Jul 19, 2007

"Why have engineers ignored results and knowledge of psychoanalysis ? " Well, there's a hell of a good reason.

To whom it may concern.

The upcoming "1st international Engineering and Neuro-Psychoanalysis forum" in Vienna, Austria was prominently featured by Austria's state- sponsored news agency today.

It is my opinion that the presentation of psycho- analysis as a discipline relevant to, and respected by, the AI community, is damaging to the scientific integrity of AI in general and AGI in particular.

Unfortunately, this event makes for a good news story, and will undoubtedly receive an amount of coverage widely disproportionate to its scientific relevance or novelty.
The resulting disinformation among politicians, grant agencies and the general public will, in my opinion, work to the disadvantage of AI researchers who seriously attempt to integrate (neuro-)psychological findings into their projects.

Participants of this conference have already implied that they will apply for Austrian state and industry grants. To me, as a "local", it seems very well plausible that a substantial fraction of these applications will be successful, meaning those ideas would be around for years to come, well funded, and well established within the (local) academia.

As far as I can see, neither the decades-long history of the field of affective computing (A. Ortony, C. Elliott, R. Picard..), nor the field of AGI itself have been explicitly acknowledged in interviews or on the conference's web page. Participants might still do so in their presentations and publications. If this silence is, however, kept, (be it the result of ignorance or deliberation) life (at least in Austria) will undoubtedly become somewhat more difficult for those scientists who wish to present their grant proposals with respect to the above mentioned fields.

If you think this is worrisome, and requires action, I'd suggest :

- informing concerned researchers and activists

- possibly delivering a statement to the Austrian ministry of science, the largest grant agencies in Austria, and the news, possibly signed by a number of AI researchers working in relevant fields, making clear that even though there's far from a consensus on how the mind works, there's definitely a consensus out there that the mind isn't working according to psychoanalytic theory.

Modeling of the affective-cognitive interplay is a vigorous and sound research discipline, especially when based on neurobiological insights. It is my impression that reaching out to a subdiscipline of psychology generally regarded as pseudoscience (to use a more printable word) is a challenge to the scientific integrity and respectability of this research paradigm.


Manuel Moertelmaier