Making space: The natural, cultural, cognitive and social niches of human activity

Cognitive Processing 22 (supplementary issue 1):77-87 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper is in two parts. Part 1 examines the phenomenon of making space as a process involving one or other kind of legal decision-making, for example when a state authority authorizes the creation of a new highway along a certain route or the creation of a new park in a certain location. In cases such as this a new abstract spatial entity comes into existence – the route, the area set aside for the park – followed only later by concordant changes in physical reality. In Part 2 we show that features identified in studying this phenomenon of legal spacemaking can be detected in other spheres of human activity, for example in planning (where spacemaking is projected into the future), and in reasoning about history (where spacemaking is projected back through time). We shall see that these features display themselves in especially complex ways in our everyday use of language, and we conclude by examining the implications of this complexity for attempts to create an artificial intelligence that would enjoy a mastery of language that would be equivalent to that of human beings.

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Barry Smith
State University of New York, Buffalo

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