Civilization / Cognitive Science / Computer Science / Creativity / Culture / Incompleteness / Neuroscience / Philosophy / Science

Layers of Cognition

Creativistic Philosophy

File:Red onion rings closeup.jpg

We might think of the world and ourselves as a layered system, like an onion. These layers have no fixed borders, they are just a way to orient ourselves in the matter, like a map, but looking at the matter this way might be useful.

We may think of the human being as the core and the world as the outer layer. We might divide the world into an outer layer not influenced by us (“nature”) and an inner layer of artifacts and things influenced by our actions, containing technological objects and systems, waste and destruction, buildings and clothes, and so on (“culture” or “civilization”).

The human being has traditionally been divided into a body and a mind. The body contains sensors (ears, eyes etc.) and effectors (hands, legs, etc.) that can act upon the world. It also contains the brain in which the mind is implemented, and some “support…

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2 thoughts on “Layers of Cognition

    • This article is actually an attempt to prepare for another one, where things get a bit more abstract. Here, I am trying to classify what is in our mind:
      There are contents that come in from our senses or through the processes of our mind, for example, you see something (e.g. a picture). This is what I call data.
      Secondly, there are processes where something happens with the data. For example, you identify what you see on a picture (from the bitmap that your camera takes you get, for example, a word like “house”, i.e. you recognize or describe what you see. This is an example of a process. I am thinking of these processes as something comparable to programms in a computer (if that comparision is valid remains to be seen).
      The third level is processes that produce such programs. E.g., you learn to recognize a house. There is a process that assembles some other process, so you develop a new skill or method or plan of doing something, of thinking or perceiving. Such learning processes are the meta-programms.
      The next step will be to map these concepts into a mathematical model. The purpose is to investigate the theoretical limits of what a system composed of such components (data, programs and meta-programs) can do and what it cannot do. It turns out that each such system is incomplete in the sense that there are possible things one could do that it could not learn or find and that you need something else (“creativity”) to get out of such a limited area. You may think of a set of meta-programs (learning methods the mind employs to learn new things) as containing only a limited amount of knowledge about how to put things together into new kinds of cognitive structures. You may think of it as a kind of mental tool box. Each such tool-box has its blind spots, things you cannot do with it, but there is the possibility of another kind of processes that extends our mental toolbox.
      I am not sure this makes it clearer. The whole thing might become clear when the now missing parts are there but I don’t have enough time for it now and I have not found the way yet to explain it without making it too mathematical.

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