CBPC 1266 Minds and Machines

What is the mind? How are the mind and the brain related to each other? How does the brain make cognition possible? Over the last half century, cognitive scientists have developed a new understanding of the mind and of our capacities for thinking. At the core of this “cognitive revolution” lies the idea that thinking is information processing and that information processing is the result of the computational functioning of the brain. The mind, according to this idea, is the software of the brain.

The aim of this course is to develop an understanding of this hypothesis (its motivations, successes, and limitations), while reflecting on its implications for how we view ourselves and our relationship with technology. Although we study developments in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology, our ultimate goal is to get a better handle of the broader and powerful ideas that relate computation and cognition. In particular, we want to crtically reflect on the conceptons of intelligence, consciousness, and creativity that come hand in hand with this way of thinking about the mind.
Over the course of the term, students will:
• learn core principles and concepts of the classical models of computation and more recent developments, including computational neural networks.
• study concrete applications of these models to see how they can be used to develop empirical hypotheses of different mental and cognitive processes.
• reflect on the extent to which some core capacities of the human mind (understanding, self-consciousness, creativity, and emotions) can be approached in computational terms.



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