You are here: Home / NEWS / "Life in the Cognitive Era" will be addressed by Donald Peterson, a visiting professor at the IEA

"Life in the Cognitive Era" will be addressed by Donald Peterson, a visiting professor at the IEA

by Richard Meckien - published May 31, 2019 09:55 AM - - last modified Jun 25, 2019 02:50 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Don Peterson - 30/5/19
Donald Peterson: "We need a critical understanding of the opportunities and risks in the cognitive era."

British cognitive scientist Donald Peterson is the new visiting professor at the IEA. For an initial period of one year, he will develop the research project "Life in the Cognitive Era." Until last year, he was a full professor of Computer Science at Shantou University in China.

Peterson covers logic, philosophy, psychology, and computer science. During his stay, he will conduct seminar-series and prepare publications in the area of the project. People of all disciplines and at all levels will be welcome at the seminars. One seminar-series will be on Cognitive Life, concerning issues of welfare, work, health, and education in an era of AI, robotics, and 5G communications. Another will be on Cognitive Computing, concerning the architecture, applications, and significance of systems such as IBM Watson.

In research, Peterson will focus on his concept of "epiduction" (a form of practical reason), and its relation with modern data conditions, the human brain, machine augmentation, and welfare.


Cognitive technologies (cogtech) are influencing life and work, and "we need a critical understanding of their opportunities and risks," says Peterson. Examples of cogtech are artificial intelligence, adaptive systems, big data analytics, humanoid robotics, person recognition, personalizing learning systems, and virtual reality.

According to Peterson, cogtech is complemented by innovations in biometrics, nanotechnology, 3D-printing, quantum computing, and by systems such as cryptocurrency and blockchain. Regarding systems theory, the new era involves "a shift toward more open systems, and their positive and negative potential effects."

Conditions associated with this shift include mass data, rapid change, global connectivity, and the cyborg interdependence of humans and machines. "We are shifting our course toward new ways of living and working, and the social and cultural implications of this change are radical and immanent." In Peterson's view, the task of policy in the cognitive era is to direct the use of cogtech to beneficial effects, rather than to classify the relevant technologies as inherently good or bad.

Peterson explains that this field of study is necessarily interdisciplinary: requiring both technical and critical knowledge, as being both theoretical and practical. "It is theoretical because it requires analytical structures such as systems theory and context-modulated reasoning, and it is practical because its issues will impact employment, mental health, education, work, communication, and quality of life."


Peterson holds a PhD in Philosophy from University College London, a Master's degree in Foundations of Advanced Information Technology from Imperial College London, and a Master's degree in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of Edinburgh.

Before becoming a full professor of the Department of Computer Science at Shantou University, he was Associate Professor in Computer Science and Head of Division at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. He was previously Senior Lecturer in Information and Communication Technology at the University of London, and Lecturer in Cognitive Science and then in the Psychology of E-learning at the University of Birmingham. Peterson has previously inhabited two research labs: ECRC in Munich (The European Computer-Industry Research Center), and LKL (The London Knowledge Lab). He now joins an Institute of Advanced Study in the tradition established in Princeton in 1930 by Abraham Flexner. This tradition is deliberately multi-disciplinary, research-focussed, and, in the case of IEA-USP, oriented to social welfare as a practical outcome of research.

Peterson is the editor of "Forms of Representation: an Interdisciplinary Theme for Cognitive Science" (1996), which includes a chapter by Nobel Prize winner Herb Simon, co-editor of "Philosophy and Cognitive Science" (1993), and author of "Wittgenstein's Early Philosophy: Three Sides of the Mirror" (1990). He has also written 13 book chapters and published 10 articles in refereed journals.

Photo: Leonor Calasans / IEA-USP