Do you know the most common sentences people say when they first meet a new person? These are 2 of them:
I can answer the first one with full confidence because I had the privilege to go to one of the finest universities in the world. So I say, “I went to University of Toronto”. It’s the 2nd one I’m having problem with.
What subject did you take?
Uhhh… I majored in Cognitive Science
What comes next is a long silence or an awkward stare, almost 100% of the time. If you have ever asked those questions to me, you know it’s true. Sometimes I feel the urge to just say my minors instead, which were psychology and philosophy. But they’re not as mesmerizing :)
So what is Cognitive Science?
Stanford has the technical definition. It’s a definition that I sometimes use just because integrating 6 different disciplines into 1 makes me look cool (or at least I think so). But usually people can’t wrap their head around it and think I’m a freak instead.
So these days, I just say “it’s the science of thinking”. Keep in mind, this definition does not, in any way, reduce the probability that people think I’m a freak *sob*. But at least a definition that, I hope, is more understandable.
Think of physics. Physics is the attempt to turn physical law of nature into theories, formulas and equations that humans can see and comprehend. Because of those theories, formulas and equations, humans can then build something out of it. For example: cars, that’s the law of thermodynamics applied.
Now think of your mind; how you think. Cognitive science is the attempt to codify your mind just like physics tries to reduce law of nature into equations. The only difference is physics is entirely made up of material beings (atoms, particles, etc). Our cognition is a whole different beast.. or bitch, for that matter.
Those 6 different disciplines are to be integrated because they shape our mind; they shape how we think.
What is the implication?
Cognitive science is a a new field of study. If we ever succeed to codify our mind, then we will start seeing a true artificial intelligence. Not those robots who sweep the street or bring coffee to your bed in the morning. These will be beings that act like us, think the way we think, and make the same mistakes that we tend to make. It will be artificial “us”.
Now there are also moral and ethical implication of having an artificial “us” but I’m not going to argue about it here (or ever). If you now understand what cognitive science is, this is a post well-written :)
P.S. I think I should bit.ly’ed this post so the next time someone gives me that long stare after I answered their question, I can refer them to this page. If they still don’t understand, it’s their problem now D: