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9780190217013: Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind
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In this ground-breaking work, philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark turns a common view of the human mind upside down. In stark opposition to familiar models of human cognition, Surfing Uncertainty explores exciting new theories in neuroscience, psychology, and artificial intelligence that reveal minds like ours to be prediction machines―devices that have evolved to anticipate the incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. This keeps minds like ours a few steps ahead of the game, poised to respond rapidly and apparently effortlessly to threats and opportunities as (and sometimes even before) they arise.

Creatures thus equipped are more than simple response machines. They are knowing agents deep in the business of understanding their worlds. Such agents cope with changing and uncertain worlds by combining sensory evidence with informed prediction. Remarkably, the learning that makes neural prediction possible can itself be accomplished by the ceaseless effort to make better and better predictions. A single fundamental trick (the trick of trying to predict your own sensory inputs) thus enables learning, empowers moment-by-moment perception, and installs a rich understanding of the surrounding world.

Action itself now appears in a new and revealing light. For action is not so much a 'response to an input' as a neat and efficient way of selecting the next 'input'. As mobile embodied agents we are forever intervening, actively bringing about the very streams of sensory information that our brains are simultaneously trying to predict. This binds perception and action in a delicate dance, a virtuous circle in which neural circuits animate, and are animated by, the movements of our own bodies. Some of our actions, in turn, structure the physical, social, and technological worlds around us. This moves the goalposts by altering the very things we need to engage and predict.

Surfing Uncertainty brings work on the predictive brain into full and satisfying contact with work on the embodied and culturally situated mind. What emerges is a bold new vision of what brains do that places circular causal flows and the active structuring of the environment, center-stage. In place of cognitive couch potatoes idly awaiting the next sensory inputs, Clark's journey reveals us as proactive predictavores, skilfully surfing the waves of sensory stimulation.

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Review:
This is a truly important book. It is evocatively written and reflects a truly gargantuan amount of work. It sets the stage for future debates not only about the empirical merits of Bayesian characterizations of human cognition, but also the broader philosophical picture in which such Bayesian characterizations are embedded. I predict that many of us will be reading, discussing, and analysing this book in the months and years to come. (Andrew Buskell, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science)

The book admirably conveys the excitement and ambition of the field ... Andy Clark has given us stimulating reasons for applying the predictive processing models to new domains. (Richard Holton, Times Literary Supplement)

fresh insights and intensely provocative moments (Anil Ananatgaswamy, New Scientist)

A wonderful book ... Clark's Surfing Uncertainty will become an essential point of departure for philosophers and cognitive scientists trying to come to grips with the apparatus of predictive processing. (Kenneth Aizawa, Metascience)
About the Author:
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 Being There: Putting Brain, Body And World Together Again (1997), Mindware (OUP, 2nd Edition 2014), Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies and the Future of Human Intelligence (OUP, 2003), and Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (OUP, 2008). His interests include artificial intelligence, embodied cognition, robotics, and the predictive mind.

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  • PublisherOUP USA
  • Publication date2016
  • ISBN 10 0190217014
  • ISBN 13 9780190217013
  • BindingHardcover
  • Number of pages424
  • Rating
    4.09 avg rating
    ( 319 ratings by Goodreads )

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