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Humanist Archives: Aug. 7, 2020, 9 a.m. Humanist 34.217 - imitation?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 217.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2020-08-07 07:54:33+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: imitation

Within the last two decades, imitation seems to have become a topic of
considerable interest. I'm aware of two major collections of papers
(references to more would be welcome):

Susan Hurley and Nich Chater, Perspectives on Imitation: From
Neuroscience to Social Science (MIT, 2005), in two volumes, from a
conference in Royaumont in 2002; and

Cecilia Hayes et al, "Evolution, development and intentional control of
imitation", a thematic issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the
Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 364 (2009): 2293-2298.

In the first of these, Merlin Donald, in "Imitation and Mimesis", uses
the term 'mimesis' to include both 'imitation' and 'mimicry'. This is
how he defines his terms (vol. 2, p. 286):

> Mimicry is the deliberate reduplication in action of a perceived
> event without careful attention to, or knowledge of, its purpose.
> Imitation is a more flexible, abstract reduplication of an event with
> closer attention to its purpose.
> Mimesis is the reduplication of an event for communicative purposes.
> Mimesis requires that the audience be taken into account. It also
> demands taking a third-person perspective on the actor’s own
> behavior.

His examples are, respectively, a young bird duplicating the
song-pattern of its conspecifics; the typical behaviour of primates and
very young children; older children's fantasy play.

I have two questions: (1) how would you correlate -- within reasonable
bounds -- the current and foreseeable range of the abilities of an
artificial intelligence with Donald's spectrum from mimicry to mimesis?
(2) does imitation yield the best trajectory for the AI that would
do us the most good?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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