Cog as a thought experiment

In her presentation at the Monte Verità workshop, Maja Mataric showed us a videotape of her robots cruising together through the lab, and remarked, aptly: "They're flocking, but that's not what they think they're doing." This is a vivid instance of a phenomenon that lies at the heart of all the research I learned about at Monte Verità: the execution of surprisingly successful "cognitive" behaviors by systems that did not explicitly represent, and did not need to explicitly represent, what they were doing. How "high" in the intuitive scale of cognitive sophistication can such unwitting prowess reach? All the way, apparently, since I want to echo Maja's observation with one of my own: "These roboticists are doing philosophy, but that's not what they think they're doing." It is possible, then, even to do philosophy--that most intellectual of activities--without realizing that that is what you are doing. It is even possible to do it well, for this is a good, new way of addressing antique philosophical puzzles.
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