Creating Insight: Gestalt Theory and the Early Computer

David Bates

in Genesis Redux

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2007 | ISBN: 9780226720807
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226720838 | DOI:
Creating Insight: Gestalt Theory and the Early Computer

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This chapter questions the underlying assumptions of both classic Artificial Intelligence, founded in the analogy between the brain and the digital computer, and the newer tradition that construes the mind as an emergent property of interacting, distributed, parallel processes. It specifically explores Gestalt psychology and its brief engagement with cybernetics to suggest that was perhaps a missed opportunitt, and additionally examines John von Neumann's influential automata theory. The structure of insight helped explain the complex, nonmechanical behavior of living, acting organisms. For von Neumann, the creative plasticity of the nervous system served only to highlight the rather simplistic, and inferior, mechanical structure of the early computers, something he was of course well positioned to notice. His terse conclusion was that the logical structures involved in nervous system activity must “differ considerably” from the ones that are familiar in logic and mathematics.

Keywords: automata theory; Artificial Intelligence; brain; digital computer; Gestalt psychology; cybernetics; John von Neumann; nervous system

Chapter.  9800 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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