In just over four decades of thinking about relationships between AI, Philosophy, Biology and other disciplines I have found that there are a number of requirements for progress in our understanding that are often not noticed, or ignored. In particular, our explanatory theories need to take account of a number of facts about the world and things that live in it, which together have deep implications for theories of mind, whether natural (evolved) or artificial. NOTE: Different things are ignored by different researchers. For example, researchers who emphasis the use of logical forms of representation, rule-based systems, structure-matching, topological relationships, or linguistic interaction often ignore the requirement for perceptual systems (including visual systems) to perceive processes of various kinds. Some of them may assume that once perception of static structures has been sorted out, perception of processes can be handled in terms of sequences of static states. On the other hand, researchers who emphasise online interaction with the immediate environment tend to ignore the need to represent and reason about structures and relationships that are not currently sensed or acted on, but which might be relevant to explaining things that have happened, making plans, choosing goals, cooperating with others, designing new shelters or machines, etc. For instance, they ignore states and processes referring to what happened or did not happen in the past, why something happened or did not happen, what would have happened if something had occurred, what exists in distant places, what could happen in the future, what's impossible in a situation and why it's impossible, what would become possible, or impossible, if some future possibility were realised. And so on. Some of those who emphasise the production of behaviours during online interactions ignore all requirements for representing the contents and processes in the environment in ways that are independent of how they are sensed or acted on. Those who assume intelligent agents have to know about the contents of the environment may ignore the point (emphasised by James Gibson) that some of the contents of the environment can most usefully be represented in terms of how they affect possible actions (Gibson's affordances). Many of those who study the perception of static and changing physical environments ignore the diversity of other functions of visual perception, e.g. understanding written communications, How-To diagrams, seeing intentions, likes dislikes, kinds of effort, difficulty in the actions that others are performing. (Some of them studied by G. Johansson, using moving point lights.)
Can we come up with an approach to studying perception, action, learning, reasoning, communicating, and other aspects of intelligence in a way that helps to prevent excessively narrow focus? Here are some thoughts:
References1. The universe contains matter, energy and information. (For an answer to 'What is information?' see ). Life is intimately connected with informed control. Almost all processes involving living things, including metabolism, use information to select among options provided by configurations of matter and energy, whereas most inanimate matter behaves in accordance with resultants of physical and chemical forces and constraints. 2. The types of information, the types of control, and the types of problem for which informed control is required, are very varied, and changed dramatically in many different ways between the earliest life-forms and modern ecosystems including humans and their socio-economic superstructures. We need to understand that (enormous) diversity in order to understand the varieties of natural intelligence and in order to understand requirements for modelling or replication in artificial systems. 3. The earliest and most obvious uses of information are in "on-line" control of discrete or continuous forms of behaviour triggered or guided by sensory information -- and this may suffice for microbes in constantly changing chemical soups. Some researchers seem to think that's all brains are for, and some roboticists aim for little more than that in their robot designs. 4. New, more diverse, and more complex, challenges and opportunities were presented by changes in physical environments, physical bodies, and types of behaviours of prey, predators, conspecifics, and inanimate but changing features of the environment (e.g. rivers, winds, waves, storms, diurnal and seasonal cycles, earth-quakes, avalanches, etc.). [A crude reminder of evolutionary transitions where changing environments and changing morphology require changing information processing mechanisms, forms of representation, and architectures.] For more details see the presentations here: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/talks/ 5. As a result, the types of behaviour, sensory-motor morphologies, forms of control, types of information, and forms of information-processing became more and more complex, especially in organisms near the peaks of food-pyramids with r/K trade-offs favouring K strategies (few, but complex, offspring ). 6. In particular, for some species, the relative importance of on-line control of interaction with the immediate environment declined, in some situations, in comparison with abilities to store and use information about the past, about remote locations and their contents, about possible futures, and about the information processing done by other individuals (e.g. infants, mates, competing and collaborating conspecifics, prey, predators etc) and by themselves (self-monitoring, self-debugging, selection between conflicting motives, preferences, hypotheses, etc.) 7. One consequence of all this was the increasing importance of informed control of information processing, as contrasted with informed control of actions in the physical environment. The need to be able to acquire, store, analyse, interpret, construct, derive, transform, combine and use many different types of information, including information about information, led to development (in evolution, in epigenesis and later in social-cultural evolution) of new forms of encoding of information (new forms of representation) new information-processing mechanisms and new self-constructing and self-modifying architectures for combining multiple information processing subsystems, including, but not restricted to, sensory motor sub-systems . 8. The ability to think about possibilities, past and future and out of sight, touch and hearing, as opposed to merely perceiving and acting on what is actual became especially important for some species. Some robot developers understand this, for instance those who work on SLAM . 9. The requirements for such mechanisms are closely related to the development of mathematical capabilities in humans. For a partial analysis of the requirements see . For links with development of mathematical competences in children and other animals see . 10. Because it is very hard to think about all of these issues, and how interdependent they are, most researchers (in philosophy, AI, robotics, psychology, neuroscience, biology, control engineering) understandably focus their research on a small subset. Unfortunately some of them write as if there is nothing else of importance, and that has been an unfortunate feature of many recent waves of fashion in AI, including the fashion for emphasising only aspects of embodiment concerned with on-line interaction with the immediate environment. 11. That fashion ignores information-processing requirements concerned with being located in an extended, rich, diverse, partly intelligible universe of which the immediate environment is a tiny fragment and in which not only what actually exists is important but also what might happen and constraints on what might happen, along with the invisible intangible insides of visible and tangible things, and their microscopic and sub-microscopic components. 12. A good antidote for some of this myopia is the work of Karmiloff-Smith on transitions in understanding micro-domains . 13. When we have absorbed all that, perhaps we can attend to the requirement for much of the information processing to make use of virtual machinery as has increasingly been required in artificial information processing systems over the last six decades, including self-monitoring directed at virtual machine operations, not physical processes -- providing the roots of a scientific theory of qualia and the like, with causal powers. But first we have to understand the (mostly unobvious) requirements that drove it all, discussed in . We can describe this as research on Meta-Morphogenesis, the morphogenesis, over various time scales and evolutionary, developmental, and social/cultural transitions, of forms of morphogenesis .
 Requirements for a Fully Deliberative Architecture (Or component of
 If learning maths requires a teacher, where did the first teachers come
 Actual Possibilities, in
Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning
Eds L.C. Aiello and S.C. Shapiro, 1996, pp 627--638}.
 Annette Karmiloff-Smith,
Beyond Modularity: A Developmental Perspective on Cognitive Science,
MIT Press, 1992,
(Discussed in http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/beyond-modularity.html)
 Evolution of mind as a feat of computer systems engineering:
Lessons from decades of development of self-monitoring virtual machinery.
 Some exceptions to my strictures
Not all research in AI and Robotics exhibits the kinds of myopic focus on online interaction with the immediate environment criticised above. Examples include work on SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), Planning, Mathematical reasoning, Game playing, and various applications of AI requiring reasoning about complex, structured, systems. E.g. find out about SLAM here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simultaneous_localization_and_mapping
Virtual Machinery and Evolution of Mind (Part 3)
Meta-Morphogenesis: Evolution of Information-Processing Machinery
(To be published in a collection of papers on Turing's work.)
There is much work on architectures in AI and Cognitive Science, and many different architectures are proposed
either because people ignore previous work or because different researchers focus on different subsets of
requirements. A partial survey of architectures is available at http://bicasociety.org/cogarch/
My own work (with colleagues at Birmingham) on requirements not just for one architecture, but for a space
of biological architectures of many kinds (the CogAff project) can be found here
There are strong connections with Marvin Minsky's work, which focuses on the special case of a human architecture,
The Emotion Machine. See http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/.
For more on all this see http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/talks/
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham