Artificial Life and Minds

An Interdisciplinary Reading Group at the University of Auckland

Recent advances in AI research have produced impressive problem-solving systems, but these remain remarkably different from natural minds.

In contrast to the emphasis upon problem-solving that is prevalent in artificial intelligence research (e.g. figuring out how to make a system that can successfully categorize images) this reading group will focus upon the use of artificial systems to study other phenomena associated with minds, including agency, perception, first-person experience, emotion, intrinsic normativity and purposefulness, etc.

The kinds of overarching/motivating questions we may consider include:

  • What are natural minds, what do they do, and how do they work?
  • How can we build artificial systems that are similar to natural minds and living organisms?
  • How can we use these artificial life-like systems to inform our understanding of biology and ourselves? And more broadly, how do artificial systems (models, artifacts, robots, etc.) fit within the practice of science and philosophy?

Themes may include the "4 E's": i.e. the embodied, embedded, extended and enactive properties of minds. We will also likely focus upon sensorimotor approaches to AI, which emphasize relationships of interactive feedback between brain, body and environment as opposed to the computationalist perspectives that instead emphasize acquisition or internalization of information.

The schedule can be found below. To receive announcements, sign up to the mailing list by following this link. (You will need a google account). The group is to be interdiscipinary, so no particular background is required--computer scientists, philosophers, psychologists, mathematicians, artists, physicists, etc. etc. are all welcome!

Background Reading

Many of these topics are relatively new, and thus there is no single perfect introductory text, but these have been recommended:
  • Di Paolo, E.; Rohde M.; and De Jaegher, H (2010) Horizons for the Enactive Mind: Values, Social Interaction, and Play [link]
  • McGann, M., De Jaegher, H., & Di Paolo, E. (2013). Enaction and psychology. Review of General Psychology, 17(2), 203–209 [link]
  • McGann, M. Enactive Cognition A Cognition Briefing [link]
  • Why Red Doesn't Sound Like a Bell (Kevin O'Regan, 2011)