The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Situated Cognition

The US computer scientist Rodney Brooks, the originator of "situated cognition", shifted the emphasis of Artificial Intelligence to the interaction between an agent and its environment. 

Brooks’ “situated” agents have no knowledge. Their memory is not a locus of representation but simply the place where behavior is generated. 

In Brooks' "subsumption" architecture, behavior is determined by the structure of the environment. The cognitive system has no need to represent the world, but only for how to operate in the world. There is no centralized function that coordinates the entire cognitive system, but a number of distributed decisional centers that operate in parallel, each of them performing a different task. The system does not have the explicit representation of what it is doing. It does have parallel processes that represent only their very limited goals. 

The system decomposes in layers of goal-driven behavior, each layer being a network of finite-state automata, and incrementally composes its behavior through the interaction with the world.

Brooks can therefore account for the very fast response times required in the real world. In the real world there is no clear-cut difference between perception, reasoning and action. 

Brooks turns the mind into one of many agents that live in the environment.  The environment is the center of action, not the mind. 

The environment is action, continuous action, continuously changing.  Only a system of separate, autonomous control systems could possibly react and adapt to such a context. 

The world contains all the information that the organism needs. Therefore there is no need to represent it in the mind. The environment acts like a memory external to the organism, from which the organism can retrieve any kind of information through perception. 

"Intelligent" behavior can be partitioned into a set of asynchronous tasks (eating, walking, etc.), each endowed with a mechanism of perception and action.  An artificial organism can be built incrementally by gradually adding new tasks.  Behavior arises from layers of competence. Cognition is rational kinematics.

Brooks’ ultimate point is that every intelligent being has a body!


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