Some of McCarthy's colleagues in neighboring departments, however, were more interested in how intelligence is implemented in humans (and other animals) first. Noam Chomsky and others worked on what became cognitive science, a field aimed at uncovering the mental representations and rules that underlie our perceptual and cognitive abilities. Chomsky and his colleagues had to overthrow the then-dominant paradigm of behaviorism, championed by Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner, where animal behavior was reduced to a simple set of associations between an action and its subsequent reward or punishment. The undoing of Skinner's grip on psychology is commonly marked by Chomsky's 1959 critical review of Skinner's book Verbal Behavior, a book in which Skinner attempted to explain linguistic ability using behaviorist principles. Skinner's approach stressed the historical associations between a stimulus and the animal's response -- an approach easily framed as a kind of empirical statistical analysis, predicting the future as a function of the past.
A scientific hypothesis starts the process of scientific enquiry. False hypotheses can start the path to disaster, as was seen with the geocentric model of the'universe' in which heavenly bodies moved in circular orbits. It became heresy to suggest that orbits aren't circular around the stationary earth, leading to epicycles. It's a good story worth studying in school to appreciate how a hypothesis is critical to validating science. Here's an important hypothesis: "The fundamental aim in the linguistic analysis of a language L is to separate the grammatical sequences which are the sentences of L from the ungrammatical sequences which are not sentences of L and to study the structure of the grammatical sequences."
The obituaries of Koko the gorilla, who died Tuesday at the age of 46, tell all the same kind of wistful, aspirational stories. They explain how Koko's trainers, Francine "Penny" Patterson and her colleagues, taught her to "speak" American Sign Language from the tender age of 1. There are mentions of how Koko graced the cover of National Geographic and became the star of a documentary. There are stories of numerous encounters with the rich and famous, from an extremely friendly exchange with William Shatner to a celebrated meeting with the eponymous star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. But there's one creepy and uncomfortable story the obits aren't telling--which is a shame, because of all the stories about Koko and the research she was involved in, it's the most revealing.
Mind as Machine: A History of Cognitive Science. The term cognitive science, which gained currency in the last half of the 20th century, is used to refer to the study of cognition--cognitive structures and processes in the mind or brain, mostly in people rather than, say, rats or insects. Cognitive science in this sense has reflected a growing rejection of behaviorism in favor of the study of mind and "human information processing." The field includes the study of thinking, perception, emotion, creativity, language, consciousness and learning. Sometimes it has involved writing (or at least thinking about) computer programs that attempt to model mental processes or that provide tools such as spreadsheets, theorem provers, mathematical-equation solvers and engines for searching the Web.