Cognitive Exotica

Designing the space of possible Minds

Dissertation - Link

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.


To understand the mind and its place in Nature is one of the great intellectual challenges of our time. With my dissertation I approached the concept of minds and intelligence from different perspectives, largely drawing upon the philosophy of mind, theoretical and practical Artificial Intelligence literature, cognitive psychology as well as introspection of my own mind and logical analysis.

In studying intelligence, I am viewing artificial intelligence both as a technology and hypothesis for testing theories of the mind, but also examining the impact of this technology on our society and human meaning-making. I think that there is an intimate link between cognition, sensorimotor embodiment and the integrative character of the conscious condition. We become what we behold; we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us. However, science is not the only domain of human knowledge that says interesting things about the mind. Thus, my dissertation uses imaginary scenarios, speculative design fictions and takes and inspiration from spiritual traditions which have influenced me at various points in my life.


About minds

Against anthropomorphism

               The human mind limit(s)-ations

               Natural otherness


The space of possible minds

Mind design

             Speculative mind architectures 

             What comes after minds?

             Existential shift

Towards a cognitive exotica



Humans are the best example of general intelligence that we know of. I have explored several human mental properties such as embodiment and body- centredness, as well as some strengths and weaknesses that stem from them. I have also shown how intelligence can be re- considered in an environmental as well as digital/artificial context. Even if some instrumental goals will be valuable for most intelligent agents, super intelligence doesn’t need have to have the biological limitations and constraints and it will most probably have higher than human optimisation power.

Most of today’s discourse, either in computer science or philosophy or culture, puts the universality of the properties of the human mind in the centre of their investigation. This doesn't consider the full range of possible architectures and values for other optimisers, potentially more powerful than humans. By 'architecture' I don't mean the low-level hardware device organisation e.g. a Turing Machine, a VonNeumann architecture, or a Vax architecture. I refer to the architecture that includes all different ways of constructing complex functioning systems from many diverse components. This includes software architectures, virtual machine architectures, hybrid architectures, etc.

It is time for the philosophy of mind and psychology to undergo a Copernican revolution and embrace universal cognitive diversity: the cognitive exotica. There are two meanings to this revolution: One is that “we are not central,” and the other is “we are ordinary; Since Copernicus, science has time and again shown that humanity is not central. Our planet is not the epicentre of the universe and we, like other species and life-forms, are composed by the same ordinary matter. We live on our Earth and our observations are made through, from it and near it. We explore space from Earth, our fate is tied up with our natural condition. Astronomers know that when they are making their space explorations. The shift away from geocentric cosmology improved our understanding of the Earth, and an evolutionary analysis of our species’ rise helped us understand the design of humans.

So too, when we begin to explore mind-space with the development of Artificial General Intelligence, hybrid chimeras or self enhancements, the human mind will still remain of central importance. The first near-human-level intelligence will be partially modeled on our brain’s architecture and its goals will be made to serve as. But just as astronomers discovered that the universe has immensely large voids, stars much bigger than our sun, and astronomical complexes more peculiar than anything previously known, so too we will encounter new intelligences much more powerful than us and different from us in mental architecture and goals. The study of other possible minds such as super intelligent minds can help us answer philosophical and psychological questions that concern humans. Already, AI-related research such as Bayesian network theory (Tenenbaum, Griffiths, and Kemp 2006) has contributed to neuroscience. Although currently only thought experiments are possible, theories about possible superintelligences can shed more light on the human condition.

This broadening will eventually enrich our analytic tools for understanding our mental architectures, decision processes, goals, and morality. A Copernican mind revolution can turn our views outwards, but also inwards, shading light into our own selves and providing insights. I think it’s too early in our technological development to have reached a limit of complexity, so in the next couple of hundred year, we’ll have constructed multiple times more complex structures that the human mind. Once, other than human level intelligence and then superintelligence are created, our theories of mind have to account for them and expand. We should start doing so now, defining the goals of agents in accordance with human values as well respect and collaborate with other organisms.

Cultures run on metaphors and narratives. The human mind is a current metaphor for our scientific society, for the ultimate mystery, complexity, and awe. It is also our prison because we can’t see beyond it.

After all, we build what we can imagine.



Selected Works

proletariat.aiMachine intelligence research

Coded GazeMachine Intelligence Research, Visual design

FilisiaSocial Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Education

Feminist AlexaMachine Intelligence Research, Performance

Social DronesInteraction Design, Robotics

Augmented NatureRobotics, Ecology, Speculative Design

VerdeliseSocial Innovation, Circular Economy Design

Cognitive ExoticaArtificial Intelligence Research, Fiction

Floating LabDesign engineering workshop, Ecology