Statement of Interests

Mark H. Bickhard

I am interested in the nature of persons - both in the sense of the modeling of biological and social persons and in the sense of the design of artificial persons. These interests take me from neurobiology and the philosophy of mind to the higher reaches of psychological processes - such as language, rationality, and consciousness - and beyond to sociality, personality, and social processes and structure.

The central axis of these models is an original perspective on the problems of the nature of knowledge and of representation. In particular, I have discovered a radical critique of the standard assumption that representation is essentially some form of encoding, and have developed an alternative model - an interactive model - that succeeds in avoiding the fatal consequences of that critique. The focus of many of my publications is the development of the implications of this alternative approach to representation with respect to all domains of psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. Most crucially, this has involved the cognitive hierarchy of perception, cognition, and language. Although the model that I have developed is related to computer models and robotics, it logically forces a dynamic systems approach, and is strongly critical of the defining assumptions of information processing and artificial intelligence approaches, including PDP. It involves foundational critiques of, and corresponding revisions of, the fundamental underlying mathematics of cognitive science: Turing machine theory (formal process) and Tarskian model theory (formal semantics).

A broad theme in this work is the evolutionary and developmental emergence of normative phenomena out of prior forms of process. In this regard, I have developed, for example, models of function, representation, rationality, language, psychopathology, and sociality.

The interactive model of representation has deep implications concerning the fundamental importance of robotics and autonomous agents and the differentiation of those fields from standard artificial intelligence and cognitive science approaches:

There is a relative of AI, however, that is concerned with true interactive systems, not just with information processing systems. This is robotics. The conceptual issues, both theoretical and philosophical, involved in the nature of genuine and competent interactive systems, robots, are the conceptual issues of psychology in its broadest sense, for which human beings are our most advanced examples, and including both epistemology and genetic epistemology. (Bickhard, 1982, p. 563)

The interactive model has applications ranging from the design of autonomous agents to the understanding of central nervous system processes, and implications for the modeling of learning and development, motivation, memory, rational thought, emotions, and consciousness. Representation permeates all psychological phenomena, and so also, therefore, does an alternative model of representation permeate all areas concerned with psychological phenomena.

My most recent book (1995) explored the implications of the interactive model and its associated critiques throughout numerous research domains and projects in artificial intelligence and cognitive science. My current primary book project develops a naturalistic approach to persons - whole persons: How could persons exist in a world of quantum fields? How could they have evolved? How could they know about their worlds, including about other persons? How could they think, and learn? How could they communicate? How could normative rationality emerge? What is motivation, and what are emotions? What are consciousness and reflective consciousness? What is the nature of sociality? How does sociality generate social process and social structure? How and by what processes do these phenomena develop? How could we design artificial persons that could know, think, communicate, feel, and so on, and why might we want to? It develops, in other words, an ontological psychology. I expect to continue the development of these alternative models, their applications, and their implications in all domains of psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and philosophy.

Recent Projects

Mark H. Bickhard

Recent projects have included:

* the emergence of cognition in biological systems;

* cognitive representation in the brain;

* principles of neural interaction;

* the emergence of consciousness;

* a new model of rationality;

* an account of the high context dependence of cognitive dynamics;

* rationality and generalization in expertise;

* an exploration of constructivisms and their relationships to education;

* the functional emergence of linguistic grammar;

* a major survey and critique of multiple approaches and projects in Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science;

* processes underlying heuristic problem solving, analogy, and metaphor;

* a dynamic functional model of scaffolding;

* the interrelationships of cognition, motivation, and emotion;

* a new model of human sociality.

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