Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design

ISBN: 0201112973
ISBN 13: 0785342112979
By: Terry Winograd Fernando Flores

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Reader's Thoughts


This book has a big influence on how I think about cognition, though it took a long time to seep in. This book, in critiquing old fashioned, human-simulating AI, liberated me from aspiring to NLP AI and made it okay to do HCI. Copout by critique? Maybe. I prefer to think it's just not wasting your time on a fundamentally flawed approach. Thank you, Terry!


Recommended by paolo zanardi


This is a great book! I will definitely read it again in the future. This book gives readers a brief overview of how scientists have been trying to understand the way people understand and learn, and why the theories and models they proposed might not be enough for explaining known human behaviors. The authors mention several theoretical standpoints that have been affecting how people design computing system for decades. I especially enjoy the discussion about what is communication and how languages have been co-evolved with our world.

Ricardo Roman

Es un trabajo imprescindible para comprender que la tecnología informática es un modo de vivir comunicados y conectados que forma parte de nuestra vida cotidiana. No se trata de máquinas de cálculo ni de administración de información, sino de invenciones de posibilidades en conversaciones, que -ahora con la red- son masivas globales. Es destacable que 21 años después esta obra siga siendo destacada entre los estudiosos del fenómeno de la era digital y las redes.


Even when the book came out, I thought to myself, "It doesn't really say anything".I can imagine a writer for a magazine could make use of the book to think of topics for tech pieces about the "future".A friend of mine gave me the book because he knew the authors, and wanted my take on it (as an A.I. developer). I wrote a quick program to spew out sentences that were similar to those in the book.

Dave Burns

It's been so long I've forgotten what I loved about this book, I am rereading it.

Tommy Powell

So far this is an absolutely fascinating study... The authors -concerned with current theories for determing artificial intelligence- begin by identifying our "traditional approach" to science and scholarship based on rational inquiry, particularly the idea that we humans build and maintain cognitive maps of reality and then attempt to harmonize those maps with the world around them. They follow a Chilean neurobiologist named Humberto R. Maturana who sees the behavior of humans in terms of our "mechanistic structure-determined systems." (which strongly de-emphasizes rationality)They support their perspectives by way of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Martin Heidegger, and do so quite compellingly. So far (I'm currently on p.51) the chapter on "Cognition as a Biological Phenomenon" has been the most exciting. I happened to have a chance to mention this work to Dr. John Samples -a specialist in Glaucoma- while my wife was having her blindness documented (for her citizenship paperwork) and he pointed me to an article in the May 2011 issue of Scientific American; "The Hidden Organ in our Eyes" by Ignacio Provencio. This article highlights new research indicating that our eyes not only "take in" information via the rods & cones but also from the ganglion cells... and that even the blind will often be aware of the circadian rhythms (night & day). This seems to show a biological system that completely by-passes cognitive thought.more when I finish...


A classic that merits reading despite its age. Winograd and Flores bring together philosophy, linguistics, and biology in order to illuminate the endeavor of computer science. This little book is dense but somehow manages to remain clear and readable by students of many different disciplines.

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