Alistair Knott

Alistair Knott is Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Otago, New Zealand.

  • Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax

    Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax

    Alistair Knott

    A proposal that the syntactic structure of a sentence reporting a concrete episode in the world can be interpreted as a description of the sensorimotor processes involved in experiencing that episode.

    How is the information we gather from the world through our sensory and motor apparatus converted into language? It is obvious that there is an interface between language and sensorimotor cognition because we can talk about what we see and do. In this book, Alistair Knott argues that this interface is more direct than commonly assumed. He proposes that the syntax of a concrete sentence—a sentence that reports a direct sensorimotor experience—closely reflects the sensorimotor processes involved in the experience. In fact, he argues, the syntax of the sentence can be interpreted as a description of these sensorimotor processes.

    Knott focuses on a simple concrete episode: a man grabbing a cup. He presents detailed models of the sensorimotor processes involved in experiencing this episode (drawing on research in psychology and neuroscience) and of the syntactic structure of the transitive sentence reporting the episode (drawing on Chomskyan Minimalist syntactic theory). He proposes that these two independently motivated models are closely linked—that the logical form of the sentence can be given a detailed sensorimotor characterization and that, more generally, many of the syntactic principles understood in Minimalism as encoding innate linguistic knowledge are actually sensorimotor in origin.

    Knott's sensorimotor reinterpretation of Chomsky opens the way for a psychological account of sentence processing that is compatible with a Chomskyan account of syntactic universals, suggesting a way to reconcile Chomsky's theory of syntax with the empiricist models of language often viewed as Mimimalism's competitors.

    • Hardcover $48.00


  • A Citizen's Guide to Artificial Intelligence

    A Citizen's Guide to Artificial Intelligence

    John Zerilli

    A concise but informative overview of AI ethics and policy.

    Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, has generated a staggering amount of hype in the past several years. Is it the game-changer it's been cracked up to be? If so, how is it changing the game? How is it likely to affect us as customers, tenants, aspiring homeowners, students, educators, patients, clients, prison inmates, members of ethnic and sexual minorities, and voters in liberal democracies? Authored by experts in fields ranging from computer science and law to philosophy and cognitive science, this book offers a concise overview of moral, political, legal and economic implications of AI. It covers the basics of AI's latest permutation, machine learning, and considers issues such as transparency, bias, liability, privacy, and regulation.

    Both business and government have integrated algorithmic decision support systems into their daily operations, and the book explores the implications for our lives as citizens. For example, do we take it on faith that a machine knows best in approving a patient's health insurance claim or a defendant's request for bail? What is the potential for manipulation by targeted political ads? How can the processes behind these technically sophisticated tools ever be transparent? The book discusses such issues as statistical definitions of fairness, legal and moral responsibility, the role of humans in machine learning decision systems, “nudging” algorithms and anonymized data, the effect of automation on the workplace, and AI as both regulatory tool and target.

    • Hardcover $40.00