Intelligence is not Artificial

by piero scaruffi

Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence | Bibliography and book reviews | My book on consciousness | Contact/feedback/email
(Copyright © 2018 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )


(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")

A Brief History of Cognitive Science/ Part 1 (Note: There is no Part 2)

A conceptual revolution took place in psychology thanks to the German school of "gestalt" psychology, which was influenced by the Austrian philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels ("On the Qualities of Form", 1890) and the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach ("The Analysis of Sensations", 1886). The likes of Max Wertheimer, ("Experimental Studies on the Perception of Movement", 1912), Kurt Koffka ("The Growth of the Mind", 1921), Wolfgang Koehler "The Mentality of Apes" (1925) and Kurt Goldstein "The Organism" (1939) favored a holistic approch to studying the mind at a time when psychology in the USA was dominated by behaviorism. Hence the adage: "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts". During this time, the German psychologist Otto Selz proposed that solving a problem entails recognizing the situation via a known "schema" and filling the gaps in the schema ("On the Laws of the Orderly Thought Process", 1913). A schema organize past experience and helps us deal with new experience.

Cognitive Psychology underwent a rapid mutation at about the same time that Computer Science was born. Just like the history of computers starts in England, with Turing and the Colossus, so does the history of Cognitive Science, and it is as intertwined with World War II: in 1944 Frederic Bartlett, author of "Remembering" (1932), and Kenneth Craik, author of "The Nature of Explanation" (1943), two of most influential books in the field, were asked to set up the Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge University. Just like the US counterpart to England in computers was mainly Boston, so Boston was the other primordial pole of Cognitive Science: in 1952 Jerome Bruner set up the Cognition Project at Harvard University, and later published "A Study of Thinking" (1956). Bruner was one of the founders of the "New Look" movement whose tenet was that cognition and perception are tightly integrated: you see what you expect to see based on the concepts that are in your mind, and those concepts have in turn been molded by what you have seen ("On Perceptual Readiness" 1957). In 1961 another leader of the movement, Leo Postman, established the Institute of Human Learning at UC Berkeley.

Carnegie Mellon University is where the two disciplines, A.I. and Cognitive Science, intersected from the beginning: Simon's and Newell's Logic Theorist (1956) pioneered both. The MIT produced Noam Chomsky's "Syntactic Structures" (1957) while Cambridge produced Donald Broadbent's "Perception and Communication" (1958), Broadbent having succeeded Bartlett. In 1960 George Miller, author of "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two" (1956), and Jerome Bruner set up the Center for Cognitive Studies at Harvard, coincidentally located in the old house of the great psychologist William James and one of the first laboratories where psychologies were given a computer (a PDP-4); and George Miller coauthored "Plans and the Structure of Behavior" with Eugene Galanter and Karl Pribram (all three were alumni of Stanley Smith-Stevens' Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory at Harvard). In 1965 two major new school appeared: Donald Michie set up the Experimental Programming Unit at Edinburgh and George Mandler (born in Austria) set up the Center for Human Information Processing (CHIP) at UC San Diego. The Harvard graduate Ulric Neisser (born in Germany) wrote the book that named the new discipline, "Cognitive Psychology" (1967), while at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1972 San Diego and Carnegie Mellon produced influential books, namely Don Norman's and Peter Lindsay's "Human Information Processing" and Newell's and Simon's "Human Problem Solving", and Endel Tulving (born in the Soviet Union) compiled "The Organization of Memory", that contained his article on "semantic memory" and that established the University of Toronto as a major center of research.

The San Diego school, dominated by the LNR research group (Lindsay, Norman and David Rumelhart), worked on the the "active structural network," inspired by the work of Ross Quillian and Charles Fillmore. Norman and Rumelhart published the paper "Active Semantic Networks as a Model of Human Memory" (1973) and then the book "Explorations in Cognition" (1975). (Trivia: Don Norman would become a Silicon Valley celebrity as a designer of human-computer interfaces after joining Apple in 1993).

A potentially serious flaw in the program of cognitive science is that it studied mostly humans, and not animals.

"The major difference between rats and people is that rats learn from experience" (Burrhus Skinner).

Back to the Table of Contents


Purchase "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Back to Cognitive Science | My book on consciousness | My reviews of books | Contact