Are Emotional Structures the Foundation of Intelligence?

Posted in artificial intelligence on January 9th, 2013 by Samuel Kenyon

It seems like all human babies go through the exact same intelligence growth program. Like clockwork. A lot of people have assumed that it really is a perfect program which is defined by genetics.

Obviously something happens when a child grows. But surely that consists of minor environmental queues to the genetic program. Or does it?

Consider if the “something happens as a child grows” might in fact be critical. And not just critical, but the major source of information. What exactly is that “nurture” part of nature vs. nurture?

What if the nurturing is in fact the source of all conceptual knowledge, language, sense of self, and sense of reality?

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Infants, Monkeys, Love, and AI

Posted in artificial intelligence on December 27th, 2012 by Samuel Kenyon

Perhaps you have seen pictures or videos from the 1960s of rhesus monkey babies clinging to inanimate surrogate mothers.

H.F. Harlow's Research Into Relationship Between Child and Mother Utilizing Infant Rhesus Monkey

In one of Harlow’s experiments, a baby monkey clings to the softer surrogate mother.

These experiments were by Harry Harlow, who eventually went against the psychology mainstream to demonstrate that love—namely caregiver-baby affection—was required for healthy development.

Dr. Harlow created inanimate surrogate mothers for the rhesus infants from wire and wood. Each infant became attached to its particular mother, recognizing its unique face and preferring it above all others. Harlow next chose to investigate if the infants had a preference for bare wire mothers or cloth covered mothers. For this experiment he presented the infants with a cloth mother and a wire mother under two conditions. In one situation, the wire mother held a bottle with food and the cloth mother held no food, and in the other, the cloth mother held the bottle and the wire mother had nothing.

Overwhelmingly, the infant macaques preferred spending their time clinging to the cloth mother. Even when only the wire mother could provide nourishment, the monkeys visited her only to feed. Harlow concluded that there was much more to the mother/infant relationship than milk and that this “contact comfort” was essential to the psychological development and health of infant monkeys and children. [1]

According to Stuart G. Shanker [2], various primates reach levels of funtional-emotional development similar to the first 2-3 levels (out of 9) that humans accomplish. Perhaps part of the system is the infancy period is much longer for humans.

Although a baby rhesus doesn’t express its positive affects with the same sorts of wide joyful smiles that we see in human infants between the ages of two and five months, in other respects it behaves in a manner similar to that of a human infant. The rhesus baby spends lots of time snuggling into its mother’s body or looking keenly at her face. It visibly relaxes while being rocked, and vocalizes happily when the mother plays with it. We can even see the baby rhythmically moving its arms and legs and vocalizing in time to its caregiver’s movements and vocalizations.

Shanker said this about Harlow’s experiments:

Although it was clear that the infants were deriving great comfort from the cloth-covered surrogates, they still suffered from striking social and emotional disorders.

One might interject here: Well so what? Who cares about social and emotional disorders? Well, aside from gunshot victims. What about intelligence? What about self awareness? The thing is though, that intelligence and possibly even the capacity for basic symbolic thought—ideas—are developed via emotions and social interactions.

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Recursion and the Human Mind

Posted in artificial intelligence on December 5th, 2011 by Samuel Kenyon

It’s certainly not new to propose recursion as a key element of the human mind—for instance Douglas Hofstadter has been writing about that since the 1970s.

nested recursion

Michael C. Corballis, a former professor of psychology, came out with a new book this year called The Recursive Mind. It explains his specific theory that I will attempt to outline here.

The Recursive Mind

As I understand it, his theory is composed of these parts:

  1. The ability of the human mind to generate concepts recursively is what causes the main differences between homo sapiens and other animals.
  2. A Chomskian internal language is the basis for all external languages and other recursive abilities. (See this blog post by Corballis for a summary of an internal language as a universal grammar).
  3. External languages evolved on top of the recursive abilities primarily for storytelling and social cohesion.
  4. External languages started with gestures, and most likely were followed by mouth clicking languages before vocal languages emerged.

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Enactive Interface Perception and Affordances

Posted in artificial intelligence, interfaces on November 14th, 2011 by Samuel Kenyon

I just published version 2 of my Enactive Interface Perception essay over on Science 2.0.

It’s now called “Enactive Interface Perception and Affordances”.

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