Origins of the Cognitive Revolution. October 7, 1998. The Cognitive revolution in. Linguistics Psychology Computer science Philosophy Anthropology, sociology. Cognitive metatheory (Baars).
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What are we talking about (when we talk about cognitive science)? Cognitive metatheory: (Baars) "…a belief that psychology studies behavior in order to infer unobservable explanatory constructs, such as "memory," "attention," and "meaning." (144). "The cognitive revolution took place in many places at the same time, and involved a number of areas, including memory, language, imagery, and attention. (147)…a metatheory that encourages one to infer unobservable theoretical constructs from empirical observations. (158).
"a contemporary, empirically based effort to answer long-standing epistemological questions -- particularly those concerned with the nature of knowledge, its components, its sources, its development, and its deployment."(6)
1. Mathematics and computation: by the 1950s, scientists were comfortable with the idea of an algorithm that could be specified in very general terms, and which could in principle be computed automatically. Mathematical proofs were themselves now something that could be studied mathematically (David Hilbert, Kurt Gödel); mathematical truth could be viewed as formal consistency.
The core idea: the nervous system operates in a continuous relationship of feedback with the environment, modifying its activity in order to best satisfy achievement of the current goal-state (a future, not-yet-achieved state).
Claude Shannon (electrical engineer at MIT and Bell Labs):
showed that there was a quantifiable notion of information. Information is what is not redundant in a message. What was critical was showing that these were hard, cold items submissible to mathematical analysis.
I wish that you would consider all of these as following altogether naturally in this Machine from the disposition of its organs alone, neither more nor less than do the movements of a clock or other automaton from that of its coutnerweight and wheels...
McCulloch and Pitts (1943) "A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity," written while both were at the U of C (both moved to MIT in the years after WWII); both were during the war in the mathematical biology community led by Nicholas Rashevsky at the U of C.
Work during the early 1940s including "parallel interconnected neurons, dynamics of simple circuits, the general neural net, fluctuations of threshold..." .."a statistical consequence of the logical calculus of nervous nets (Dec 1943)."
Pitts a graduate student? That's what Rall says. But Jerry Lettvin, his best friend at the time, says Pitts was a perpetual outsider befriended by brilliant faculty, like Carnap and McCulloch; and that Pitts was 18 years old, and had been kicked out by his family. (see Talking Nets, Anderson and Rosenfeld, MIT Press, 1998, p 3ff).
Major addresses by John von Neumann on the digital computer (which he had been designing);
Warren McCulloch (of whom we have spoken);
Karl Lashley: "The problem of Serial Order in Behavior".
Karl Lashley: "The problem of Serial Order in Behavior". "The problems raised by the organization of language seem to me to be characteristic of almost all other cerebral activity." To wit: spotlight on the complex organization of behavior. This complex behavior requires advance planning, of a hierarchical sort; it cannot be analyzed as a series of acts, each caused by the environment and the previous act....
Lashley: "Attempts to express cerebral function in terms of the concepts of the reflex arc, or of associated chains of neurons, seem to me doomed to failure because they start with the assumption of a static nervous system. Every bit of evidence available indicated a dynamic, constantly active system, or, rather, a composite of many interacting systems."
We do not believe that this functional equivalence between brains and computers implies any structural equivalence at a more minute anatomical level...Discovering what neural mechaisms realize these information processing functions in the human brain is a task for another level of theory construction. Our theory is a theory of the informaiton processes involved in problem-solving and not a theory of neural or elctronic mechaisms for information processing.
all intelligent systems involve physical symbol systems: a control, a memory, a set of operations, input and output. Involves production systems -- an operation which is carried out if a certain specific condition is met. "Programs consist of long sequences of such production systems operations on the data base." (Gardner).
One can date the change roughly from 1956: in psychology, by the appearance of Bruner, Goodnow, and Austin's Study of Thnking and Miller's "Magical number seven"; in linguistics, by Noam Chomsky's "Three models of language"; and in computer science, by our own paper on the Logical Theory Machine.
1. The real goal is not good grammars of languages, but explanatory adequacy, i.e., explanations of particular languages based on principles that are intended to be truths about all languages (=Language).
2. Formal expression was crucial; to quote Bacon, truth comes more easily from error than confusion.