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Mindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension

Mindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension

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Published by manwithoutqualities
Hayek’s and Simon’s social externalism runs on a shared presupposition: mind is constrained in its computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate “data” generated by the infinitely fine-grained and perpetually dynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments. For Hayek, mind and sociality are co-evolved spontaneous orders, allowing little or no prospect of comprehensive explanation, trapped in a hermeneutically sealed, i.e. inescapably context bound, eco-system. For Simon, it is the simplicity of mind that is the bottleneck, overwhelmed by the ambient complexity of the environmental. Since on Simon’s account complexity is unidirectional, Simon is far more ebullient about the prospects of explanation. Hayek’s social externalism functions as a kind of distributed “extra-neural” memory store manifest as dynamic spontaneous orders. Simon’s organizational rule-governed externalism negotiates the “inner” world (the mind) with the “outer” world through a homeostatic interface that offloads the cognitive burden into the environment. Their respective externalisms may differ in detail but not in spirit in that it ameliorates their shared presupposition of cognitive constraint. Even though any “optimization talk” for Hayek and Simon is objectionable, knowledge acquisition can be represented by a contextualized stigmergic swarm optimization algorithm that gives due emphasis to both the individual and the environment. The key insight is that “perfect” knowledge is unnecessary, impracticable and indeed irrelevant if one understands the mechanism at work in complex sociality, a stigmergic sociality that in effect augments or scaffolds cognition.
Hayek’s and Simon’s social externalism runs on a shared presupposition: mind is constrained in its computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate “data” generated by the infinitely fine-grained and perpetually dynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments. For Hayek, mind and sociality are co-evolved spontaneous orders, allowing little or no prospect of comprehensive explanation, trapped in a hermeneutically sealed, i.e. inescapably context bound, eco-system. For Simon, it is the simplicity of mind that is the bottleneck, overwhelmed by the ambient complexity of the environmental. Since on Simon’s account complexity is unidirectional, Simon is far more ebullient about the prospects of explanation. Hayek’s social externalism functions as a kind of distributed “extra-neural” memory store manifest as dynamic spontaneous orders. Simon’s organizational rule-governed externalism negotiates the “inner” world (the mind) with the “outer” world through a homeostatic interface that offloads the cognitive burden into the environment. Their respective externalisms may differ in detail but not in spirit in that it ameliorates their shared presupposition of cognitive constraint. Even though any “optimization talk” for Hayek and Simon is objectionable, knowledge acquisition can be represented by a contextualized stigmergic swarm optimization algorithm that gives due emphasis to both the individual and the environment. The key insight is that “perfect” knowledge is unnecessary, impracticable and indeed irrelevant if one understands the mechanism at work in complex sociality, a stigmergic sociality that in effect augments or scaffolds cognition.

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Published by: manwithoutqualities on Jul 03, 2013
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DRAFT: DO NOT CITEMindscapes and Landscapes: Hayek and Simon on Cognitive Extension
Leslie MarshDean’s Office, Medical School, University of British ColumbiaIn
 Hayek and Behavioural Economics
, Palgrave Macmillan, Eds., Roger Frantz andRobert Leeson.http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=509789 
Abstract
: Hayek’s and Simon’s social externalism runs on a shared presupposition: mind is constrained inits computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate “data” generated by the infinitely fine-grainedand perpetually dynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments. For Hayek, mind andsociality are co-evolved spontaneous orders, allowing little or no prospect of comprehensive explanation,trapped in a hermeneutically sealed, i.e. inescapably context bound, eco-system. For Simon, it is thesimplicity of mind that is the bottleneck, overwhelmed by the ambient complexity of the environmental.Since on Simon’s account complexity is unidirectional, Simon is far more ebullient about the prospects of explanation. Hayek’s social externalism functions as a kind of distributed “extra-neural” memory storemanifest as dynamic spontaneous orders. Simon’s organizational rule-governed externalism negotiates the“inner” world (the mind) with the “outer” world through a homeostatic interface that offloads the cognitive burden into the environment. Their respective externalisms may differ in detail but not in spirit in that itameliorates their shared presupposition of cognitive constraint. Even though any “optimization talk” for Hayek and Simon is objectionable, knowledge acquisition can be represented by a contextualizedstigmergic swarm optimization algorithm that gives due emphasis to both the individual and theenvironment. The key insight is that “perfect” knowledge is unnecessary, impracticable and indeedirrelevant if one understands the mechanism at work in complex sociality, a stigmergic sociality that ineffect augments or scaffolds cognition.
Keywords
: Friedrich Hayek, Herbert Simon, cognitive closure, bounded rationality, complexity, extendedmind, particle swarm optimization, stigmergy.
I: A Shared Presupposition
Is complexity primarily an epistemological or an ontological phenomenon? Is there evenany coherence at all in suggesting the latter ontological variety? Two of the twentiethcentury’s greatest minds did approach this philosophical chestnut – Friedrich von Hayek and Herbert Simon.
1
Hayek and Simon share a key philosophical presupposition: that is,mind is constrained in its computational capacity to detect, harvest, and assimilate(“crunch” or process) data – data generated by the infinitely fine-grained and perpetuallydynamic characteristic of experience in complex social environments.
2
To ameliorate thisstate of affairs, Hayek and Simon proffer an adaptive
externalist 
theory of mind to spread
 
2the cognitive burden. For Hayek the social and artifactual world functions as a kind of distributed “extra-neural” memory store manifest as dynamic traditions, custom and practice – the
 sine qua non
of acting, thinking, and communicating. For Simon, the“inner” world (i.e. the mind) has a homeostatic interface (a system that regulates itsinternal environment towards equilibrium), with the “outer” world modulated through theartifactual environment, most notably social institutions that give conceptual outline tothought and determine action. Both Hayek and Simon rejected the pernicious fiction of the unvarnished Cartesian reasoner manifest in the derivative guises of, on the one hand,central planning-type rationalism, and on the other hand,
homo economicus
so favored byorthodox economics.Complexity is the touchstone for both Hayek and Simon. For Hayek, mind andsociality are classic instantiations of mutually reinforcing spontaneous orders. Simon, bycontrast, takes the view that it is the environment in which complexity abides and not inthe mind. There are problems with both Hayek’s and Simon’s positions. With Hayek onecannot be sure if he’s making an epistemological claim or a metaphysical claim. WithSimon how does one account for the unidirectional account of complexity? That is, if oneaccepts the presupposition of mind being highly adaptive and plastic (as he does) innegotiating an ambient complex environmental soup, why then would mind not reflectthis external complexity? Part of the problem in approaching both Hayek and Simon liesin giving some specification to this thing called “complexity,” a term subject to muchobfuscation even before it is layered with the “agnoseology” or the “theory of unknowability” literature (Rescher, 2009, p. ix) that Hayek and Simon partake in.
 
3Hayek and Simon are, to use the current argot, well recognized as “situatedtheorists” and it is from this perspective that they are so fertilely examined. Both soughtto overcome the notion of abstract Cartesianism on the one hand, and an inflated socialontology on the other hand, that paid scant regard to the individual mind. Consider thesetwo similar constructivist slogans
3
:Insofar as behavior is a function of learned technique rather than “innate”characteristics of the human information-processing system, our knowledge of  behavior must be regarded as sociological in nature rather than psychological . . .(Simon, 1996, pp. 54, 62, 76).It is probably no more justified to claim that thinking man has created his culturethan that culture created his reason (Hayek, 1952/1979, p. 155).It is this “situated” perspective that motivates their social externalism. Broadly speaking,externalism is the thesis that an individual’s environment has some causal determinant onthe content of the individual mind. It is social in the sense used here that Hayek andSimon are primarily concerned with social institutions. By contrast, Cartesianindividualism (or internalism) is internal in the sense that knowledge relies solely upon,or is fashioned by, the operation of the cognizer’s mental states without any appeal toexternal considerations. Simon got a boost from David Chalmers’ and Andy Clark’sseminal paper “The Extended Mind” (Chalmers & Clark, 1998) in which theyacknowledge Herbert Simon as providing some inspiration for their extended mind thesis,a species of externalism. Positing the notion of the extended mind forces one to takeseriously the idea that cognition has an embodied, social, and artifactual dimension;indeed, mind exists at the intersection of this trinity.
4
Simon in turn credited and endorsedHayek for providing the key philosophical presupposition that underwrites cognitiveextension (Simon, 1996, p. 34). Hayek’s work in the philosophy of mind is now

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