Re: Missing the point?

From: Dunsdon, Graham (
Date: Fri Feb 21 1997 - 11:52:46 GMT

On Thu, 20 Feb 1997 13:33:05 GMT Minnett-Westwood, Della

> I think that I may be missing the point somewhat, but
> what do cognitive scientists hope to achieve by explaining
> and simulating cognitive processes using computational
> methods?

Clearly, descriptions provided by cognitivists, behaviourists and
biologists/geneticists do not provide anywhere near to a complete
explanation of the mind. So, as I understand it, conitive science said
let's all work together, in a long term coordinated study, to see if we
can help in this scientific voyage of discovery by simulating the
processes (the whats) that could explain human awareness.

If we know all there is to know I agree there is no need to simulate,
but are you able to say now that looking at the 'whats' to help explain
the 'hows' is unlikely to provide at a reasonable cost any major
insights, or eureka experiences, or even assist in identifying the
doors which are most likely to lead to humans knowing more about
themselves and the interaction of the environment? I suppose an
alternative approach is to say that what we observe in behavioural
terms IS more relevant in assisting mankind than mapping of processes
which might provide an information processing explanation - but how do
we know now which door the ultimate prize is behind?!

> I have failed to identify any practical applications of
> Cognitive Science.

You cite later the example of neurological deficits and seem to be
suggesting that even if we find a cogsci explanation for them (say out
of the work on neural nets) it will not/ may not show us how to repair
the brain or how to minimise the effects of such deficits. But isn't
this what research and development is all about in any undertaking or
discipline? We all take existing knowledge and then find ways to
improve that knowledge until it does provide real benefit for your
target market or target population. Surely we need both realtime
coal-face practitioners and backroom research and development to work
together? I agree cost/benefit analyses are required, but is today the
time to make that evaluation?

Dunsdon, Graham.

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