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Surfing the Waves of Prediction

Take a peek inside the predictive mind

Oxford University Press USA

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IMAGE: This book is about prediction, action, and the embodied mind. view more

Credit: courtesy of Oxford University Press

How does a piece of flesh think, dream, feel, create, and understand ideas, theories, and concepts? How does our brain, a meat machine, anticipate sensory detail and act and react accordingly? Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind (Oxford University Press; Nov. 2015) by philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark explores these questions, which are emerging at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

According to Clark, our brains are prediction machines, devices evolved to anticipate incoming streams of sensory stimulation before they arrive. As our experiences add up, we hone our ability to predict and reduce "prediction errors." In fact, as the human brain becomes more adept at prediction, our actions and reactions play an active role in altering the very things our brains need to engage and predict. This circular-causal relationship provides insight on why we can't tickle ourselves or why we don't laugh at our own jokes, and its simulation is now being studied in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics.

A stunningly unified vision in which predictive brains enable us to make the most of body, world, and action, Surfing Uncertainty sheds light on the exciting possibilities of the future. If "meat machines" inside our heads can predict, react, and ultimately restructure the world around us, perhaps man-made machines can learn to do so as well

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