates excellent compositions in the style of Mozart, Chopin and other composers, David Cope's EMI system is often viewed as a fancy copying machine rather than a system which shows genuine creativity. And it is true that the generative functionality of the system (in its best-known form) relies on careful, hand-modulated modeling of examples drawn from a large database of human compositions. But how well would an EMI-like system do with less human intervention? In the talk I'll introduce and demo a system I've developed which examines the issue. The program uses analytic inversion (like EMI) but eliminates all other aspects of manual intervention, relying entirely on generic modeling and instantiation methods. The results achieved so far are not that impressive so I'm keen to hear suggestions about how to take the work forward. If you haven't heard any EMI output before, you can play examples at Cope's MP3 website. I'll also be playing a couple of EMI compositions in the talk.

Week 6, Lecture 1

Date: Tuesday, 11th November 2008
 Visiting Professor Paul Brown (Informatics, Sussex)

Art, Science and Technology in the Late 20th Century - A Revisionist View of a Revolution That Never Was

By the late 19th century art had been freed by photography from it's role of making representations and artists like Paul Cezanne suggested that one future framework for the visual arts was a form of semiotics - a graphic dialogue concerned with the relationship between the representation and that being represented. By the mid 20th century Cezanne's ideas had spawned many experimental avenues and especially the concept of art as a formal exploration of it's own internal and psychophysical structures. By 1948 Charles Biederman published 'Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge' where he reunifies the goals of art and science by suggesting that art is the ongoing exploration and revelation of visual cognition.

Biederman had a major influence on the conceptual and systems art movements and, via them, on the nascent computer arts. Other major influences on the field included cybernetics and systems theory and, by 1968 Jack Burnham in 'Beyond Modern Sculpture' was able to suggest that one future for the arts was the creation of autonomous, self-evolving agents.

In the transition to the postmodern many of Burnham's ideas, together with those of the artists he championed were put to one side by a community that was unfamiliar with computers and who perceived them as tools of a weapons-oriented technocratic elite that they eventually named 'the military entertainment complex'. In retrospect this can been seen as problematic since many of the concepts being explored by Burnham and his colleagues - like emergence, non-linearity, hyper-mediation, interaction, networking, self-similarity and self regulation - are now perceived as central to our understanding of the relativities of the postmodern.

In this presentation I will express my concern regarding this transitional period between what have become known as the modern and postmodern periods. It is a common belief that these ideologies are for the most part contradictory and mutually incompatible and that the rift between them was historically relatively abrupt. My hypothesis, by contrast, suggests that this is not and never was the case. I argue for the reinvestigation of the period of transition with the aim of building bridges that will reunite these perceived 'foes', discover compatibilities and demonstrate historical mergence and emergence. I suggest that both the modern and postmodern are concurrent, equally valid, often complementary although sometimes divergent interpretations of the same phenomenon. Furthermore by acknowledging this continuity and complementarity we will be better able to acknowledge 'difficult' instantiations - like early computer art - and restore them to their correct historical place.


Paul Brown is an artist and writer who has specialised in art, science & technology since the late 1960s and in computational & generative art since the mid 1970s. He is Chair of the Computer Arts Society (CAS) and a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for LEA, the e-journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (MIT Press) and the journal Digital Creativity (Routledge). During 2000/2001 he was a New Media Arts Fellow of the Australia Council and is currently a visiting professor and artist-in-residence in the Dept. of Informatics at the University of Sussex where he is working on a project to evolve robots that can draw.

Examples of his artwork and publications are available on his website at: http://www.paul-brown.com.

Week 6, Lecture 2

Date: Thursday, 13th November 2008
Speaker: Stephen Macknik, PhD (Director, Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology, Barrow Neurological Institute)

The Role of Feedback in Visual Awareness and Attention

I will discuss my lab's research of the role of feedback in visual awareness and attention. Our analysis reveals constraints for feedback mechanisms that limit their potential role in visual masking, awareness, and in other general brain functions. We propose a feedforward model of visual masking and awareness, and provide a hypothesis to explain the role of feedback connections. We review the anatomy and physiology of feedback mechanisms, and propose that the massive ratio of feedback versus feedforward connections in the visual system may be explained solely by the critical need for top-down attentional modulation. Finally, we propose a new set of neurophysiological standards needed to establish whether any given neuron or brain circuit may be the neural substrate of awareness.

This will be a special COGS research seminar held in conjunction with the Thursday afternoon psychology seminar series. Note the special room and time.

Week 7

Date: Tuesday, 18th November 2008
 Dr. Inman Harvey (Informatics, Sussex)


The concept of "representations", and particularly "internal representations", can be controversial in Cognitive Science and AI. It is suggested here that much time-wasting confusion could be avoided if participants in such controversies came to recognize the variety of different senses, often incompatible, in which such terms are used. In the standard way that I use the term, for instance, I have never had any form of internal representation in my head ever, yet some people find this position counter-intuitive. A hypothesis is presented as to why there is so much reluctance to recognize the diversity of different senses of this concept, including the role of metaphor. Once such fruitless controversies are swept aside through linguistic hygiene, there remain interesting real problems, which are eminently appropriate for being tackled by an Artificial Life methodology.

Week 8

Date: Tuesday, 25th November 2008
 Dr. Nicholas Maxwell (Science and Technology Studies, University College London)

The Urgent Need for an Academic Revolution: From Knowledge to Wisdom

We urgently need to bring about a revolution in our universities. Instead of giving priority to the search for knowledge, academia needs to devote itself to seeking and promoting wisdom by rational means, wisdom being the capacity to realize what is of value in life for oneself and others, wisdom thus including knowledge but much else besides. The revolution we need would change every branch and aspect of academic inquiry. A basic intellectual task would be to articulate our problems of living (personal, social and global) and propose and critically assess possible solutions, possible actions. This would be the task of social inquiry and the humanities. Tackling problems of knowledge would be secondary. Social inquiry would be at the heart of the academic enterprise, intellectually more fundamental than natural science. Natural science would change to include three domains of discussion: evidence, theory, and aims - the latter including discussion of metaphysics, values and politics. Academic inquiry as a whole would become a kind of people's civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. A basic task would be to help humanity learn how to create a good world.

Week 9

Date: Tuesday, 2nd December 2008
 Dr. Marek McGann (Psychology, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, Ireland)

Times, Minds and Bodies

A dynamical systems approach to explaining cognitive systems has been trying to overturn some of the intuitions about temporal dimension of minds for the past fifteen years or so. The principal argument has concerned the distinction between discrete and continuous concepts of mind-time, but mention is often made of processes being "temporally extended", particularly when the dynamical account is part of an embodied or enactive description of cognition. I will raise the question of just how temporally extended we might want or need to allow cognitive processes to become, and outline some implications of that, not only for traditional computational accounts (the criticisms of which are well rehearsed), but also for enactive and other embodied accounts (in that the relationship between immediate bodily actions and cognition may not be as clearcut as we might like). There are also some significant ramifications for the kind of methods we might use in conducting cognitive research and some suggestions for possibly fruitful avenues of future research.

Week 10

Date: Tuesday, 9th December 2008
Speaker: Professor Aaron Sloman (Computer Science, Birmingham)

A New Approach to Philosophy of Mathematics - Design a Young, Mathematically Disposed Explorer

Most current AI learning systems (e.g. Bayesian learning systems) merely discover empirical (e.g. statistical) generalisations. In contrast, a young human child after a while starts noticing (implicitly) that some things that were first learnt empirically actually are non-contingent and can be derived from a theory about the environment.

Example -- adapted from Kant: a child may learn that if you walk along a row of houses, from house X to house Y, you pass them in a certain order, and then if you go back along the same route from Y to X, you pass the same houses but in reverse order. At first this is an empirical discovery: but a child can come to see that it MUST be so.

How? There are many more examples to do with counting, with shapes and processes, with topological relations. I am trying to produce a collection of previously unnoticed 'toddler theorems' that could start off as empirical discoveries, then be transformed. E.g.

You can't get your feet into your slippers by sliding them around on the floor.

Moving towards an open door makes more information available about the room beyond.

Making the transition from empirical discovery to perceiving necessity requires the ability to notice the need and the opportunity to construct theories, about the the form and content of the environment, usually going far beyond the empirical data, but making use of very general implicit assumptions about kinds of possible environments (produced in a small subset of species by biological evolution).

This raises questions about the forms of representation available to a young child, or robot, and the kind of information-processing architecture that can make these discoveries. I think this is deeply connected with unsolved problems in machine vision, especially the ability to see the possibility of processes that are not actually occurring and many kinds of affordance (including not only action affordances but also epistemic affordances and deliberative affordances).

As far as I know, this phenomenon has been largely ignored by developmental psychologists (apart from Piaget?) and also by AI researchers. I am collaborating with biologists who are interested in whether some non-human animals (corvids, primates) may also have such competences.

There are challenges for roboticists, developmental psychologists, biologists, evolutionary theorists, and philosopers of mathematics.


Series organized by Joel Parthemore (jep25@sussex.ac.uk)

Summer Term 2008

  • Week 1 (April 15th) Professor Shalom Lappin (Philosophy, King's College London): Linguistic Nativism Reconsidered
  • Week 2 (April 22nd) Professor Cynthia Macdonald (Philosophy, Queen's University Belfast): Emergence in Mind
  • Week 3 (April 29th) Professor Charles Travis (Philosophy, King's College London): Gazing Inward
  • Week 4 (May 6th) Professor Daniel D. Hutto (Philosophy, Hertfordshire): The Narrative Practice Hypothesis: Clarifications and Implications
  • Week 5 (May 13th) Professor Daniel Colaco Osorio (The Centre for Visual Fields, Sussex): Cuttlefish vision - cognition?
  • Week 6 (May 20th) Professor Derek Bolton (Psychology, King's College London): Order and disorder in the sciences and society
  • Week 7 (May 27th) Dr. David Bain (Philosophy, Glasgow): McDowell, Pains, and Subjectivism
  • Week 8 (June 3rd) Dr. Blay Whitby (COGS/Informatics, Sussex): When we walk with robots what sort of people should we be?
  • Week 9 (June 10th) Professor Vinod Goel (Psychology, York (Canada)): The Rational, Irrational and Arational Brains: Carving up the Mind with Common Sense, Dogma and Pixie Dust
  • Week 10 (June 17th) Professor Nancy Cartwright (Philosophy, LSE): Co-operative causation and the incompleteness of physics

Week 1

Tuesday 15th of April, 2008
Speaker: Professor Shalom Lappin (Philosophy, Kings College London)

Linguistic Nativism Reconsidered

For the past fifty years versions of a linguistic nativist view have been dominant in theoretical linguistics and cognitive science. On this view a strong set of domain specific learning priors are required to explain the facts of first language acquisition, as well as certain univeral properties of natural languages. In this talk I will explore an alternative weak bias model according to which language acquisition is achieved largely through domain general machine learning algorithms. I will consider recent work in unsupervised grammar induction and in computational learning theory to motivate this model. I will also briefly look at current psycholinguistic research on the role of Bayesian inference in language learning tasks in order explore the psychological credibility of the weak bias approach.

Week 2

Tuesday 22nd of April, 2008
Speaker: Professor Cynthia Macdonald (Philosophy, Queen's University Belfast)

Emergence in Mind

There are a variety of ways in which emergence has been, and can be, conceptualized, and equally, a variety of views on whether it manifests itself in the world (and if so, to what extent). Our aim in this paper is to outline a particular way of developing an emergentist view of the nature of mind, a view that goes under the name of nonreductive monism, and to defend it against some recent objections voiced by those who propose a different way of developing that emergentist view. We begin in Section 1 by characterizing some important versions of the doctrine of emergentism in order to identify some core commitments shared by them, eventually settling on a version that we will take as 'the' doctrine of emergentism for the purposes of our discussion, a version of what is known as 'strong' emergence. Section 2 develops the challenge anti-emergentists set for advocates of strong emergence and in particular for proponents of nonreductive monism, that of demonstrating how emergent properties can be causally efficacious. In section 3 we set out our own proposal for dealing with the challenge. Section 4 defends our position against objections from opponents and argues against the opposing strategy.

Week 3

Tuesday 29th of April, 2008
Speaker: Professor Charles Travis (Philosophy, King's College London)

Gazing Inward

"In the glade I saw a doe": an answer to one sort of question about one sort of perceptual experience. Our practice (or one) is to say what we saw by saying what there was to see. There may, or may not, be further questions as to just what we took in of this. But there is a philosophical Drang to look for the true account of what was seen in another place: in the precise nature of some internal state, or, again, of the contents of the subject's consciousness - an Einwärtsanshauungsdrang. (The underlying Drang works more widely than the field of perception, e.g., in views of propositional attitudes. But perception will be my object of attention here.) From Montaigne through the 1930s, that strategy went without question. (Kant was its victim; effects we still feel.) As then worked, this strategy made it seem unquestionable that what we really see is what eyes could not bring in view. That idea is so patently askew as to make most, today, reject that particular working of the Drang; and to think, accordingly, that they are simply past succumbing to it. My larger aim is to eradicate the Drang. For that we need to see where it still holds sway. We can find such a place in Gareth Evans (Varieties of Reference, chapter 7), and pretty much the same place in Christopher Peacocke (A Study of Concepts, chapter 3). In Evans it begins with the curious idea that a perceptual experience is an internal (informational) state of the subject. This allows, and is needed to allow, the idea that perceptual experience has representational content (representationalism); which in turn encourages the (I will suggest oxymoronic) idea of 'non-conceptual content'. In this talk I will likely do no more than expose (or try to) the evils which lurk in these three ideas, specifically with reference to Evans and Peacocke. Representationalism is often thought of as a salubrious alternative to the Drang's malignant influence in that period from Descartes to, e.g., Russell, Price, Prichard, Ayer. But (I hope to show) it is just another manifestation of that same malignant working.

Week 4

Tuesday 6th of May, 2008
Speaker: Professor Daniel D. Hutto (Philosophy, Hertfordshire)

The Narrative Practice Hypothesis: Clarifications and Implications

The Narrative Practice Hypothesis (NPH) is a recently conceived, late entrant into the contest of trying to understand the basis of our mature folk psychological abilities (Hutto 2004, 2007, 2008). This paper aims to clarify its content, importance and scientific plausibility by: distinguishing its conceptual features from those of its rivals, articulating its philosophical significance, and commenting on its empirical prospects. It will be shown precisely how the NPH competes with Theory Theory (TT), Simulation Theory (ST) and hybrid combinations of these theories insofar as they purport to explain the core structural basis of our folk psychological (FP) competence. What makes it philosophically interesting is that it not only challenges empirical variants of these theories but their conceptual versions as well.

Week 5

Tuesday 13th of May, 2008
Speaker: Professor Daniel Colaco Osorio (The Centre for Visual Fields, Sussex)

Cuttlefish vision - cognition?

JZ Young commended Cephalopod molluscs as accessible model organisms for neuroscience. The Squid giant axon was a good model, but although several distinguished psychologists began their careers on octopus interest has declined in favour of simpler molluscs and insects. What is most remarkable about cephalopods is their ability to change their appearance for camouflage and communication. I will illustrate this behaviour and show how it is used in a natural setting. I will argue that the rich behavioural repertoire of these animals gives unrivalled access to visual perception in a non-human species, and (under the influence of Marr) discuss what might be learnt about their visual cognition.

Week 6

Tuesday 20th of May, 2008
Speaker: Professor Derek Bolton (Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London)

Order and disorder in the sciences and society.

The concept of mental disorder and before that mental illness has come in for a lot of criticism since the '60s, sociological, socio-political, ethical and conceptual. It generates far more heat than 'mental order', whatever that may be. Psychology spans and typically gets involved in a tug 'o war between biology and the social sciences, the main conceptualisations of 'mental disorder' being as social deviance, in the '60s, and more recently, as disruption of evolutionary bio-psychological design. At present the pendulum seems to be swinging back, and probably some dialectical synthesis is the order of the day. Recent developments in neuroimaging and genetics including its theory of error and will affect the ways we conceive of mental disorder, as are social changes including the return of mental disorder to the community from the asylums, public concern about over-diagnosis, and 'cosmetic' pharmacotherapy.

Week 7

Tuesday 27th of May, 2008
Speaker: Dr. David Bain (Philosophy, Glasgow)

McDowell, Pains, and Subjectivism.

It can seem plausible both that, when in pain, we undergo experiences representing pains, and that pains are dependent on such experiences. Here I focus on McDowell's rather neglected version of this view, which he develops as part of his general approach to mind and world. I argue that his view is at best unilluminating and at worst incoherent, and that it runs counter to his idea that pain experiences, like perceptual experiences, rationalise judgements endorsing their contents. Making these charges stick requires consideration of a number of putative cases of representation-dependence, from colours, to cogito thoughts, to promises. But none, I argue, provides a good model for the relationship that McDowell posits between pains and pain experiences.

Week 8

Tuesday 3rd of June, 2008
Speaker: Dr. Blay Whitby (COGS/Informatics, Sussex)

When we walk with robots what sort of people should we be?

It might seem, at first glance, that the design of robots and other intelligent systems which have more human-like methods of interacting with users is generally to be welcomed. However, there are a number of important ethical problems involved in such developments which require careful consideration.

There is already ample evidence that humans tend to adapt to technology to a far greater extent than technology adapts to humans and this process of adaptation will be especially noticeable in cases where robots are used in everyday and intimate settings such as the care of children and the elderly.

With at least one writer seriously predicting marriage to robots by 2050, the expression 'intimate settings' in the previous paragraph can be taken to mean just that for us all. I will argue that that these are not an inevitable nor ethically neutral technological developments.

It is not clear that anybody is considering these ethical issues with sufficient urgency.

Week 9

Tuesday 10th of June, 2008
Speaker: Professor Vinod Goel

The Rational, Irrational and Arational Brains: Carving up the Mind with Common Sense, Dogma and Pixie Dust.

Dual mechanism theories of reasoning have gained considerable popularity in psychology over the past decade. I will evaluate an influential version of these theories (as articulated by Evans and Over; Stanovich and West) in light of commonsense notions of rationality and neuropsychological data. I will argue that this type of account is conceptually flawed and inconsistent with the neuropsychology. I will present an alternative "multiple reasoning system" account more conducive to commonsense and recent findings from the neuroimaging and lesion studies of reasoning, and highlight some of the key conceptual problems that need to be addressed.

Week 10

Tuesday 17th of June, 2008
Speaker: Professor Nancy Cartwright (Philosophy, LSE)

Co-operative causation and the incompleteness of physics

The most basic physical theory now is supposed to be some kind of relativistic quantum field theory, a theory which (in its ideal 'finished' form) is supposed to be complete: everything in its domain of effects is entirely fixed by the principles of the theory from other features in the theory's domain. Is this a metaphysical promise or an empirical claim? Taken as an empirical claim, it should be evaulated by looking at the theory's strongest empirical successes. In that case, however, this paper argues, the empirical evidence is against it. One can of course readily reconcile the empirical evidence and the claim, but that is a far cry from showing that the claim is empirically supported.

Series organized by Simon Bowes (s.c.bowes@sussex.ac.uk)

Spring Term 2008

  • Week 1 (January 8th) No seminar
  • Week 2 (January 15th) Nick Collins (COGS/Informatics, Sussex): Generative Music Programs and Infno in Particular
  • Week 3 (January 22nd) Tom Collett (COGS/Biology and Environmental Science, Sussex): The learning flights of bumblebees
  • Week 4 (January 29th) Barry Smith (Philosophy, Birkbeck): Just What Can We Taste in a Wine?
  • Week 5 (February 5th) Yvonne Rogers (Computing, Open University): Computers should Engage not Calm: A Critique of the Emerging Field of Ubiquitous Computing
  • Week 6 (February 12th) Gabriel Segal (Philosophy, King's College London): When is a 'sofa' not a 'sofa'?
  • Week 7 (February 19th) Daniel Wright (COGS/Psychology, Sussex): Eyewitness testimony and postevent information
  • Week 8 (February 26th) John Williams (Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, Cambridge): Incidental learning of word order: Prior linguistic knowledge or statistics?
  • Week 9 (March 4th) Anders Sandberg (Future of Humanity Institute, Philosophy, Oxford)
  • Week 10 (March 11th) Raymond Tallis (Emeritus Professor, University of Manchester)

Week 1

Tuesday 8th of January, 2008

No seminar

Week 2

Tuesday 15th of January, 2008
Speaker: Dr. Nick Collins (COGS/Informatics, Sussex)

Generative Music Programs and Infno in Particular

Following on from Margaret Boden's seminar last term on generative art, I'd like to focus in on generative music programs. Algorithmic composition has a more than fifty year history, and contemporary digital artists are developing computer programs which offer realtime music and audio on demand, engaging with a range of musical styles and sonic domains. Various projects and manifestations will be discussed, from Push Button Bertha (1956) to the Morpheus CDROM (2001), from Brian Eno's Generative Music 1 installation (1996) to the rand()% internet radio station (2003) which streams generative works 24 hours a day when the server is up.

I will then introduce my latest work, Infno, an algorithmic generator of synth pop and electronic dance music, and run a miniature musical Turing test for fun. More extensive demonstrations and technical information on the algorithms will follow. There should be plenty of time for discussion and debate to close the seminar.

Week 3

Tuesday 22nd of January, 2008
Speaker: Prof. Thomas Collett (COGS/Biology and Environmental Science, Sussex)

The learning flights of bumblebees

Animals (including us) often know in advance what information they need to acquire about the external world and so can facilitate their learning through innate biases and strategies. Strategies for learning can be especially obvious during spatial learning when animals move in particular ways that are likely to help them pick up information that can be used for their later navigation. The highly structured learning flights that bees and wasps perform when first leaving their nest or a feeding site are well-known examples of such purpose-built manoeuvres. These insects must learn enough about the immediate surroundings of their nest on their first departure from it so that they can find their way back to what may be no more than a barely visible hole in the ground. Learning and the associated return flights have presumably been designed in tandem. To understand better their design features, we (Natalie Hempel, Andy Philippides, Lena Riabinina and I) have been analysing these flights in bumblebees.

Week 4

Tuesday 29th of January, 2008
Speaker: Dr Barry Smith (Philosophy, Birkbeck)

Just What Can We Taste in a Wine?

Wine critics claims to recognise a complex variety of flavours and aromas in a wine. Novices are often sceptical. What could account for the differences between novice and expert when both taste the same wine? Is it just that that the expert knows more about the wines, or is it that experts can taste things novices can't. If so, what accounts for the differences, and how do novices become experts?

Most wine tasters and many wine critics will also say that taste is subjective. It is a matter of what you like or dislike, of what is right for you. In matters of taste your opinion is sovereign. You should simply not allow yourself to be persuaded that you have not fully appreciated this or that wine: there is no such thing as getting it right or wrong. It is your opinion that counts. So oft-propounded is such wisdom that it is somewhat difficult for other views to get a hearing. However, a closer examination of the business of taste and tasting will show us that things are not so clear-cut. To begin with, the reasons people offer for saying that taste is subjective vary considerably and not all of them are compatible with each other. Moreover, the considerations most often advanced in favour of subjectivity are not always consistent with the attitudes or practices of those who advance them. (It is harder than one thinks to live up to the belief that taste is subjective.) In the end, so many different things come to be listed under the heading of subjectivity that one begins to suspect that there is no common view or single opinion about what it means to say that taste is subjective. In the light of this, just how convincing are the arguments for the subjectivity of taste? And if we can no longer give good reasons for endorsing subjectivity what should we say instead? In particular, what scope is there for thinking that there may be such a thing as the taste (or tastes) of a wine, and that judgments about taste may be objective? These are the issues I will explore.

This event will include participation in wine tasting by the audience.

Week 5

Tuesday 5th of February, 2008
Speaker: Prof. Yvonne Rogers (Computing, Open University)

Computers should Engage not Calm: A Critique of the Emerging Field of Ubiquitous Computing

The paradigm of ubiquitous computing, captured by the slogan 'beyond the desktop', is coming of age. Inspired by Weiser's vision of calm computing published in the mid 90s, subsequent research has been motivated to make our lives convenient, comfortable and informed. Three themes that have dominated are context awareness, ambient intelligence and monitoring/tracking. While these avenues of research have been fruitful, their accomplishments do not match up to anything like Weiser's world. I discuss why this is so and argue that it is time for a change of direction in the field. I begin by giving an overview of the field and then propose an alternative agenda that focuses on engaging and provoking people rather than calming them. Humans are very resourceful at exploiting their environments and extending their capabilities using existing strategies and tools. Using examples from my own research I describe how pervasive technologies can be added to the mix.

Week 6

Tuesday 12th of February, 2008
Speaker: Prof. Gabriel Segal (Philosophy, King's College London)

When is a 'sofa' not a 'sofa'?

A certain variety of externalism in theory of mind is the thesis that the content of certain concepts is essentially dependent on relations between a thinker and their environment.

The dependence is not merely causal, but metaphysically necessary. According to this thesis, two thinkers who were neurological and physical micro-structural duplicates could have different thoughts if they were embedded in different environments.

In his paper 'Intellectual Norms and the Foundations of Mind', Tyler Burge offers an argument for this sort of externalism. My paper offers an internalist response to Burge's argument. I argue that Burge's conclusion cannot be correct. I argue further that Burge's argument hinges on an incorrect understanding of they way ordinary discourse about propositional attitudes functions in certain kinds of situation that the argument draws upon. My account of the functioning of the discourse in these situations focuses, firstly, on the traditional distinction between de re and dicto propositional attitude ascriptions and, secondly, on a certain kind of flexibility and context-relativity displayed by propositional attitude ascriptions.

Week 7

Tuesday 19th of February, 2008
Speaker: Dr. Daniel Wright (COGS/Psychology, Sussex)

Eyewitness testimony and postevent information

Errant eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of false imprisonment. While the malleability of individuals' memory is part of the reason, biases from eyewitnesses interacting with others are also part at fault. Recent research on these biases are reported and how they informed the British Psychological Society's recommendations to the Home Office for reforming police procedures.

Week 8

Tuesday 26th of February, 2008
Speaker: Dr. John N. Williams (Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics, Cambridge)

Incidental learning of word order: Prior linguistic knowledge or statistics?

Most experimental research on grammar learning has used artificial finite state grammars devoid of meaning. Some of the questions addressed by this research are:

- What is the nature of what is learned (e.g., abstract representations or fragments of training items)?

- To what extent is either the process or product of learning implicit?

- How can the learning process be modelled?

In this talk I shall address these same issues in the context of research on semi-artificial systems based on natural languages. In this context an additional question is:

- To what extent is learning influenced by prior linguistic knowledge, or even Universal Grammar?

The experiments looked at incidental learning of word order regularities after either 30 or 60 minutes of exposure to novel, but meaningful, languages (based on either German or Japanese). English lexis was combined with German or Japanese syntax (and for the latter, case markers), producing strings such as "John-ga pizza-o ate". Comparisons were made with meaningless analogues of the same systems (e.g. "So-ga po-o ke") in order to gauge the contribution of linguistic knowledge and meaning to learning. In both cases learning was assessed through grammaticality judgements on novel strings, supplemented with confidence and source judgements to assess awareness.

The results from the meaningful versions provided strong evidence for rapid incidental learning of structures received in training. There was evidence of learning certain generalisable "rules of thumb", but these did not correspond to linguistic rules, and learning did not appear to be UG-constrained. Even though participants had no intention to learn word order, they were nevertheless aware of the basis of their grammaticality judgements. The meaningless analogues produced broadly similar results, although some test structures did behave very differently in the two versions, indicating specific contributions of linguistic knowledge and meaning.

It is hypothesised that in both versions learning was based on the statistical structure of the training strings. This hypothesis was explored through connectionist simulations using simple recurrent networks. These provided an excellent fit to the data from the meaningless analogues, and a good fit to the meaningful versions provided that the coding scheme was chosen so as to reflect the linguistic categories and meaning structure that the participants were likely to impose on the input. It is concluded that the initial incidental learning of word order can be explained in terms of statistical learning, and that linguistic knowledge is only engaged to the extent that it defines the categories over which statistics are computed.

Week 9

Tuesday 4th of March, 2008
Speaker: Dr. Anders Sandberg (Future of Humanity Institute, Philosophy, Oxford)

Enhancing cognition: what we can do, why we can do it and whether it is a good idea

de la Rochefoucauld noted, "everybody complains of their memory, but nobody of their judgement" - but most likely we would at least surreptitiously improve our judgement if we could. The possibility of improving our abilities of memory, thinking and judgement has a strong appeal. Until recently this aim was mainly pursued through various forms of education, but now advances in neuroscience and computer science are enabling new ways of enhancing cognition. This raises great expectations of overcoming some of our limitations but also much debate about the ethics, politics and practice of enhancement. I will review some of the state-of-the-art enhancements that are being studied and their mechanisms, as well as how evolutionary biology can help us figure out what enhancements are likely to cause trouble.

Week 10

Tuesday 11th of March, 2008
Speaker: Prof. Raymond Tallis (University of Manchester)

Myth-Information: The Computational Theory of Mind

The computational theory of mind has created the delusion of progress in understanding the relationship between the brain and the mind. Computers are not conscious, nor will they be. Consciousness is not computational. The most important aspect of mind is consciousness. The mythology of computational theories is sustained by misuse of the word "information"'. We need to seek an entirely different paradigm for thinking about the relationship between brain and mind.

Series organized by Simon Bowes (s.c.bowes@sussex.ac.uk) 

Autumn Term 2007

  • Week 1 (October 2nd) Margaret Boden (COGS/Informatics, University of Sussex): What is Generative Art?
  • Week 2 (October 9th) Adam Kilgarriff (Lexical Computing Ltd. and Visiting Research Fellow, Sussex): The Long Road from Text to Meaning
  • Week 3 (October 16th) No seminar
  • Week 4 (October 23rd) Graham Hole (COGS/Psychology, University of Sussex): In-vehicle information systems - giving drivers something to occupy them before they crash
  • Week 5 (October 30th) Roxana Baiasu (Philosophy, University of Sussex): The Spatiality of Human Embodiment
  • Week 6 (November 6th) Steve Torrance (COGS; University of Middlesex): Machine Ethics and Moral Agency: Warfare as a case study
  • Week 7 (November 13th) Jessica Horst (COGS; Psychology, University of Sussex): The Truth About Fast Mapping
  • Week 8 (November 20th) No seminar
  • Week 9 (November 27th) Aaron Sloman (COGS; University of Birmingham): Why symbol-grounding is both impossible and unnecessary, and why theory-tethering is more powerful anyway.
  • Week 10 (December 4th) No seminar

Week 1

Tuesday 2nd of October
Speaker: Margaret Boden (COGS/Informatics, University of Sussex)

What is Generative Art?

There are various forms of what's sometimes called generative art, or computer art. This paper distinguishes the major categories, and asks whether the appropriate aesthetic criteria--and the locus of creativity--are the same in each case.

Week 2

Tuesday 9th of October, 2007
Speaker: Adam Kilgarriff (Lexical Computing Ltd. and Visiting Research Fellow, Sussex)

The Long Road from Text to Meaning

Computers have given us a new way of thinking about language. Given a large sample of language, or corpus, and computational tools to process it, we can approach language as physicists approach forces and chemists approach chemicals. This approach is noteworthy for missing out what, from a language-user's point of view, is important about a piece of language: its meaning.

I shall present this empiricist approach to the study of language and show how, as we develop accurate tools for lemmatisation, part-of-speech tagging and parsing, we move from the raw input -- a character stream -- to an analysis of that stream in increasingly rich terms: words, lemmas, grammatical structures, Fillmore-style frames. Each step on the journey builds on a large corpus accurately analysed at the previous levels. A distributional thesaurus provides generalisations about lexical behaviour which can then feed into an analysis at the 'frames' level. The talk will be illustrated with work done within the 'Sketch Engine' tool.

For much NLP and linguistic theory, meaning is a given. Thus formal semantics assumes meanings for words, in order to address questions of how they combine, and WSD (word sense disambiguation) typically takes a set of meanings (as found in a dictionary) as a starting point and sets itself the challenge of identifying which meaning applies. But, since the birth of philosophy, meaning has been problematic. In our approach meaning is an eventual output of the research programme, not an input.

Week 3

Tuesday 16th of October, 2007

No Seminar

Week 4

Tuesday 23rd of October, 2007
Speaker: Graham Hole (COGS/Psychology, University of Sussex)

In-vehicle information systems - giving drivers something to occupy them before they crash

Cars are becoming steadily filled with more and more technology: at the moment drivers have mobile phones and sat-nav systems to play with, but within the next few years, internet and email access on the move will become commonplace. Telematics is big business, and companies like Microsoft are keen to help turn the car into a mobile office. The premise is that as long as a driver's hands are on the steering wheel, and their eyes are on the road, everything will be fine. I'll review psychological research, including studies done here at Sussex, which suggest that this is not the case, and that distracting drivers from what should be their primary task of safe driving is a really bad idea.

Week 5

Tuesday 30th of October, 2007
Speaker: Roxana Baiasu (Philosophy, University of Sussex)

The Spatiality of Human Embodiment

This talk is part of a broader project which develops a phenomenological approach to most basic features constitutive of our making sense of the world and of ourselves. Here I critically engage with certain ideas concerning embodied existence in space in Merleau-Ponty's The Phenomenology of Perception and in Heidegger's Being and Time.
Following Merleau-Ponty in his delimitation from Heidegger, I endorse his view that embodiment is a necessary, constitutive feature of our making sense of the world and of ourselves. One's own body is understood here in terms of what I refer to as its distinctive ownness and, at the same time, givenness.
I propose, however, a conception of the spatiality of embodiment, developed in terms of a notion of spatial dissemination, which challenges Merleau-Ponty's radical prioritising of the body.

Week 6

Tuesday 6th of November, 2007
Speaker: Steve Torrance (COGS; University of Middlesex)

Machine Ethics and Moral Agency: Warfare as a case study

Machine Ethics (Anderson et al 2005, 2006; Torrance 2008) is a growing field which takes account of how artificial agents, including decision support systems, robots, control systems, etc., are increasingly implicated in situations which raise deep moral issues (for example in medicine, vehicle navigation, combat, social care, public policy, etc.) Machine ethicists try to find ways to make the design of such systems more morally responsible, and, if possible, to directly embed moral responsibility in the agents themselves. In this talk I'll be examining some of the issues in the field.

A recent discussion of machine ethics in the context of autonomous weapon systems (AWSs) highlights how such systems are currently being deployed by the US Army in live operations (e.g. in Iraq) and how AWSs are likely to proliferate rapidly in future armed engagements (Sparrow, 2007). This discussion provides a useful case study for examining how far it could be appropriate to ascribe moral agency to AI systems.

This will be used as a backdrop to a discussion of various views in ethical psychology and phenomenology that rule out the possibility of genuine moral agency or responsibility in currently envisaged artificial agents. I will focus on a recent paper by Shaun Gallagher (2007) which is a critique of views of moral agency and expertise proposed by Hubert Dreyfus, Harry Collins, Carol Gilligan and others. Gallagher's neo-Aristotelian conception of moral agency is based on the capacity for phronesis (practical wisdom). This picture of moral personhood centres on conceptions of 'endogenous intersubjectivity' and embedded self-consciousness that have roots in recent neurological, developmental and phenomenological studies.

Moral agency, defined in such a rich way, is unlikely to be found in artificial agents - certainly if the latter are designed using methods currently available. While machine-based moral agency is marginal to Gallagher's discussion, I will suggest that his views readily support this negative conclusion about machine ethics. However, this conclusion ignores the moral imperative to embed ethical responsibility into AI and robot development: I will explore some ways in which this might be done.

  • Anderson M, Anderson S, Armen C (eds) (2005) Machine Ethics: Papers from the AAAI Fall Symposium. Technical report FS-05-06, Menlo Pk, CA: AAAI Press
  • Anderson, M., Anderson, S. (eds) (2006) Special Issue on Machine Ethics: IEEE Intelligent Systems, 21(4)
  • Gallagher, S. (2007). Moral Agency, Self-Consciousness and Practical Wisdom Journal of Consciousness Studies, 14(5-6)
  • Sparrow, R (2007) Killer Robots. Journal of Applied Philosophy. 24(1) 62-77 Available (currently) online at http://wiley-blackwell.msgfocus.com/c/11rqP2Ti1Z7Fg6n1tY
  • Torrance, S (ed) (2008) Special Issue on Ethics and Artificial Agents: Artificial Intelligence and Society, forthcoming.

Week 7

Tuesday 13th of November, 2007
Speaker: Jessica Horst (COGS; Psychology, Sussex)

The Truth About Fast Mapping

Children's rapid acquisition of word meaning is often attributed to fast mapping. However, recent research suggests that fast mapping and word learning represent two distinct components of language acquisition. In this talk, these recent data will be presented and the Probabilistic Constraint Satisfaction/Associative Learning Perspective, which provides a developmental explanation for children's fast mapping and word learning behaviour, will be introduced. Both empirical research with 24-month-old children and simulations from a dynamic connectionist network (Hebbian Normalized Recurrence Network) will be discussed. The research will cover (1) what the child learns during the fast mapping task, (2) how this relates to word learning (3) how specifics of the task influence children's ability to map novel names to novel objects and known names to known objects and (4) how the Probabilistic Constraint Satisfaction/Associative Learning can account for new data that other perspectives in the literature are unable to explain.

Week 8

Tuesday 20th of November, 2007

No Seminar

Week 9

Tuesday 27th of November, 2007
Speaker: Aaron Sloman (COGS; University of Birmingham)

Why symbol-grounding is both impossible and unnecessary, and why theory-tethering is more powerful anyway.

The idea of an axiom system having some models is explained more fully than in previous presentations, showing how the structure of a theory can give some semantic content to undefined symbols in that theory, making it unnecessary for all meanings to be derived bottom up from (grounded in) sensory experience, or sensory-motor contingencies. Although symbols need not be grounded, since they are mostly defined by the theory in which they are used, the theory does need to be "tethered", if is capable of being used for predicting and explaining things that happen, or making plans for acting in the real world. These ideas were quite well developed by 20th Century philosophers of science, and I now both attempt to generalise those ideas to be applicable to theories expressed using non-logical representations (e.g. maps, diagrams, working models, etc.) and begin to show how they can be used in explaining how a baby or a robot, can develop new concepts that have some semantic content but are not definable in terms of previously understood concepts. There is still much work to be done, but what needs to be done to explain how intelligent robots might work, and how humans and other intelligent animals learn about the environment, is very different from most of what is going on in robotics and in child and animal psychology.

Week 10

Tuesday 4th of December, 2007

No Seminar

Series organized by Simon Bowes (s.c.bowes@sussex.ac.uk)

Summer Term 2007

  • Week 1 (17 April) Chris Thornton (COGS/Informatics, University of Sussex) Can information theory provide the foundation for a theoretical cognitive science?
  • Week 2 (24 April) Professor Manuel de Vega (Department of Psychology, University of La Laguna, Spain) What do you understand when you understand a counterfactual sentence?
  • Week 3 (1 May) Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL) The Social Brain
  • Week 4 (8 May): Kheng Lee Koay (Adaptive Systems Research Group, University of Hertfordshire) Human-Robot Interaction Experiments for a Robot Companion
  • Week 5 (15 May) Professor Mohan Matthen (Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto) How Things Look (And What Things Look That Way)
  • Week 6 (22 May) Professor Dominic McIver Lopes (Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia) Live Wires: Outline of a Philosophy of Computer Art
  • Week 7 (29 May) Anil Seth (Department of Informatics, University of Sussex) Causal Networks in Neural Systems: Explorations with Brain-Based Devices
  • Week 8 (5 June) Professor Stephen Laurence (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield) Number in the Mind
  • Week 9 (12 June) Ron Chrisley (COGS, University of Sussex) Synthetic Phenomenology: Using robots to specify the content of experience
  • Week 10 (19 June) Padraic Monaghan (Department of Psychology, University of York) Arbitrariness in form-meaning mappings: Why we don't say what we mean

Week 1

Tuesday 17th of April
Speaker: Chris Thornton (COGS/Informatics, University of Sussex)

Can information theory provide the foundation for a theoretical cognitive science?

Largely an empirical discipline, cognitive science tends to emphasise the building of models. But could there be a `theoretical cognitive science' and if so what would it look like? One possibility is that it would be based on information theory, a branch of mathematics which like cognitive science is concerned with interpretation. But there are difficulties of the `syntax v. semantics' variety. The talk will combine some general pondering on this issue with an introduction to an approach I've been exploring recently.

Week 2

Tuesday 24th of April, 2007
Speaker: Professor Manuel de Vega (Department of Psychology, University of La Laguna)

What do you understand when you understand a counterfactual sentence?

When you understand a counterfactual expression such as "If Mary had won the lottery, she would have bought a Mercedes car" you should be able to consider for a while an "as if" scenario in which Mary actually won the lottery and she bought a Mercedes car. But, in addition, you must be aware that such scenario is fictitious, and that in the real world Mary is still as poor as used to be. In other words, counterfactuals have a dual meaning.

Although the role of counterfactuals has been explored by deductive reasoning and social psychology students, the study of counterfactual comprehension has been comparatively neglected by psycholinguistics and discourse researches. I will present several studies run in our laboratory that compare the comprehension of factual and counterfactual materials. They have shown that: 1) Counterfactuals embedded in texts cancel updating processes; 2) Counterfactuals generate two situation models that coexist momentarily; 3) Counterfactuals could activate embodied representations in spite of their "abstract" meaning; and 4) Counterfactuals differ from factual contents in their ERP signature at several moments during sentence comprehension.

Week 3

Tuesday 1st of May 2007
Speaker: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL)

The Social Brain

The brain has evolved to deal with social interaction and we are increasingly learning more about the brain basis of social cognition. I will discuss recent studies on the mirror system and mentalising in healthy adults and in autism. Parts of the social brain undergo dramatic development during adolescence, and I will describe recent studies that have investigated the development of mentalising during this period of life.

Week 4

Tuesday 8th of May, 2007 at 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm
Location: Pevensey 1A1
Speaker: Kheng Lee Koay (Adaptive Systems Research Group, University of Hertfordshire)

Human-Robot Interaction Experiments for a Robot Companion

Robots are integrating into our society with an increasing rate. Besides used in industry, they are also developed to do useful tasks in domestic environments; as such it is important that robots are able to interact with humans in ways that humans find comfortable, in order to seamlessly integrate robots into human-centered social environments and contexts. Research carried out at the Adaptive Systems Research Group at the University of Hertfordshire (UH), investigates dimensions of appropriate robot behaviour when fulfilling the possible roles which robots may play in domestic environments. More specifically looking at the robot as a companion i.e. fulfilling two important functions: a) making itself 'useful' by being able to carry out a variety of tasks in order to assist humans in a domestic home environment, and b) behaving 'socially', possessing social skills in order to be able to interact with people in an acceptable manner. A personalized robot companion should take into consideration individual human's likes, dislikes and preferences and adapt its behaviour accordingly. Our initial focus is to understand the relationship between robot behaviour and user preferences in order to make the human-robot interaction socially acceptable. Currently, we are focusing on the relationships between robot appearances, proxemic/spatial preferences within different interaction contexts.

In this presentation, we will present results from Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) studies that investigate the issues of participants' preferences in terms of the robot approach direction, robot base-approach interaction-distance, robot handing-over-hand distance, robot handing-over-arm gesture, and the coordination of both the robot approach and possible handing-over-arm gestures, in the context of a robot handing over an object to a seated person. The results from this study are used to inform the development of a Human Aware Manipulation Planner, developed by one of our partners in the Integrated European Framework 6 project COGNIRON. This particular trial was performed as part of a long-term HRI study; comparisons can be drawn between the participants' preferences expressed in this and those in other trials - and can be related to the specific interaction contexts.

Results show that a majority of the participants would prefer the robot to approach them from the front, and hand them an object in the front sector of their personal zone. The robot handing-over-hand position has the most influence on determining the approach direction of the robot. Differences between participant preferences in the current trials and those exhibited in previous trials suggest that legibility and perception of risk seem to be the deciding factors on how participants choose their preferred robot arm-base approach coordination for handing over an object.

Week 5

Tuesday 15th of May, 2007
Speaker: Professor Mohan Matthen (Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto)

How Things Look (And What Things Look That Way)

What colour does a white wall look in the pinkish light of the late afternoon? What shape does a round table look when viewed as you stand next to it? Philosophers have offered many different answers to these questions. Some say that the wall looks white, the table circular; some say that the wall looks pink, the table elliptical. A third camp says that these objects look both ways, and yet another that they look neither. In this paper, I seek to offer a framework within which these disputes can be resolved empirically. I'll re-examine the phenomenon known as 'perceptual constancy', and argue that it is not properly formulated as such. A reformulation, which I entitle the "Scene Parsing Thesis", leads me to the proposal that the visual features in a scene are predicated of a plurality of things present in it. This helps me arrive at a novel view about the subjective phenomena that underlie the dispute outlined at the start.

Week 6

Tuesday 22nd of May, 2007
Speaker: Professor Dominic McIver Lopes (Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia)

Live Wires: Outline of a Philosophy of Computer Art

Scholars have a unique opportunity to attend the birth of a new art form - computer art. The distinctive feature of this art form is that it is interactive. A correct understanding of interactivity and a true appreciation of its significance requires the right definition, the right conception of the ontological status of computer art works, and the right picture of what activities go into making and using works of computer art. Touching on each of these points also corrects some misconceptions about the value of computer art.

Week 7

Tuesday 29th of May, 2007
Speaker: Anil Seth (Department of Informatics, University of Sussex)

Causal Networks in Neural Systems: Explorations with Brain-Based Devices

Neurons engage in causal interactions with one another and with the surrounding body and environment. Neural systems can therefore be analyzed in terms of causal networks, without assumptions about information processing, neural coding, and the like. In this talk, I will describe the analysis of causal networks in simulated neural systems - "brain-based devices" - using a combination of time-series analysis ("Granger causality") and network theory. I will draw implications for possible causal pathways in the hippocampus and for the relation between synaptic plasticity and behavioral learning. I will explore the idea that learning involves the selection of specific causal pathways from diverse repertoires of neuronal interactions, resulting in dynamic "causal cores" that drive behavior. Finally, I will suggest how a simple extension of Granger causality might be used to measure autonomy.

Week 8

Tuesday 5th of June, 2007
Speaker: Professor Stephen Laurence (Department of Philosophy, University of Sheffield)

Number in the Mind

In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the psychology of basic numerical abilities. One of the central issues in this area is the nature and acquisition of concepts for positive integers. In the talk I sketch a new model of the acquisition of such concepts, contrasting my account with others in the literature, and addressing some potential objections to the account.

Week 9

Tuesday 12th of June, 2007
Speaker: Ron Chrisley (COGS, University of Sussex)

Synthetic Phenomenology: Using robots to specify the content of experience

Explanations of, or appealing to, specific experiential events require a new means of specifying the contents of experience; not all of them can be specified in a straightforward manner using everyday language. One proposal, at least for the case of visual experience, is to use depictions. These can either evoke (recreate in the recipient), or refer to, the content of the experience to be specified. Practical considerations concerning the generation and integration of such depictions argue in favour of a synthetic approach: the generation of depictions through the use of an embodied, perceiving and acting agent, either virtual or real. This is a case of what I call "synthetic phenomenology": the attempt to use the states, interactions and capacities of an artificial agent for the purpose of specifying the content of experience. This talk discusses work with Joel Parthemore on the SEER-3 project: techniques for visualizing the state of a robotic model of the visual experience of a hypothetical simple organism in a way that specifies the non-conceptual content of the modelled visual experience. If possible, a demonstration will be given of the robotic system and the real-time generation of depictive specifications of the experience it models.

Week 10

Tuesday 19th of June, 2007
 Padraic Monaghan (Department of Psychology, University of York)

Arbitrariness in form-meaning mappings: Why we don't say what we mean

Saussure noted that the mapping between the sounds of words and their meanings was arbitrary in human languages. I discuss some computational models that indicate why arbitrariness, generally difficult to learn, is an optimal system for assisting in learning language. However, arbitrariness is not complete - there is systematicity in natural language, in that there are morphological and phonological indicators to a word's usage. I show that arbitrariness and systematicity are both consistent with theories of learnability and that they can coexist in a language.

Series organized by Dustin Stokes

Spring Term 2007

  • Week 1 (9 January) Professor Margaret Boden (COGS, University of Sussex) The Seven Key Dates of Cognitive Science
  • Week 2 (16 January) NO MEETING
  • Week 3 (23 January) Professor Chris Darwin (Department of Psychology, University of Sussex) Spaced out objects: spatial cues in auditory grouping and attention
  • Week 4 (30 January): Richard Watson (Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton University) What can sexuals do that asexuals can't: Biologically real assumptions meet computational complexity
  • Week 5 (6 February) Murali Ramachandran (Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex) The Invalidity of Modus Ponens
  • Week 6 (13 February) Stephen Cowley (School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire) Human symbol grounding & the person problem
  • Week 7 (20 February) Professor Geraint Wiggins (Centre for Cognition, Computation and Culture, Goldsmiths' College, University of London) The Components of a Creative System: The Architecture of a Computer Composer
  • Week 8 (27 February): Professor Steven Mithen (School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading) Seven Steps in the Evolution of the Human Imagination
  • Week 9 (6 March) Zoltan Dienes (Department of Psychology, University of Sussex) Subjective measures of unconscious knowledge
  • Week 10 (13 March) Professor John Fox (Cancer Research UK and University of Oxford): Rational medical agents: from theory to engineering

Week 1

Tuesday 9th of January, 2007 at 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm
Location: Engineering I (ENGG1-AS2)
Speaker: Professor Margaret Boden (COGS, University of Sussex)

The Seven Key Dates in Cognitive Science

1943, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1969, 1986, 1987.

Week 2

Tuesday 16th of January, 2007


Week 3

Tuesday 23rd of January, 2007
Speaker: Professor Chris Darwin (Department of Psychology, University of Sussex

Spaced out objects: spatial cues in auditory grouping and attention

Auditory objects have a remarkable spatial integrity. Despite the fact that spatial direction is more difficult for the auditory than for the visual system to compute (particularly in reverberant environments), we don't hear the different frequencies of an auditory object coming from different directions. When we attend to one of a number of simultaneous sounds, we feel that our attention is at least partly spatial, although we can also attend selectively to one of the sounds coming from a particular direction. How do we localise and attend to complex sounds in a cluttered environment? A variety of different experiments argue against the main auditory spatial cue having a primary role in the formation of simultaneous auditory objects. A more promising model is one in which auditory objects are formed on the basis of non-spatial cues (such as harmonicity, onset-time or internal schemata). An object's location is then determined from the cues associated with its constituent frequencies, and attention can then be directed to the subjective spatial position of the object. 

Week 4

Tuesday 30th of Janurary, 2007
Speaker: Richard Watson (Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton University)

What can sexuals do that asexuals can't: Biologically real assumptions meet computational complexity

Many theories exist in evolutionary biology for the long-standing question of the benefit of sex. However, although several detailed population genetic models show that sexual populations can accumulate beneficial mutations more quickly than asexual populations, none shows any scenario where sexuals can evolve something that asexuals cannot. In evolutionary computation, some recent models have been provided that show a polynomial versus exponential distinction in the expected times of crossover-based and mutation-based algorithms, respectively, to find maximum fitness genotypes. However, although a rigorous proof of this distinction is provided, the contrived fitness landscape used in this proof has little to do with biological scenarios. We observe that the genes themselves, each containing thousands of strongly epistatically dependent nucleotides, behave as what would be termed 'building blocks' in evolutionary computation. A principled distinction between sexuals and asexuals then results from the fact that hill-climbing at two different scales simultaneously (sexual populations can follow fitness gradients in allele frequency space/building-blocks, as well as genotype sequence space/individual nucleotides) cannot be approximated by hill-climbing at any one scale alone (mutation in asexual populations can only follow fitness gradients in genotype sequence space). Combining these observations provides the result that sexuals can attain high-fitness genotypes that asexuals cannot - a result that is both biologically relevant and rigorously provable in terms of computational complexity.

Week 5

Tuesday 6th of February, 2007
Speaker: Murali Ramachandran (Department of Philosophy, University of Sussex)

The Invalidity of Modus Ponens

I shall present a simple, and to my mind persuasive, case against Modus Ponens that seems to have gone unnoticed in the literature, although the ingredients, as it were, have been in full view for ages. I shall then sketch an account which appears to explain the various, and sometimes conflicting, intuitions we have about conditionals in reasoning.

Week 6

Tuesday 13th of February, 2007
Speaker: Stephen Cowley (School of Psychology, University of Hertforshire)

Human symbol grounding & the person problem

A distributed view of language (Cowley, in press a) permits a novel view of human symbol grounding. From this perspective, how infants learn to talk is of value in considering aspects of (internal) symbol grounding, computer simulation, and how robots can develop complex agency. Indeed, one can ask -for the first time- if human-like robots could come to simulate persons (MacDorman and Cowley, 2006).

On this view, language is a social meshwork that relies on neither internal symbol systems nor brains that 'learn'. Babies are self-organizing agents who discover sophisticated virtual resources. By participating in interactional events, they gradually take on linguistic agency. The baby sensitizes to others by learning to assess and manage social events. Using routines, it depends increasingly on real-time engagement withextended symbols or utterance-activity. Learning to talk draws initially -not on verbal patterns -but full-bodied interactivity. Since events are under dual control, the child orients to how caregivers enact beliefs, affect and attitudes. By the age of one, a child has a sense of when to do what she is told and, perhaps, controls syllables heard as 'more', 'milk' or 'car'. While both parties use folk psychology, adults can also formulate beliefs. Thus they (falsely) conclude that babies have 'learned' words or, strictly, take a language stance. Later children will use the stance to predict what adults are doing and, importantly, to develop ways of acting that depend on selves.

Week 7

Tuesday 20th of February, 2007
Speaker: Professor Geraint Wiggins (Centre for Cognition, Computation and Culture, Goldsmiths' College, University of London)

The Components of a Creative System: The Architecture of a Computer Composer

I discuss the vexed question of computational creativity in music: how can we build a computer system which is capable of the "creation" of original, valued musical compositions. In doing this, I lay out some principles for the scientific study of creativity (mostly borrowed from more general AI), and then show how they can be applied in the context of musical knowledge and practice. I will consider the relationship between a listener's musical experience and the task performed by a composer, and argue that the two, though intersecting, are not the same, and that the contrary assumption has held AI/Music research back in the past. Finally, I present an information-theoretic model of music perception which might one day form the basis of a reasoning system which is capable of composition. 

Week 8

Tuesday 27th of February, 2007
Speaker: Professor Steven Mithen (School of Human and Environmental Sciences, University of Reading)

Seven Steps in the Evolution of the Human Imagination

The archaeological and fossil record suggests that our hominid ancestors and relatives possessed imaginative abilities that were used in day-to-day living, such as when thinking about hunting and gathering or making stone tools. But there is no evidence that they possessed a creative imagination, the type we usually associate with activities such as art and science. This was most likely restricted to Homo sapiens that appear in the fossil record at c. 200,000 years ago. I argue that the creative imagination of H.sapiens was the product of a long evolutionary history within which seven key developments in biological and cultural evolution can be identified: the evolution of theory of mind capacities, a distinctively human life history and domain-specific intelligences, the origin of music, language and cognitive fluidity, the extension of mind by material culture and the appearance of sedentary farming communities.

Week 9

Tuesday 6th of March, 2007
Speaker: Zoltan Dienes (Department of Psychology, University of Sussex)

Subjective measures of unconscious knowledge

Unconscious knowledge is knowledge we have, and could very well be using, but we are not aware of. Hence appropriate methods for indicating unconscious knowledge must show that the person (a) has knowledge but (b) doesn't know that she has it. One way of determining awareness of knowing is by taking confidence ratings after making judgments. If the judgments are above baseline but the person believes they are guessing (guessing criterion) or confidence does not relate to accuracy (zero correlation criterion) there is evidence of unconscious knowledge. These methods show whether or not the person is aware of knowing the content of the judgment, but not whether the person is aware of what any knowledge was that enabled the judgment. A distinction is made between judgment and structural knowledge, the conscious status of each can be assessed. Finally, the use of control over the use of knowledge as a means of measuring the conscious status of knowledge (Jacoby's methods) is discussed with respect to both judgment and structural knowledge, and it is argued that such methods are plausible only to the extent that they measure awareness of knowledge (that is, they are really just a version of subjective measures). Experiments use artificial grammar learning and a serial reaction time task to explore these issues

Week 10

Tuesday 13th of March, 2007
 Professor John Fox (Cancer Research UK and University of Oxford)

Rational medical agents: from theory to engineering

The Advanced Computation Laboratory at Cancer Research UK has a long established programme of research into clinical decision-making and care planning, and the development of technologies to support these processes. Starting from an empirical analysis of clinical expertise we developed a formal language for describing decisions and plans (PROforma), and a practical technology to apply PROforma models in assisting doctors and other professionals. A growing body of evidence has been accumulated that this technology is clinically useful, and general enough to be used in other fields as well. The talk will review the CRUK programme, from its theoretical foundations in cognitive science and AI to the technology and evidence of its practical value.

Series organized by Dustin Stokes