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Keith Tilford: The Image and Intelligence and Images of Intelligence

Updated: Jan 25

Saturday, Feberuary 24th, at 10 am Pacific Time



The Image and Intelligence and Images of Intelligence


Since Plato when images first began their “psychological career” (to borrow Jean-Pierre Vernant’s terminology), any ontology of images that was disturbed through modernity and a proliferation of their typology now seems even further unsettled with the innovation of generative AI. In a manner distinct from analyses constrained to cinematic, digital, or photographic images, these synthetic appearances within a ‘posthuman technosphere’ call for a reconsideration of problems of the imagination, whose procedures have ostensibly been algorithmically decomposed and externalized in the machine. In this context, the imperative to perform creatively in our daily lives within and alongside computational platforms tells us as much about what the implicit images are of intelligence and the human as the explicitly generated imagery from users interested in claiming ‘artistic intent’. Albeit for often diametrically opposed reasons, users, critics, and corporate heads have stridently doubled down on a cognitive mysterium of creativity and the techniques of art sutured to romanticist notions of ‘spontaneity’ or a ‘will-to-form’ perfectly compatible with capitalism’s manufactured desire for immediacy mirrored in the rhetoric about “emergence” in AI. 


If, as many are voicing, something has indeed been mimicked, copied, and stolen, we should ask: what is in the inventory of the heist beyond pictures freely available to everyone or the dubious claims to ownership of a conceptually ambiguous cultural item such as “style”? Since we could understand generative imagery to, in one sense, be a ‘presentation of techniques of representation’, this talk will look into the history and theory of techniques, expressed since antiquity in the dialectic between technê and epistêmê, as continuous with the rationalist and empiricist perspectives undergirding the development of machine learning (ML) from where what W.J.T. Mitchell named a pictorial turn in the cultural identification of images as an “unsolved problem” for the human sciences was anticipated. It can be said to have been anticipated there due to the manner in which the interdisciplinarity of ML approached problems of mental imagery (are they descriptive or depictive?), the relays between know-how and knowing-that, symbolic vs. subsymbolic cognition, or what could otherwise be expressed according to rule-bound procedures and their autonomous deviation in skills, abilities, and techniques. As images are both manipulative and manipulable, this consideration of techniques will seek an integrative methodology that investigates how the epistemic terrains of evolutionary cognitive archaeology, causal cognition, deep learning and the pivot towards 4E cognition (embodied, embedded, enacted, or extended), mental time travel, or exaptation might address lacunae in image theory and the discourse on aesthetics to provide another vantage from which to articulate ‘creativity’, the resources of art, or for that matter practices more generally.


Suggested Reading PDF downloads:

Rosen_Is Thinking Spontaneous
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Download PDF • 92KB
Clark_In Defense of Explicit Rules
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Download PDF • 1.97MB
André Leroi-Gourhan - Gesture and Program from Gesture and Speech (October Books)-The MIT
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Download • 1.71MB
Dennett_the-nature-of-images-and-the-introspective-trap
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Download PDF • 473KB
Pylyshyn_What the Mind_s Eye Tells the Mind_s Brain
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Download PDF • 1.82MB
Predictive processing and perception_What does imagining have to do with it
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Download PDF • 443KB
Causal Cognition and Theory of Mind in Evolutionary Cognitive
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Download PDF • 843KB
Exapting_exaptation
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Download PDF • 96KB

Link to reading PDF files:


Suggested Readings:

  • Stanley Rosen, “Is Thinking Spontaneous?” (21 pages)

  • Andy Clark, “In Defense of Explicit Rules” (14 pages)

  • Andre Leroi-Gourhan, “Gesture and Program”, from Gesture and Speech (19 pages)

  • Daniel C. Dennett, “The Nature of Images and the Introspective Trap” (7 pages)

  • Zenon Pylyshyn, “Return of the Mental Image: Are There Really Pictures in the Brain?” (6 pages)

  • Dan Cavedon-Taylor, “Predictive Processing and Perception: What Does Imagining Have to Do With It?” (8 pages)

  • Peter Gardenfors and Marlize Lombard, “Causal Cognition and Theory of Mind in Evolutionary Cognitive Archaeology” (19 pages)

  • Greger Larson et al., “Exapting Exaptation” (2 pages)


Further Reading:

  • Davide Weible, “Approaching a Semiotics of Exaptation: At the Intersection Between Biological Evolution and Technological Development”  (24 pages)

  • Antonio Mastrogiorgio et al., “More Thumbs Than Rules: Is Rationality an Exaptation?” (16 pages)

  • Joseph Rouse, “What is Conceptually Articulated Understanding?” (22 pages)

  • Manuel Heras-Escribano & Manuel de Pinedo, “Are Affordances Normative?” (27 pages)

  • Merlin Donald, “Imitation and Mimesis” (18 pages)

  • E.H. Gombrich, “Truth and the Stereotype”, from Art and Illusion (22 pages)

  • Peter Krausser, “Kant's Schematism of the Categories and the Problem of Pattern Recognition” (18 pages)

  • Wilfred Sellars, “The Role of Imagination in Kant’s Theory of Experience” (13 pages)

  • J.M. Shorter, “Imagination” (19 pages)

  • Jean-Pierre Vernant, “The Birth of Images” (22 pages)

  • Stephen M. Kosslyn, “Mental Images and the Brain” (16 pages)

  • Zenon Pylyshyn, “What the Mind’s Eye Tells the Mind’s Brain: A Critique of Mental Images” (25 pages)

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