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D. Drummond "D. Drummond" (Helsinki)

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Cone Shape and Color Vision: Unification of Structure and Perception
Cone Shape and Color Vision: Unification of Structure and Perception
by John A. Medeiros
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Original and plausible model of colour-transduction, 31 Dec. 2013
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A set of very convincing arguments for the validity of a Cone Spectrometer Model for how photoreceptors capture light and provide wavelength-discrimination.

Medeiros is not the only author to point out the various ways in which "standard cone-trichromacy" fails as an explanatory basis of colour phenomena, however the best thing about this book is that Medeiros offers a model which can account for many phenomena not covered by standard explanations - for example, the spectrally ordered "subjective colours" seen in Benham's Top demonstrations.

Although the "Establishment" views of colour vision are not so homogenous and closed to debate as sometimes they can appear in academic polemics, still it's clear that if we are to arrive at a better-grounded end-to-end model of colour vision, so the scientific community needs to adjust the foundations in this area to find a place for Medeiros' cone spectrometry. I think that his model (and detailed argumentation) will contribute to other lines of evidence (e.g. from the Mausfeld group) in trying to rethink the "transductive basis" of colour vision.

Consciousness And Robot Sentience (Series on Machine Consciousness)
Consciousness And Robot Sentience (Series on Machine Consciousness)
by Pentti Olavi Antero Haikonen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £54.55

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical & clear-sighted guide to robot sentience written by an expert in the field., 4 Mar. 2013
This book purports to show how, theoretically and practically, robot sentience is possible. Haikonen's approach combines his answer to the philosophical question of what constitutes consciousness, with his own rather ingenious "cognitive architecture" for building robots that might well satisfy the criteria for what we call "being conscious".

The author is actually rather confident, that the problem of giving a reasonable definition or description of what counts as consciousness, has been solved. Readers can draw their own conclusions on that one - personally I think Haikonen neatly describes the criteria for calling something conscious, and also provides nice system architecture for realising the kind of "machine-qualia" that robots might end up with - I think he ends up with a workable operational definition of sentience, which his own Cognitive Architecture is consistent with. Anyway, the main positives I take from this book are:

1. A neat associative neural-type architecture, which manages among other things to generate symbolic processing from sub-symbolic processing.

2. A workable mechanism for generating the diaphanous perceptual experience of both direct perception and e.g. imagined and remembered experience: a perception/response feedback loop that returns the internal neural activities into virtual sensory percepts. Although I don't think that the existence of a mechanism or five solves all philosophical and phenomenological issues surrounding perception, on the other hand Haikonen provides a lot more than the typical philosopher would provide (philosophers will generally just wring their hands about the "hard problem" of the diaphanousness of inner experience, while mostly ignoring how such experience could even come about).

3. Haikonen, unlike most philosophers of mind, has built a conscious robot!! (The author himself does not make maybe such an extravagant claim (personal correspondence), but I think that if, as seems likely to me, the Haikonen Cognitive Architecture and supporting philosophical arguments constitute a viable enterprise, then his robot meets the goals of this enterprise). You can find XCR-1 on YouTube, it's quite smart as machines go - but the main thing here that impresses me is that he built the robot using the Haikonen Cognitive Architecture design principles - and so he has a "living" proof of the utility and plausibility of the Haikonen approach to consciousness. And that is much, much more than most theorists of mind have ever contributed.

Overall: this is a book that has a clear style of exposition, yet contains a lot of nice little surprise factoids and diversions into unusual side-topics. A book which will teach philosophers new things about robots and cognitive architectures, but also an excellent primer for engineers grappling gamely with the issue of how to find a match between traditional engineering approaches to AI-design juxtaposed against the stubbornly eclectic design of our very own biological machines with their inner experiences.

Color for the Sciences
Color for the Sciences
by Jan J. Koenderink
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £48.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes colorimetry make sense., 29 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Color for the Sciences (Hardcover)
One of the many great things about this book is that after reading it, colour will actually start to make sense in related "colour-areas" such as psychology and philosophy. The style is somewhat akin to a series of lectures with lots of diagrams attached, combining easy visualisation and explanation, opinionated (but appropriate) informality, and (where called for) fairly rigorous modelling.

Although Koenderink stresses that "proper colorimetry" as a formal topic has, or should have, little to do with psychophysics and the phenomenology of (colour-)perception, still he is willing and able to offer many comments relating colorimetry to such topics, and this makes the whole discussion much more - in fact, highly - interesting and informed.

Another great thing is the amount of useful - as well as often colourful - diagrams included. In this way such concepts as the spectrum locus, the Ostwald "semichromes", Schrödinger optimal colours and various types of colour-solids, RGB crates, von Kries transformations etc etc are illustrated to the point where most readers can easily understand the idea.

I also like the way in which Koenderink manages to provide a rather better grounded approach than the at times "science by psychophysical fiat" CIE-approach (i.e. the mainstream approach). It's pleasing to see the work of Schrödinger, Ostwald et al "rehabilitated".

This book is so good that I read it twice!

Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines
Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines
by Pentti O. Haikonen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £43.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, original work in the field of synthetic cognition., 16 Nov. 2007
In this book Haikonen lays out a variety of electronic circuits and architectures for constructing robots (and robot simulations), whose lives could then be reasonably characterised as cognitive, possibly even conscious. For those interested in cognitive science and/or artificial neural networks, this book should be an enjoyable, practical and clear introduction to Haikonen's circuits for learning, perception, imagination, kinesthesia, language and other cognitive phenomena.

Haikonen takes a largely synthetic, and mostly rather plausible, approach to machine cognition. He relates his work back well to the cognition and neuroscience of humans and other animals, as well as to the cognitive scientific traditions (e.g. traditional AI, connectionism). He also shows how his architecture may be able to explain various cognitive phenomena, both in a general way - e.g. how a robot might perceive, imagine, integrate perceptual modalities etc, as well as showing how his model may explain some specific cases from the cognitive scientific literature - see e.g. the discussion (pp. 96-97) of modelling the corollary discharge theory synthetically.

Haikonen pitches his explanations very clearly, and makes good and frequent use of diagrams. This reviewer is not an electrical engineer, but could understand just about all of the diagrams and explanations, which is quite an achievement (by Haikonen, not the reviewer :).

As with all science and especially in cognitive science, there are plenty of philosophical commitments in this book, some explicit, others implicit. If the reader is interested in a high-level explication of Haikonen's approach to cognitive machines, I would recommend his 2003 book, "The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines".

In summary: Haikonen's book contains plausible and often original proposals for building cognitive robots; and I like the interest Haikonen shows in relating theory to practical matters - an approach seen throughout this stimulating, clearly written, and I would say intellectually quite courageous book. Haikonen tells us what he himself thinks, as well as how cognitive machines might come to think.

The Geometries of Visual Space
The Geometries of Visual Space
by Mark Wagner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable mid-level overview of psychophysical research into visual space, 23 Sept. 2007
Coming from a philosophical and phenomenological background, I've read a few books and articles on visual space from the psychologists, and this is the best of them so far.

The author writes clearly, and the main themes are well set out, avoiding the "too dense" approach of the insider.

The author explains the beauty (yet the failure) of synthetic geometries as an explanation of our visual spaces, and describes much analytic work (building up to geometry through measuring spatial judgements) which more closely model our visual space. Wagner also avoids falling into the representationalist trap that so often catches psychologists, yet pace behaviourism, he values introspection as a valid method among others.

The only minor and pedantic gripe from this reviewer would concern the numerous spelling and grammatical errors strewn throughout the text, however these don't detract much from the clarity of the presentation.

Recommended reading for anyone interested in our subjective experience of space.

Where the Action is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (Bradford Books)
Where the Action is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction (Bradford Books)
by Paul Dourish
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

4.0 out of 5 stars well written guide to what situated computing is about, 4 Jun. 2007
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This is a book about design and philosophical issues in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). The author examines how computer systems, when thought of as technical entities, are essentially "underdefined", since in the end they are always designed for people. He also looks at how modern phenomenology (a strand of modern philosophy) and social anthropology offer us methods to move towards an embodied, encultured approach to HCI design.

Particularly interesting is the informed discussion of various computer development models in which human users can use real objects to stand for themselves. For example, the "Illuminating Light" application for testing hologram-making scenarios uses "phicons": physical icons such as mock beam-splitters, laser sources and mirrors which also represent their "computer" meaning in the system. These phicons "stand for themselves" - as the user moves them around a table, the software calculates beam angles and displays those via a projector onto the same table, thus making the user experience of testing holography set ups more tangible and intuitive. (Side note - holography set-up is a tricky old business, at least for this reviewer, so this application would also be useful outside of mere "prototype" contexts).

The book contains lots of example scenarios, the author draws particularly on experiences from his career in "innovative software" development with Xerox plc. In this way, the book manages to stay relevant from an engineering design perspective.

Dourish also introduces - in an easy-paced "philosophy for the mildly interested" style - various philosophers from the 20th Century whose contributions to the ideas of our existence as "embodied" and "interactive" selves have both reoriented modern philosophy and enabled philosophy to contribute theoretical ideas to other fields. He mentions Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Andy Clark, and so on - references are provided for further reading, though I reckon the basic treatment in the book - brief explication with concrete examples in HCI practice - is pitched just right for it's target audience, the HCI community.

Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals about How We Become Who We Are
Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals about How We Become Who We Are
by Steven R. Quartz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.20

5.0 out of 5 stars one of the ways forward in modern neuroscience, 4 Jun. 2007
The authors are two of the world's leading neuroscientists, in particular Terry Sejnowski. What they do in this book is set out, in entertaining and easy to follow prose, how the coevolution of brain and world works, a view they call "cultural biology" for their pop-science readership (and "neural constructivism" for their professorial readership). The book does the right job in pop-science - enlightens the lay reader while providing references for the would-be intellectuals. Above all Quartz and Sejnowski show us a way forward in neuroscience that avoids the traps that Pinker-populised evolutionary psychology has fallen into. In the future, people will refer to neural constructivism as part of the movement into dynamical systems in philosophy and neuroscience. Some of the examples refer more than necessary to US culture, but that is a minor gripe. If you are interested in nature, nurture, and the brain, ignore Pinker and buy this book instead.

[ps - the same review appears on another website, written by me though so no copyright issues here]

Action in Perception (Representation and Mind Series)
Action in Perception (Representation and Mind Series)
by Alva NoŽ
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.86

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern situated-enactive philosophy, by one of the field's leading lights, 4 Jun. 2007
This is NoŽ's popularisation of a philosophy he calls: the enactive view of perception. The book can be seen as a mid-level overview of what the enactive view involves and how it putatively solves some puzzling aspects of perception.

NoŽ's main theme in the book is that perceptual modes such as vision are "mode[s] of exploration of the environment drawing on implicit understanding of sensorimotor regularities". In fact, NoŽ (like most philosophers) is particularly interested in vision and our theories of what visual perception is constituted by, so most of the book is about vision.

NoŽ spends some time going through familiar philosophical objections to the "eye as pinhole camera, vision as a movie in the brain" worldview common since the time of Kepler and Descartes. He also considers various experiments on change blindness and their implications for any coherent philosophy of vision (cf the collection of articles in a book "Is the visual world a grand illusion? " edited by NoŽ).

Then he proposes the sensorimotor account of visual perception:

"through skilful visual probing - what Merleau-Ponty called "palpation with the eyes" - you bring yourself into contact with it. You discern its structure and so, in that sense, represent it. Vision is touch-like. Like touch, vision is active. You perceive the scene not all at once, in a flash. You move your eyes around the scene the way you move your hands about the bottle.... We gain content by looking around just as we gain tactile content by moving our hands. You enact your perceptual content, through the activity of skilful looking." [p73]

(I'm glad one of my favourite philosophers is slowly being recognised in the English-speaking philosophy world. Merleau-Ponty was ahead of his time, emphasising the importance of our experienced lives as subjective bodily existence interacting with and having projects in the world. See his "Phenomenology of Perception" (1945), or try Stephen Priest's commentary, "Merleau-Ponty" (1998) instead).

Anyway, back to NoŽ, who uses his sensorimotor account to sketch out how the regularities in visual phenomena, and our knowledge of the regularities connecting movements to changes in what is seen, actually constitute our visual perception of everyday objects, whether seen, possibly seen, partially hidden or 5000 miles away. As he puts it:

"My experience of the circularity [of the plate] just is my experience of the variation in its perspectival shape. Furthermore, one doesn't think that the plate is round on the basis of the evidence of the senses, for example, that it looks elliptical. One experiences its roundness through the mastery of its sensorimotor profile." [p85]

NoŽ also considers colour vision, and notes that scientific research has not always been on firm philosophical footing in this area (from Kepler and Newton through to David Marr and beyond). NoŽ puts forward his own sensorimotor account of how we perceive colour, stressing the "not entirely given" nature of colour sensation - hence NoŽ's opposition to the "qualia are qualia are real!" axis (Ned Block, David Chalmers, V. Ramachandran, the Logical Positivists, etc):

"..the point is that our experience of colours is shaped by our implicit grasp on their positions in colour space... imbued with possibilities of variation..degrees of freedom in a space of phenomenal possibilities. We don't see the rest of the colour space when seeing the red look of the book. But our sense of the presence of that larger colour space contributes to what [it] is like when we experience red." [p137]

The discussion of colour is followed by an interesting account of perspective, pictures, art and phenomenology. These reflections show that NoŽ is a committed phenomenologist, with phenomenology's (and art's) main task being "not so much to depict or describe experience, but rather to catch experience in the act of making the world available" [p176] - and this task is essentially sensorimotor, or enactive. This is maybe why Cezanne's apples in bowls and trees in the countryside sometimes seem "more real" than real apples and trees.

NoŽ goes on to discuss the concept of number as defined in Wittgenstein's Tractatus - the idea being that, as with our experience, we have no actual infinite set of numbers present to understanding, but are able to "always continue" experiencing (and counting). Aristotle's characterisation of the infinite as an "always possible" comes to mind. Anyway, the point for NoŽ is that:

"Maybe colours, and other perceptible qualities, are like numbers. Maybe our grasp of colour shares with number something like this formal or formulaic aspect... If this is right, then there is a sense in which there are no new experiences, no perceptible qualities requiring utterly new conceptual devices to comprehend them. In the same way, there are no new numbers. Properties of all numbers, and all experiential qualities, are given at once with the system." [p196]

The idea here is that this generative view of what understanding colour or numbers emphasises the constructive aspect of understanding. In passing I should mention that many academics take broadly constructivist approaches to cognitive issues (see e.g. Quartz and Sejnowski, Lakoff and Nunez, Peter Gärdenfors).

In the final chapter NoŽ reviews neuroscientific issues about plasticity, modularity and so on, observing that in Ramachandran's "phantom limb" patients, recovery was always associated with the patient integrating sensory information with motor activity.

NoŽ integrates a deep understanding of contemporary neuroscience with a critique of empiricist naÔveté in his phenomenological approach to philosophy, pitching his explanations in readable prose for a wider audience (a rare trait among philosophers). His work with Kevin O'Regan, Evan Thompson and in this book (cf also Andy Clark, "Being There"), successfully shifts the emphasis of philosophy away from the dryness of propositional logic and "intuitive" notions of what is foundational in experience, towards a new philosophy informed by and contributing to theoretical neuroscience, as well as to phenomenological issues about what it's like to be ourselves in this world.

The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines
The Cognitive Approach to Conscious Machines
by Pentti O. Haikonen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, clear, entertaining, and thought-provoking, 21 May 2007
Haikonen outlines the issues surrounding machine consciousness, and develops some theoretical and practical ideas towards realising the goal of cognition and consciousness in machines - initially via discussions and surveys of the philosophical and neural network aspects of the problem; towards the end of the book, he offers some tantalising glimpses into how to implement the project. (These "implementation themes" form the main topics in Haikonen's 2007 book, "Robot Brains: Circuits and Systems for Conscious Machines").

Haikonen seems committed to a representationalist cognitivism - i.e. the view that cognition deals in representations as it's main "contents" - though the notion of what inner representations are (and the attendant debate surrounding their philosophical status) is left mostly unanalysed. Late on in the book, he seems to go for a notion of representation as a dynamic pattern of neuron excitation, a plausible computational neuroscience approach (cf. Churchland & Sejnowski "The Computational Brain").

On sensation, the familiar philosophical issues - about what exactly these "sensations" are - are avoided in favour of a "standard neurobiology" approach (nociceptors, haptic sensors, images on a retina etc). Similarly, the account of what a "percept" would be - how to individuate, describe etc is left for the non-engineer to think about further.

There's an interesting and quite plausible analysis of pain qua subjectively felt pain - for Haikonen, pain is a system reaction, rather than a sensation ascribed to outside-body perceptions. Also his system-account of the emotions and motivation is quite modern (though again there are issues of identification and individuation here, given the complexity of the brain qua neural network and the body in it's tight integration with the brain).

In Chapter 7 "language and thought"... Haikonen shows he understands the inherent weaknesses of Chomskian "universal grammar" - e.g. biological implausibility, and the omission (via the failed attempt to separate semantics away from syntax) of "meaning as motive" for communication. His practical linguistic model, as he notes, is quite similar to that of Deacon ("The Symbolic Species"). Haikonen is also sympathetic to the Cognitive Linguistic axis as propounded by Langacker et al (see e.g Ronald Langacker "Concept, Image, and Symbol" on the Cora language), especially to the view there is no such thing as pure syntax, that all grammar and syntax always have both semantic, and cognitive, aspects.

Also interesting is Haikonen's emphasis on the importance of cross-modal linking in cognition, and on making language to some extent part of "conceptually based perception".

Haikonen notes in passing the power of language as a compression/de-compression tool for associations - this ability is a main factor in our species' "cognitive power-play" compared with other species. (See e.g. Hurley & Nudds (eds) "Rational Animals").

The chapter on speech is interesting, both as a beginner's guide to connectionist models of comprehension and syntax, and through considering the issue of speech production - connectionism, and other axes in linguistics (e.g. the Chomskian-Pinkerian), have concentrated too much on the perception-comprehension-acquisition side of cognition and language, and not enough on the motor-speech production side; whereas Haikonen realises that speech is an important "action-tool" which we use to create the environment according to our desires, including of course getting other people to do things for us - and that, therefore, any cognitive model has to have a stab at both wanting to speak and at producing (to some extent) syntactical speech.

Chapter 8 "consciousness", is a selected survey of theories in this area of philosophy. I'm biased here, against the starting point of so many thinkers in this area, viz. the notion that there is some non-relational "quale" as a property of experience, and the notion that self-consciousness is somehow the "most-privileged" kind of consciousness. Whereas it seems to me, trivially, that all animals are conscious (and - more controversially - that even plants or cells may be conscious in some meaningful sense). On the other hand, Haikonen's practical approach to machine consciousness focuses on the feedback, motor- and process-aspects of consciousness, rather than getting bogged down in Journal of Consciousness Studies' interminable debates, so this "survey"-chapter serves mainly as "useful background" to Haikonen's constructive project.

Haikonen's specifications for the cognitive machine perhaps involve more "pre-building" than our own neonate brains endow us with. However, with machine building we have an advantage over evolution, in that we know roughly what our goals are in future, so this is ok in the context. The motor impact and input of/to learning can be taken even further with machines and virtual machines - cf. Phillipona, O'Regan, Nadal paper 2003 "Is there something out there? Inferring space from sensorimotor dependencies" in Neural Computation, 15(9), on a mathematical proof for how a brain with an environment, sensory receptors and proprioception learns by doing that the world is n-dimensional.

Haikonen's approach is quite modular and functionalist, yet connectionist and "bottom-up" - give the machine a neural network with various functions, together with some interconnections between the modules to enable learning and e.g. cross-modal perception. If this approach can be implemented then it will certainly help us see the possibilities for machine-consciousness.

On machine consciousness in general, Haikonen is definitely on the right track. Consciousness is process-based, arises from the material spatial world we all live in, and essentially involves an organism's thinking, acting, and teleological goals, whether that organism is carbon-, silicon- or virtual-PDP-constructed. As with animals, cognition and perception do not have as their contents the physical carriers which instantiate and process information: we humans don't see changes in rhodopsin molecules in the retina, we don't observe the firing thresholds of our neurons - and neither does a cognitive machine. Rather, through crossmodal and intra-modal distributed connections (cf. papers in Spence & Driver (eds) "Crossmodal space and crossmodal attention"), we and the robots perceive and act on that meaningful world which our perception and actions also essentially constitute, and the self-referencing nature of this enterprise is what makes us (and our environment) dynamical, non-linear systems.

Crossmodal Space and Crossmodal Attention
Crossmodal Space and Crossmodal Attention
by Charles Spence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £50.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent cognitive neuroscience, 27 April 2007
Well-written, wide-ranging articles on topics central to cognitive neuroscience and modern philosophy - to what extent are the sensory modalities crossmodal (integrating what we normally think of as unimodal channels such as vision, touch, audition), and what role does attention play in crossmodality.

As with most collections of scientific papers, the reader will tend to find their own favourites, as well as maybe some "oh well i suppose that's ok" chapters, that is kind of in the nature of compilations. In this book though, there has been a good effort to stay "on theme" and provide references between chapters, so this works out rather well.

A basic understanding of neuroscience helps when reading the book, it's target audience would be cognitive neuroscience students and researchers, as well as philosophers interested in scientific approaches to cognition.

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