Sub-symbolic and Situated

At the time that the connectionist folks were working on neural nets, another similar approach was genetic algorithms. Both were working in a different way than the previous formal approaches to AI. The distinction between the two became known as symbolic vs sub-symbolic. And it’s useful to review why, particularly in the current climate of increasing interest in AI and cognitive science. An interesting outcome is that the sub-symbolic work exposed the contextualized nature of our reasoning. So there’s a link between sub-symbolic and situated cognition.

The prevailing model, starting with the cognitive revolution which arguably began in 1956 (an auspicious year ;) was a formal logical one. Whether in ‘production’ rules of IF THEN, or other formal mechanisms, the notion was to operate on semantic objects like numbers and concepts. This reflected, at the time, the belief that we’re formal logical thinkers.

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