Until recently, Artificial Intelligence research has been grounded on a theory of cognition that is based on symbolic reasoning. That is, somewhere in our heads the concepts are represented symbolically and reasoned about via deduction and induction.
At long last, AI researchers are truly learning from human cognition (oh the irony!) Introducing Leo, the robot that learns to model and reason about the world like human babies do, via embodied experience and social interactions:
“It’s really through the body, and the dynamic coupling of neural systems for perception, action and introspection, that cognition emerges,” says developmental psychologist Linda Smith of Indiana University in Bloomington.
Smith goes even further in challenging the conventional wisdom on human intelligence:
“That’s all there is to cognition,” Smith somewhat defiantly told an audience at the cognitive science meeting. Symbolic representations of knowledge in the brain, cherished by many cognitive scientists, simply don’t exist, in her view.
Her view is supported not only by experimental results in infants, but also by vast amounts of cognitive science literature on the embodied nature of cognition. Lakoff and Johnson’s tour de force, Philosophy in the Flesh, summarizes these results and presents a theory of cognition based on the embodied mind. They contend that the primary mechanism by which conscious reasoning is done is via metaphor, primarily metaphor that is based on the five senses (e.g. “I see what you mean”, or “That was a bittersweet experience”).
What’s novel about Smith et al’s work is that they bring in the social dimension to cognition and how powerful the results appear to be. One way to extend their approach would be to endow Leo with the six social influence primatives catalogued by Cialdini: Reciprocation, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity. Currently Leo’s main cognitive trick seems to revolve around Social Proof.