Machine experiments and theoretical modelling: From cybernetic methodology to neuro-robotics [Book Review]

Minds and Machines 15 (3-4):335-358 (2005)
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Cybernetics promoted machine-supported investigations of adaptive sensorimotor behaviours observed in biological systems. This methodological approach receives renewed attention in contemporary robotics, cognitive ethology, and the cognitive neurosciences. Its distinctive features concern machine experiments, and their role in testing behavioural models and explanations flowing from them. Cybernetic explanations of behavioural events, regularities, and capacities rely on multiply realizable mechanism schemata, and strike a sensible balance between causal and unifying constraints. The multiple realizability of cybernetic mechanism schemata paves the way to principled comparisons between biological systems and machines. Various methodological issues involved in the transition from mechanism schemata to their machine instantiations are addressed here, by reference to a simple sensorimotor coordination task. These concern the proper treatment of ceteris paribus clauses in experimental settings, the significance of running experiments with correct but incomplete machine instantiations of mechanism schemata, and the advantage of operating with real machines ??? as opposed to simulated ones ??? immersed in real environments.



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