Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Autumn 2018

Autumn 2018

Tuesdays 16:00-17:30


Oct 2    

Designing Specialised Technology to Aid Canine Workers 
Charlotte Robinson
University of Sussex

Abstract: Dogs are ubiquitous throughout many societies. Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hearing Dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, and Medical Alert Dogs are paired with humans to support them in their daily lives including opening doors, helping load washing machines, retrieving fallen items, using ATM machines or warning of oncoming medical emergencies. This research has investigated how we can design practical technological applications for assistance dogs that are designed specifically to support these dogs themselves in their tasks. In developing such technologies, our research has used multi-species ethnography and participatory design to develop a system that enables assistance dogs to call for help on behalf of their vulnerable owners in an emergency. We found that such emergencies may vary widely and that dogs may have to act on behalf of their assisted owners with varying degrees of autonomy. Although many canine-human communication devices have been developed to allow for working dogs such as assistance, search and rescue, and medical alert dogs to use to support them in their tasks, in most of these cases the human is in charge of the interaction or the dogs interact with the technology under the direction of the human. This is an open question in ACI (Animal-Computer Interaction) that is reliant on understanding from other fields such as animal cognition research- how much can a dog actually understand various interfaces they use, and how important is it that they do?

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Oct 16    

Poiesis in Action: Doing Without Knowledge 
Andrew Pickering

Abstract: This talk extends my interest in cybernetic practices to our relations with nature and the environment. Martin Heidegger distinguished between two stances in the world which he called enframing and poiesis. Enframing is our familiar command-and-control way of being, predicated on a view of the world as passive and dominatable. Cognition is central here, and science, in particular, sets the world up for enframing by describing and analysing the levers of power. Poiesis is a different style of being, but remains nebulous and hard to grasp in Heidegger’s account. I attempt here to put some flesh on a possible interpretation of what poiesis might be by looking at worldly practices that centre on dynamic attunement rather than domination, and which foreground dances of agency—performative experimentation—rather than knowledge. My examples are drawn from adaptive approaches to environmental management and ‘natural farming.’ I end by remarking on parallels between my story of poiesis and traditional eastern philosophy.

Link to audio on OneDrive

Future Technologies Lab, Chichester 1 

Oct 23

The Spread Mind: A mind-object identity approach to the problem of consciousness
Riccardo Manzotti
IULM University, Milan

Abstract: Consciousness is still an elusive phenomenon whose nature and causes are largely unknown. Decades of neuroscientific research have not provided a solution to the physical underpinnings of subjective experience. What and where is consciousness in the physical world? Whenever standard perception takes place, along with one’s body and one’s brain, there is also the external object. Could the object be the thing that is identical to one’s experience?I will present and discuss a mind-object identity theory of consciousness, a radical externalist departure from the accepted internalism of neuroscience, and will discuss its theoretical implications and supporting empirical evidence. The theory is based on a simple hypothesis: One’s experience of an object is identical with the object itself. To defend this hypothesis, I reconsider the notion of physical objects in terms of object-relativity where ‘relative’ reads as in ‘relative velocity’ rather than as in ‘relative to a subject.’ The proposed view is neither a form of panpsychism nor a variant of neutral monism; moreover, it does not require any emergence. I will defend this hypothesis against the most pressing internalist objections: cases of hallucinations, dreams, mental imagery, subjective variability, phantom limbs.

Short Bio: Riccardo Manzotti (phD in Robotics) is professor of theoretical philosophy at IULM. He got a Phd in Robotics, and holds degrees in both philosophy and computer science. He has been Fulbright Visiting Scholar at MIT (Department of Linguistic and Philosophy), visiting professor at the United Arab Emirates University (UAE), at KAIST (South Korea), researcher at Northwestern University in Chicago and at Trinity College (Dublin). His main interest has always been the problem of consciousness in the physical world. He also worked on aesthetics, art perception, AI, artificial vision, goal-directed robotics, and machine consciousness.He has just published two books on the topic of consciousness: The Spread Mind (ORBooks, 2017) and Consciousness and Object (John Benjamins, 2017). Together with Tim Parks he published a series of 13 dialogues about consciousness on the New York Review of Books (https://www.nybooks.com/contributors/riccardo-manzotti/)

Link to audio on OneDrive


Future Technologies Lab, Chichester 1 

Nov 13

The Neural Dynamics of a Mindful Brain
Elena Antonova

Abstract: There are different definitions of mindfulness. These differences exist between different traditions of Buddhism. They are also reflected in how mindfulness is understood and defined in its secular reincarnation as a clinical intervention and as an area of scientific research. Depending on what we mean by ‘mindfulness’ both as a process and a state, we would expect to find different neural dynamics. We would also expect different neural dynamics between the beginners and experts of mindfulness practice. Based on the research done by others and myself, I will map what these neural dynamics might be. Finally, I will relate the effects of mindfulness on brain functional dynamics to the trans-diagnostic efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions.

Bio: Dr Elena Antonova is a Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, UK. She has obtained BSc in Psychology from the University College London, UK, in 2000 and the PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the Institute of Psychiatry, UK, in 2004. Her main research interest is the neuroscience of mindfulness using psychophysiology and neuroimaging methods with the application to the prevention and management of psychosis and schizophrenia. Dr Antonova held Templeton Positive Neuroscience Award between 2011-2013 for the project investigating the effect of mindful attention on sensory information processing in expert mindfulness practitioners (http://www.posneuroscience.org/research-awards.html). Her research attracted media attention, including two reports featured on the BBC Breakfast Show. She has been actively involved with the Mind and Life Institute (https://www.mindandlife.org/), an organization co-founded by Francisco Varela that aims to facilitate an inter-disciplinary research into the effects of contemplative practices. Her contribution to the work of the Mind & Life Institute and to the field of contemplative neuroscience has been recognized with an election as a Mind & Life Research Fellow in November 2017.

Future Technologies Lab, Chichester 1 

Nov 27

Pasha Dawood Parpia


Future Technologies Lab, Chichester 1  

Dec 11

The Machine is a Ghost
Dr Angus Nisbet FRCP

In his 1949 book, ‘Concept of Mind’, Brighton born & schooled, Oxford University philosopher, Gilbert Ryle criticised Cartesian dualism, which was the prevailing scholastic philosophical dogma of the time. Ryle described it as a ‘category error’. Using Descartes’ own concept of the body as a machine, he ridiculed the non-physical dualist concept of the mind by coining the phrase ‘the myth of the ghost in the machine’. The word ‘ghost’ is from the Germanic word gast or geist, meaning breath and has the same origins as spirit (as in holy spirit). It means mind, including the idea of a disembodied mind, but it is also closely tied to life. I discuss whether Ryle was right about dualism being a category error and about whether the mind is no more than what the brain does, as US cognitive scientist, Marvin Minsky, later phrased it. I consider that mind may be one of the things the brain does, but that our current understanding of the physical structure and function of the brain is insufficient to explain key aspects of mind (consciousness) such as qualia, personhood, personal identity, intentionality and free will. I further point out that epiphenomenalism (ie the mind simply being a product of brain function) fails to explain how the mind can use the brain to report back on its conscious experiences (so-called access consciousness by Ned Block). I conclude that even if the ‘ghost’ is not spatially located in the ‘machine’, it still exists as a separate, though brain-dependent entity. I then turn my attention to attempt to undermine the common concept of the physical. I begin by looking at the implications of the atomic and molecular structure of matter and for example, what constitutes solidity and conclude that even with a classical chemical and physical understanding matter, it appears to be no more than sets of rules attached to concentrations of energy. Next, I invoke quantum mechanics to undermine even this concept of matter, pointing out that fundamental particles only exist as probability distributions, thus only as potential entities and not real entities in time and space. Penultimately, I point out that all the macro-properties of the physical (solidity, liquidity, transparency, temperature, position, size, number, shape, velocity) are ideas in our minds based on how physical entities interact with our human bodies and their sense organs. I point out that for anything to be said to exist, it has to have interacted with our sense organs either directly or via scientific instruments such as telescopes, microscopes, Geiger counters, particle colliders etc and then perceived or conceived by the mind. Finally, I point out that all concepts of the fundamental micro-structure of the physical, whether in chemistry or in physics, such as atoms, sub-atomic particles, waves, fields etc. are metaphors based on how we experience the aforementioned macro-properties of the physical via our bodies and sense organs. I conclude that the physical, including our bodies and brains, is only a set of concepts in our minds and thus the Machine is Ghost.

Angus is a Consultant Neurologist & Sleep Physician working at the Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trust, the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Hove Montefiore Hospital, and Goring Hall Hospital.

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