I in an other's eye

Alan Dix

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This paper presents a model of how the fundamental cognitive machinery of self emerges as an accident of sociality, reflecting Buber's assertion of the primacy of I-Thou relationships. This stands in contrast withthe standard 'I first' model of theory of mind, which suggests that we understand others' thoughtprocesses by imaginingourselves in their heads. However, this standard model tacitly assumes that understanding oneself is in some way easy, counter to experience in knowledge elicitation where experts find ithard toreflect on and externalise tacit thoughtprocesses. Furthermore itis hard to create convincing evolutionary accounts for the spontaneous emergence of self. The paper argues that the reflexive understanding of self is bothmore plausible phylogenically as an evolutionary developmentand fully consonant ontogenically with researchon childhood cognitive development. This reflexive understanding has practical implications for efforts to create artificial agents or robots thatare in some sense conscious, and may also inform discussions of the ethical and spiritual implications of advancesin artificial intelligence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAI & Society
Early online date1 Mar 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Mar 2017


  • Child development
  • Ethics
  • Buber
  • Consciousness
  • Theory of mind
  • Self
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Evolutionary psychology


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