On Counterfactuals and Cognitive Science: Rumlhart Prize Symposium in Honor of Judea Pearl

Abstract

Counterfactuals are the building blocks of scientific thought and the oxygen of moral behavior. The ability to reflect back on one's past actions and envision alternative scenarios is the basis of free will, responsibility, and social adaptation. Recent progress in the algorithmization of counterfactuals has advanced our understanding of this mode of reasoning and has brought us a step closer toward equipping machines with similar capabilities. I hope this symposium will inspire cognitive scientists to empower themselves with these new tools, and to tackle some of the more difficult problems that counterfactuals present: why evolution has endowed humans with the illusion of free will and how it manages to keep that illusion so vivid in our brain.


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