From computer science to …

Many months ago I read an article on Douglas Hofstadter, a name I’d heard since high school when my friend read Gödel, Escher, Bach. At the time I thought he was probably one of those overrated thinkers who writes inspiring, popular, but empty books. And I thought that all the way up until I read that article, “The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think,” and soon after, “An interview with Douglas R. Hofstadter.” I learned that we seem to share a paradigm of artificial intelligence that’s out of style right now, one based more on semantics than on statistics. I hadn’t even known he worked in AI or that it was the subject of GEB.

So I looked up where he worked–University of Indiana Bloomington (okay, bump that one way up my list). Not in the computer science department, though–in cognitive science. Well, whatever. Maybe I could still interact with him if I ended up there, if he hasn’t retired and moved away by that point.

After finding the articles, from time to time I’d look a little more into his research group, The Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition. I bought GEB, made a note of his other books, set up a Google alert for news about him, and searched for his doctoral students on social media. Then on a whim a couple of weeks ago I took a closer look at his field, cognitive science. I’d heard of it in connection with AI, but it seemed like a hazy subject, and I’d disregarded it.

Now I visited the site of the Cognitive Science Society and read their mission statement: to foster cooperation among fields such as “Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics, Anthropology, Psychology, Neuroscience, Philosophy, and Education.” I did a mental double-take. They’d just listed half my interests. And their definition of cognitive science reminded me of what I’ve recently come to see as one of my primary agendas, to understand the mind.

I was intrigued, and the researchy wheels of my mind immediately started spinning. Could this be a home for me? I had to learn more! So I’ve decided to investigate cognitive science as a possible career field instead of computer science. It’s only a slight shift, since the two overlap, but it might be a better fit. I bought an intro textbook, José Luis Bermúdez’s Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of the Mind, which I’ve been reading; made a list of key questions about the field; and began to search for grad programs. As I learn, I’m making a list of pros and cons. I’ll probably post my assessment once I have a better sense of the issues. But it looks promising.

This entry was posted in Career, Cognitive science, Grad school, Life updates. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to From computer science to …

  1. Linda W says:

    Wow. Two posts within days of each other.

    Your search reminds me of my search for a grad school. At one point, I noticed that every young adult book I read (and liked) was written by someone who had graduated from the school. Coincidence? While that might have seemed to be the case, the books had been chosen at random–some by Amazon! I wound up going to that school!

    That school sounds very promising for you.

    • Andy says:

      That’s how I ended up at Wheaton. A couple of authors I was reading had gone there. I want to keep my options open, but Indiana does sound promising.

  2. Go for the cognitive science!

  3. Mark Hausam says:

    Sounds intriguing!

    • Andy says:

      Yes! I’ve been thinking about this kind of stuff in the back of my mind for much of my life. Maybe cognitive science is a place it can all come together.

  4. Sumurai8 says:

    Cognitive science, huh? Does this tell you what the significance is of tickling Andy’s nose for several times a day on his brain waves?

    In fact, for it to be science, we must repeat the experiment and tickle his nose every day. >:)

  5. Abbie says:

    Cognitive science — that sounds awesome!!

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