Perception, according to an emerging vision in computational and cognitive neuroscience, depends heavily on prediction. Rich, world-revealing perception of the kind we humans enjoy occurs, these stories suggest, when cascading neural activity matches the incoming sensory signal with a multi-level stream of apt ‘top-down’ predictions. That same story suggests that perception, understanding, and imagination – which we might intuitively consider to be three distinct chunks of our mental machinery – are inextricably tied together, emerging as simultaneous results of that single underlying strategy. Action, surprisingly, may be treated using much of the same apparatus. In the talk, I first introduce this general explanatory schema, and then discuss these (and other) implications. I end by asking what all this suggests concerning the fundamental nature of our perceptual contact with the world.
Andy Clark is Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, at Edinburgh University in Scotland. He is the author of several books including Being There: Putting Brain, Body And World Together Again (MIT Press, 1997), Mindware (Oxford University Press, Second Edition 2014), and Supersizing the Mind (Oxford University Press, 2008). Academic interests include artificial intelligence, embodied and extended cognition, robotics, and predictive processing. His new book Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind is to appear with Oxford University Press in 2015.