Cognitive Robotics can be defined as the study of cognitive phenomena by their modeling in physical artifacts such as robots. This is a very lively and fascinating field which has already given fundamental contributions to our understanding of natural cognition. Nonetheless, robotics has to date addressed mainly very basic, lowlevel cognitive phenomena like sensorymotor coordination, perception, and navigation, and it is not clear how the current approach might scale up to explain highlevel human cognition. In this paper we argue that (...) a promising way to do that is to merge current ideas and methods of 'embodied cognition' with the Russian tradition of theoretical psychology which views language not only as a communication system but also as a cognitive tool, that is by developing a Vygotskyan Cognitive Robotics. We substantiate this idea by discussing several domains in which language can improve basic cognitive abilities and permit the development of highlevel cognition: learning, categorization, abstraction, memory, voluntary control, and mental life. (shrink)
The standard view of classical cognitive science stated that cognition consists in the manipulation of language-like structures according to formal rules. Since cognition is ‘linguistic’ in itself, according to this view language is just a complex communication system and does not influence cognitive processes in any substantial way. This view has been criticized from several perspectives and a new framework (Embodied Cognition) has emerged that considers cognitive processes as non-symbolic and heavily dependent on the dynamical interactions between the cognitive system (...) and its environment. But notwithstanding the successes of the embodied cognitive science in explaining low-level cognitive behaviors, it is still not clear whether and how it can scale up for explaining high-level cognition. In this paper we argue that this can be done by considering the role of language as a cognitive tool: i.e. how language transforms basic cognitive functions in the high-level functions that are characteristic of human cognition. In order to do that, we review some computational models that substantiate this view with respect to categorization and memory. Since these models are based on a very rudimentary form of non-syntactic ‘language’ we argue that the use of language as a cognitive tool might have been an early discovery in hominid evolution, and might have played a substantial role in the evolution of language itself. (shrink)
Understanding the role of ‘‘representations’’ in cognitive science is a fundamental problem facing the emerging framework of embodied, situated, dynamical cognition. To make progress, I follow the approach proposed by an influential representational skeptic, Randall Beer: building artificial agents capable of minimally cognitive behaviors and assessing whether their internal states can be considered to involve representations. Hence, I operationalize the concept of representing as ‘‘standing in,’’ and I look for representations in embodied agents involved in simple categorization tasks. In a (...) first experiment, no representation can be found, but the relevance of the task is undermined by the fact that agents with no internal states can reach high performance. A simple modification makes the task more “representationally hungry,” and in this case, agents’ internal states are found to qualify as representations. I conclude by discussing the benefits of reconciling the embodied-dynamical approach with the notion of representation. (shrink)
The effects of striatal dopamine (DA) on behavior have been widely investigated over the past decades, with “phasic” burst firings considered as the key expression of a reward prediction error responsible for reinforcement learning. Less well studied is “tonic” DA, where putative functions include the idea that it is a regulator of vigor, incentive salience, disposition to exert an effort and a modulator of approach strategies. We present a model combining tonic and phasic DA to show how different outflows triggered (...) by either intrinsically or extrinsically motivating stimuli dynamically affect the basal ganglia by impacting on a selection process this system performs on its cortical input. The model, which has been tested on the simulated humanoid robot iCub interacting with a mechatronic board, shows the putative functions ascribed to DA emerging from the combination of a standard computational mechanism coupled to a differential sensitivity to the presence of DA across the striatum. (shrink)
In this interview Dennett is asked to clarify some of the most fundamental and controversial aspects of his theory of Intentionality, and of his philosophy in general, including his mild ontological realism, the relationships between ontology and science, naturalized epistemology, normativity, rationality, and the relation between science and philosophy. At the end of the interview, a critical bibliography points to the most important publications of Dennett up to 2000.