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Controversies in Cognitive Systems Research

This document originally arose in the context of one of the 'Grand Challenge' research projects identified by the UKCRC, in an ongoing process of consultation and debate, starting with collection of proposals in 2002 which were boiled down to a small number at a conference in November 2002. Grand Challenge 5 (GC-5: Architecture of Brain and Mind) has its own web page, which provides more information.

This 'controversies' website started as a portion of that one, but soon grew large enough to be separated off. It will probably continue to grow indefinitely, and suggestions and criticisms are welcome. The location will shortly move to the euCognition web site, where a Controversies in Cognitive Systems Research section has been added to the euCognition wiki. This will be jointly edited by David Vernon and Aaron Sloman, to whom suggestions and criticisms should be sent.


Many controversies are associated with GC-5 research (Defined
Although it is hoped that researchers can in principle agree on the kinds of functionality that will need to be explained, it is not expected that they will agree initially on theories and concepts to be used or on which sorts of mechanisms and architectures are likely to work. However if they can collaborate for a few years on the task of specifying what needs to be explained (because much of it can be based on observation of humans and other animals, in various physical and social environments) that may be able to lay the foundation for eventual agreement on tests against which theories and models can be evaluated.

What follows is a provisional and incomplete list of topics on which there is disagreement that might one day be resolved (or reduced) by starting from agreed requirements (at least in the form of well organised, properly documented, analyses of competences that need to be modelled, explained or replicated in robots), in no particular order:


(To be expanded, clarified, reorganised, improved....)

This first draft, hastily-constructed, summary of controversies is somewhat biased, and certainly incomplete. Most of the above text will need to be revised. Additional controversies may be added to the 'Cognition Briefings' section of the
euCognition wiki. Please send me suggestions and references to expand and balance what's here. In particular there are probably many controversies in particular areas of relevant research that would be worth listing in an extended version of this web site. It is particularly worrying that many people are teaching their students false histories of sort quoted above. I quoted it anonymously, pending permission to give the source. However, it is just one sample among many published papers and books making very similar claims.

This site was originally written by by Aaron Sloman

Last updated: 14 Dec 2008 (with minimal formatting changes Leslie Smith, Dec 2012)