Anigrafs: Experiments in Cooperative Cognitive Architecture (MIT Press)

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9780262527781: Anigrafs: Experiments in Cooperative Cognitive Architecture (MIT Press)

An innovative proposal for understanding how mental organisms make decisions and control behavior.

In this book, Whitman Richards offers a novel and provocative proposal for understanding decision making and human behavior. Building on Valentino Braitenberg's famous "vehicles," Richards describes a collection of mental organisms that he calls "daemons" -- virtual correlates of neural modules. Daemons have favored choices and make decisions that control behaviors of the group to which they belong, with each daemon preferring a different outcome. Richards arranges these preferences in graphs, linking similar choices, which thus reinforce each other. "Anigrafs" refers to these two components -- animals, or the mental organisms (agents or daemons), and the graphs that show similarity relations. Together these two components are the basis of a new cognitive architecture.

In Richards's account, a collection of daemons compete for control of the cognitive system in which they reside; the challenge is to get the daemons to agree on one of many choices. Richards explores the results of group decisions, emphasizing the Condorcet voting procedure for aggregating preferences. A neural mechanism is proposed. Anigrafs presents a series of group decisions that incorporate simple and complex movements, as well as aspects of cognition and belief. Anigrafs concludes with a section on "metagrafs," which chart relationships between different anigraf models.

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About the Author:

Whitman Richards is currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and is affiliated with MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). He has been a member of MIT's faculty for fifty years.


One of the most original, engaging, and profound books that I have ever encountered. Richards starts modestly by reconstructing social choice theory on networks. As the chapters unfold, he reveals how this framework extends to reveal unexpected insights into movement, coordination, and cognition. Anigrafs will likely be a classic within artificial intelligence.

(Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics, University of Michigan; External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute)

In a well-written, fascinating manner, Richards confronts the 'daemons' that compete for control of their home, a particular cognitive system. By relating daemons, which try to influence cognitive functioning toward their favored choices, to individuals whose similar behavior colors group decisions, Richards cleverly relates and uses recent advances in group decision processes from Social Choice Theory to advance an understanding of how cognitive systems reach conclusions.

(Donald Saari, Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Irvine; author of Disposing Dictators, Demystifying Voting Paradoxes)

First there was Selfridge's 'Pandaemonium,' a winner-take-all network in which daemons independently shouted their vote and the one with the loudest voice won. Then Kilmer and McCulloch's RETIC, schema theory, and distributed artificial intelligence showed how schemas or agents could reach consensus through competition and cooperation. Instead, the daemons here -- 'anigrafs' (animals, schemas, agents, nodes in a graph) -- break through their solipsism by adopting a voting scheme that adds to a daemon's shout the voices of all its neighbors on a similarity graph, allowing other preferences to win if they satisfy a social contract. Richards applies this scheme to swimmers, walkers, dancers, planners, explorers and, of course, alliances.

(Michael A. Arbib, Professor of Computer Science and Neuroscience, University of Southern California; author of How the Brain Got Language)

This volume is a delightful exploration of an innovative approach to cognition and will be of interest both to cognitive theoreticians and to systems builders looking for new metaphors for composing simple parts into more complex structures.

(H Van Dyke Parunak)

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