A monograph authored by Hajo Greif, titled Environments of Intelligence. From Natural Information to Artificial Interaction, has now been published by Routledge, London (link to advertisement). It is part of the “History and Philosophy of Technoscience” series edited by Alfred Nordmann. It presents the results of Hajo’s research as Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Erwin Schrödinger Fellow at MCTS and is a significantly edited and revised version of his venia thesis at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt (2015). The Open Access Version of this book is supported by FWF publication grant no. PUB 488-Z24, and is available here.
This book shares some key concerns with so-called “4E” theories of cognition – as being embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive – in philosophy and the cognitive sciences, and addresses a twofold question: What is the role of the environment, and of the information it provides, in human cognition? More specifically, may there be a role for certain artefacts to play in this context?
In response to the first part of the question, a concept of information as primarily natural, environmentally embedded in character is defended and refined. Natural information is an objective, strictly regular relation between world affairs. Precisely by virtue of this “specifying” character, it may enter into a broad variety of organism-environment interactions in which environments assume a shape that is specific to their respective inhabitants, and that are partly shaped by them. It will also help to carve out equally organism-specific “informational environments”.
In response to the second part of the question, so-called “intelligent environments” are discussed as the candidate paradigm of constructing and modifying informational environments. These technologies are directly concerned with their users’ perception of, and interaction with, their environments, being designed to augment the latter with contextually relevant information in adaptive and partly autonomous fashion. With respect to human cognition, the most notable effect of these technologies is not that they might be able, or become able, to think but that they alter the way human beings perceive, think and act. In this fashion, they provide an indirect route to insights into the nature of human cognition as a primarily environment-bound activity.