Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Nautilus interviews M.I.T.'s David Chapman on why robots can't dance.
The philosopher Hubert Dreyfus anticipated this technical impasse by more than a decade in his book What Computers Can’t Do. He drew on Heidegger’s analysis of routine practical activities, such as a making breakfast. Such embodied skills do not seem to involve formal rationality. Furthermore, our ability to engage in formal reasoning relies on our ability to engage in practical, informal, and embodied activities—not vice versa. Cognitive science had it exactly backward! Heidegger suggested most of life is like breakfast, and very unlike chess.
Heidegger didn’t have much to say about learning, but his insight that human activity is always social was an important clue. Phil and I took inspiration from several schools of anthropology, sociology, and social and developmental psychology (some of which had, in turn, been inspired partly by Heidegger). We began working toward a computational theory of learning by apprenticeship. “Robots That Dance” sketched parts of that. Shortly thereafter, we realized that turning these ideas into working programs was not yet feasible.
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