Research Notes: virtuality, speed, necessity and cognition
I am now reading Andy Clark's book Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. This is a successful attempt to bring together strands in situated robotics (which I studied with Dave Cliff at Sussex), cognitive science, evolutionary and adaptive systems (from von Uexkull, also Deleuze and Guattari's inspiration), developmental psychology, and phenomenology.
The book contains many good observations and conjectures derived from all of these fields. But the guiding principle is that nature tends towards the simplest and most efficient solution. This is, in many cases, a devolved 'subsumption architecture' of the kind employed by the roboticist Rodney Brookes. In some cases however, a more complex solution emerges. An example of this may be simulations that act to provide "virtual feedback" within action loops:
…proprioceptive signals must travel back from bodily peripheries to the brain, and this takes time – too much time, in fact, for the signals to be used to generate very smooth reaching movements. To solve the problem, the brain may use a trick (widely used in industrial control systems) called motor emulation. p.23
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