Are you interested in... brains, extended minds and design?

 

Cognitive Science was recently voted the most important subject for developing human level intelligence in computers and robots.  Companies like Amazon, Google, and IBM are investing large sums in Cognitive computing. Why? What is so special about the field? 

For many the answer is deep learning.  We have been studying neural computation since its onset, much of it was developed here.  But only recently has it been making headlines and taking the world by storm. But deep learning is just a small part.  AI and industry are starting to recognize that human intelligence is more than computation. It is something that is embodied, situated, enculturated, enacted and distributed. These terms all describe new approaches to mind. They require seeing how humans have co-evolved with their cultures; how technology is an essential part of who we are. These ideas are very much at the heart of the field. 

A toddler and parent play experimental games in a study of social skill learning - Cognitive Development Lab

The faculty in our department have interests in brains, design, extended and augmented minds, language and cultural cognition.  UCSD was the first CogSci department in the world and when we first began almost thirty years ago our vision was that our students would master the three branches of our science: brains, behavior and computation. They would study cognition from multiple viewpoints, and more importantly, they would unify them. 

Human neurons (left) form dozens of specialized cell types and subtypes, each with a unique epigenomic signature that includes a cell-type specific pattern of DNA methylation (right).That didn't quite happen.  So many areas opened up where an understanding of cognition is central that no one person can hope to know them all; there is no single unifying vision, though there are several on offer.

Today, for example, in our department the study of design is as important as the study of brains.  Language and perception are important areas but so is big data, it is something we expect all our new students should understand, especially how to visualize many dimensions.

Driving simulator

Even more radically, our new technology is changing us all. Humans are at the cusp of self-transforming.  We are augmenting ourselves with on-body sensors, exoskeletons and actuators are on the way.  All parts of the university register this change. But none are better positioned than Cognitive Science to understand what it means. 

Students who join the department choose from a remarkably broad selection of subjects.  The department is among the fastest growing on campus, and our course range continues to increase.

Researchers from the Chiba lab working on a projectWe still value students getting mentorship in individual labs, though.  Many of our undergraduates take independent studies in neuroscience, ethnographic, electrophysiological, design, linguistic, computation and other labs.  

 

Our field continues to evolve. A major in Cognitive Science is an investment in a changing future.  It has been exciting for us and we hope you will see for yourself just how exciting it can be for you.