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Yokoi Robot Hand by G. Gomez, A. Hernandez Arieta, Hiroshi Yokoi and P. Eggenberger Hotz. Produced by Tsukasa Kiko Engineering

How the body shapes the way we think

design principles for intelligent systems

Lecture Rolf Pfeifer - AILab - University of Zurich | 22.10.2007 | 8 - 9:45 Uhr | HIL E04


While we normally think that the brain or the mind controls the body (the Cartesian position), it can be shown that to a significant extent, our body shapes our thinking. Traditionally, in robotics, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience, there has been a focus on the study of the control or the neural system itself. Recently there has been an increasing interest into the notion of embodiment in all disciplines dealing with intelligent behavior, including psychology, philosophy, and linguistics. In this talk, we explore the far-reaching and often surprising implications of this concept. While embodiment has often been used in its trivial meaning, i.e. „intelligence requires a body“, there are deeper and more important consequences, concerned with connecting brain, body, and environment, or more generally with the relation between physical and information (neural, control) processes. Often, morphology and materials can take over some of the functions normally attributed to control, a phenomenon called “morphological computation”. A number of design principles are introduced that on the one hand characterize biological systems and on the other can be used to design artificial ones. A number of case studies are presented to illustrate the concepts and design principles introduced.

Rolf Pfeifer received his masters degree in physics and mathematics and his Ph.D. in computer science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at Carnegie-Mellon University and at Yale University. Since 1987 he has been a professor of computer science at the Department of Informatics, University of Zurich, and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Having worked as a visiting professor and research fellow at the Free University of Brussels, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Neurosciences Institute (NSI) in San Diego, and the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, he was elected "21st Century COE Professor, Information Science and Technology" at the University of Tokyo for 2003/2004, from where he held the first global, fully interactive, videoconferencing-based lecture series "The AI Lectures from Tokyo" (including Tokyo, Beijing, Jeddah, Warsaw, Munich, and Zurich). His research interests are in the areas of embodiment, biorobotics, artificial evolution and morphogenesis, self-reconfiguration and self-repair, and educational technology. He is the author of the books "Understanding Intelligence", MIT Press, 1999 (with C. Scheier) and "How the body shapes the way we think: a new view of intelligence," MIT Press, 2007 (with Josh Bongard).

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