Review: Reflections on Abstractions for General Artificial Intelligence

Newell (1990) Unified Theories of Cognition

Newell (1990)

Initially, when I first read the abstract of Laird’s article I was turn off, mostly because he cites Newell (1990) – it just seems so old school.

It’s been almost 25 years since Newell’s Unified Theories of Cognition, but I’m glad I continued reading because there is much I like about this short article.

When I first got into AI, I was kind of obsessed with symbolic cognitive architectures, thinking they had much potential to achieve General Artificial Intelligence. But the more I researched the more I realized how much cognitive architectures:

a) neglected the mind, body, environment model

b) focused too much on high level cognitive functions, like language

With respect to “a”, I believe, an ecological approach to AI is paramount. That is, we should be focusing our research on perception and action.

With respect to “b”, it seems like symbolic cognitive architectures were trying to solve high level functions when they haven’t solved low level functions, ie. perception and action.

With that said, I do think Laird mentioning Newell (1990) “different levels of processing” very apt, and believe it is still relevant today. I also think “timescales” are not mentioned enough and should be a larger part of the discourse when discussing AI.

So, before reading this article I had almost completely dismissed symbolic cognitive architectures as a viable direction towards achieving general artificial intelligence.

However, I now agree with Laird and think neural (I am not sure what is means my graphical) models are necessary for modeling perception and (he says) “some aspects of motor control” (I think most aspects), and that symbolic representations augmented with non-symbolic can be useful.

One final note, I think symbolic cognitive architectures should take the back seat. First we should we should really understand perception and action. In figure 1. The structure of the Soar, perception and action are not explained, they are just discreetly coming from and to the body.

You can find John E. Laird’s paper here:

– – –

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply