Essential Indexicals

Mark Crosby (
Wed, 13 Aug 1997 10:31:55 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks to Lee Daniel Crocker for an inspiring discussion of some of
the EXTRO-3 presentations re Future of the Body and Brain:

<. . . after we are all distributed intelligences in a large network,
where are "we"? "We" are at the Instruction Pointer of our thread, of
course, waiting for our timeslice to intend for one more cycle).>

This "Instruction Pointer of our thread" concept is fascinating. I
had recently read something about "essential indexicals" in AI (see
second to last ref below) that sounded similar. So, I did a search on
this and got some interesting links which may be of interest to some.
Most of them pointed to the work of John Perry (author of _The Problem
of the Essential Indexical and Other Essays_, Oxford University Press,
1993) and director of the Stanford University Center For the Study of
Language and Information (CSLI). CSLI faculty includes such AI elders
as John McCarthy and Terry Winograd.

Of particular interest was the "Rational Agency: Information and
Action" project at CSLI (see )
from which I quote:

< The aim of the Rational Agency project is to provide models and
theories of situated, resource-bounded, intelligent action. The scope
of the research covers rational activities of human beings, including
the use of language, and also the activities of artificial agents with
a variety of rational and deliberative abilities. . . . The conception
of intelligent agents underlying this work is less idealized and more
computationally motivated than the existing models available from
philosophy, decision theory, and artificial intelligence (AI)---the
main sources of our work. Much of this previous work has abstracted
from the fact that agents are resource-bounded: they have a limited
amount of time to determine what action to take, and they cannot do an
arbitrarily large amount of work in that time. Moreover, the work in
AI has, for the most part, considered only the simple case in which
the agent's environment does not change as its plans are executed. In
contrast, this project aims to model resource-bounded,
information-sensitive agents acting in dynamic environments. A
corollary goal of the work is the axiomatic characterization of the
functional components of such agents and their modes of interaction.>

Some abstracts of various CSLI papers / lectures can be found in the
CSLI calendars, for example at

Mark Textor’s online paper, "Truth and Understanding Demonstratives"
which has a chapter on "Indexicals and Indexical Meta-languages", at
also looks interesting.

Another link from my search: The Components of Content. David J.
Chalmers. Department of Philosophy University of California Santa
Cruz, CA 95064. 1... - size 107K -
31-Aug-96 - English

Also, 11. JCS-Online -- Digest of the Key Debates, Home Page. The
email discussion forum has generated some heated debates and .. - size 15K -
24-Feb-97 - English. *In particular* see Pat Hayes’ post "The Self
as the Essential Indexical" at

Finally, Luciano Floridi appears to have a useful bibliography of
analytical philosophy classics at

Mark Crosby

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