[RK in conversation 12-Jan-2018]
Katherine Hayles’ definition of cognitive systems doesn’t necessarily involve consciousness. In particular, anything that’s adaptive to its environment is executing a kind of cognitive function. That’s a kind of interesting broadening within the topic of algorithms, because they always involve switches and traces, or ‘cognitive functions’. Therefore that got very interesting to me as a kind of conceptual broadening of the whole theme, because it involves all lifeforms plus all software. And her argument is: well, we know that consciousness is influenced by all sorts of non-conscious cognitive structures. And there’s plenty of psychological representations. There’s this famous example of the gorilla suit where you’re told to watch this video and track the basketball between people. And a guy walks through the whole thing in a gorilla suit and you don’t see him. These filtering processes are very powerful. And also now we’re in this time, partially because of software, of inventing and creating what she terms ‘cognitive assemblages’. One example of a cognitive assemblage is the entire traffic surveillance system of Los Angeles. But, you know, there’re plenty of others, which could also involve like using your smartphone. So that’s an interesting broadening. And one thing that strikes me is: it’s a little bit interesting to think of the cognitive processes as essentially akin to functional programs or patterns. They’re things that set up that exist. And that then consciousness is where you begin to have future-past decision making going on.