Cognitive Capabilities

With a little help of my Chap (Wang Qingsong)

Technological breakthroughs happen for reasons which often trigger irrational reactions; it was the case for the printing press and textile machinery, and now for generative AI (GAI). And the forces driving oppositions generally mirror the ones behind innovations, for GAI it’s the gap between human and mechanical achievements as perceived incurrent social and economic environment. An outline of cognitive capabilities of humans and machines could thus help to overcome the objections.

Cognitive Prism

Structural Aspects

Cognition relies on three categories of symbolic resources:

  • Named Environments (data): Identified facts (objects and phenomena)
  • Mental Representations (knowledge): Concepts reflecting values and objectives
  • Symbolic Representations (information): Categories (structures and semantics) applied to facts

Functional Aspects

Symbolic resources are combined to support:

  • Communication (facts/concepts): Exchange of meaningful signs or symbols between living organisms (plants included) and machines.
  • Classification (facts/categories): Mapping of facts to categories, first by identifying individual objects and phenomena, then by defining shared features and corresponding types
  • Reasoning (concepts/categories): Truth-preserving processing of symbolic representations.

Cognitive Tiers

Taking clues from ontogeny (individuals) and phylogeny (species) development, cognitive capabilities can be characterized by three stages:

  • Conversation: Immediate communication between agents with beliefs using signals and signs (animal species and machines) and symbols (human species and machines) with meanings bounded by actual contexts.
  • Reason: Communication (conversational and mediated) and processing of symbolic representations of bounded (machines) or boundless (people) contexts.
  • Judgment: Ability to distinguish between actual and virtual representations and deal with modalities (people).

Cognitive tiers could provide a yardstick in the current debate about AI limits, setting the cursor for awareness (conversation), transparency (reason), and consciousness (judgment).


%d bloggers like this: