essays and working papers

Alan Dix

These are working essays and papers, some in areas slightly tangental to my main academic work.

the stuff of dreams
(essay, PDF, 226K, last updated 20/8/2006)
The surprising thing about dreams is not that they are bizzare, but that for the most part they are surprisingly 'normal'. Reflections on the way in which dreaming uses the same predictive mechanisms as waking life. Suggests that we might learn about cognitive model making whilst awake, through looking more closely at the relatively unconstrainied odel making whilst asleep. Ends with conditions that might enable computational models of dreams.

Why examples are hard, and what to do about it
(essay, PDF, 64K, last updated 10/8/2006)
Academic books and papers are often very poor at giving examples. This is partly cultural: certain disciplines like to be obscure and in general people think academic=abstract and feel that concrete examples may be seen as less academic! However, more fundamentally, it can be hard to generate and even recall concrete examples. This essay looks at why this may be the case cognitively and based on that offers some concrete advice on how this might inform techniques to aid in example formulation.

the adaptive significance of regret
(essay, PDF, 635K, last updated 16/8/2005)
Regret seems such a negative emotion, worrying about what might have been rather than about what could be. It seems so maladaptive and at best some redundant extension of feelings that are worthwhile. However looking at it more deeply it turns out to not only be a well adapted feeling, but one that demonstrates the rich interactions between different levels of cognition: rational thought, vivid imagination and basic animal conditioning.

articulation and trans-articulation
(essay, PDF, 48K, last updated 4/8/2003)
This essay looks at the way language interacts with our conceptual landscape shaped by and shaping the patterns in our minds and how ultimately words can shape the very world we live in. It is also about play with words!

imagination and rationality
(draft essay, PDF, 97K, last updated 2/1/2003)
This looks at the way in which both rationality and imagination acts as a point of meeting between different kinds of intelligence. Whilst rational thinking does this by abstracting the understanding of different intelligences, imagination does this linking by making virtual experiences apparently sensed and thus allows different intelligences to 'see' the imagined experience.

vivid imagination
(draft essay, PDF, 52K, last updated 2/1/2003)
How is it that we have developed imagination? This essay looks at possible origins of our ability to create very vivid imagination that seems to feed deep semantic imaginings into sensual experience.

driving as a cyborg experience
(working paper, HTML, last updated 23/1/2002)
We have an amazing ability to extend our physical bodies through tools, muscial instruments, cars, knioves and forks ... not to mention the computer mouse. How is it we have the underlying cognitive abilities to do this. We follow a trail back to flint axes and the humble termite stick.


related things

Physicality, rationality and imagination. Keynote at - Interacción 2004, Lleida, España, 5-7th May 2004.

About Reasoning and Thinking. Interfaces, no. 57, pp. 17-19. Winter 2003.

The ultimate interface and the sums of life?.
Interfaces, no 50, Spring 2002. pp. 16.

Writing as third order experience. Interfaces, 68, pp. 19-20. Autumn 2006.

Alan's blogs about consiousness