Intelligence in Machines, Humans, and Other Animals

Winter, 2016


Professor: Paul Thagard

Office hours (HH368): MW 11:30-12:30, and by appointment.

Email: Phone: extension 33594.

Web page:

Time: MW, 2:30-3:50 RCH 307.

Textbook: Paul Thagard, Brain-Mind: From Neurons to Consciousness and Creativity, draft 3: download from here.


Description: Intelligence is the capacity to learn, understand, reason, act, and manage other mental functions.   This course will systematically compare intelligence as it operates in computers, humans, other animals, and maybe plants.  We will discuss general questions about the nature of intelligence and  ethical questions about its operation in computers and animals.  

Please do not use laptops and other electronic devices in class, for reasons given on my blog.

This class counts toward the Cognitive Science Minor.

Readings (will be updated; see also links below):

 Week  Dates  Humans (Brain-Mind chapter)  Machines  Animals
 1 Jan. 4-6  1. Minds Goel & Davies Plants
 2 Jan. 11-13  2. Brains IBM Watson Jellyfish
 3 Jan. 18-20 3. Images Google cars Bees
  4 Jan. 25-27 4. Concepts CYC Octopuses
 5 Feb. 1-3 5. Rules Rosie Fish
 6 Feb. 8-10 6. Analogies Recommender  Crows
 7 Feb. 22-24 7. Emotions Affective computing  Dogs

Feb. 29-Mar. 2

 8. Consciousness Tononi Prairie dogs
  9 Mar. 7-9 9. Action BigDog Dolphins
 10 Mar. 14-16 10. Language Siri; Google translate  Monkeys
 11 Mar. 21-23 11. Creativity Chef Watson Chimpanzees
 12 Mar. 28-30 12. The Self Facebook assistant Bonobos

Lecture notes and links

Instructions for writing commentaries:

For each class in weeks 2-11, hand in at the BEGINNING of the class a short commentary, maximum 100 words, on the claim, hypothesis, or issue that you found most interesting in the reading. Your commentary should identify the claim that interests you and the strongest evidence for and against it. The purpose of these commentaries is to ensure that everyone comes to class prepared for discussion. Monday's class will focus on humans, and Wednesday's on machines, with animals interspersed.

From the Faculty of Arts:

All students registered in the courses of the Faculty of Arts are expected to know what constitutes an academic offense, to avoid committing academic offenses, and to take responsibility for their academic actions.  When the commission of an offense is established, disciplinary penalties will be imposed in accord with Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline).  For information on categories of offenses and types of penalties, students are directed to consult the summary of Policy #71 (Student Academic Discipline) which is supplied in the Undergraduate Calendar.  If you need help in learning how to avoid offenses such as plagiarism, cheating, and double submission, or if you need clarification of aspects of the discipline policy, ask your course instructor for guidance.  Other resources regarding the discipline policy are your academic advisor and the Undergraduate Associate Dean.

Faculty of Arts information on plagiarism and other offences.



Paul Thagard

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

This page updated March 14, 2016