Turing, Ashby, and ›the Action of the Brain‹

Dr Hajo Greif, PI

This research project is funded by NCN (National Science Centre), OPUS 19 grant ref. 2020/37/B/HS1/01809. The project’s PI is Hajo Greif, the Co-investigator Paweł Stacewicz, and the post-doc researcher (hired October 2021) Adam Kubiak, all members of the Philosophy of Computing group at ICFO, Warsaw University of Technology. The awarded funding is PLN 767,130.– (approx. EUR 170,000.–) for three years (2021-2023).


Despite the personal acquaintance between Alan M. Turing and W. Ross Ashby, and despite the partial proximity of their research fields, the two are often cited as respective figureheads of the competing research programmes of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cybernetics. This inquiry in history and philosophy of science pursues two complementary aims: First, it is a historical investigation into the interactions between their related-but-distinct views. Second, it will help to answer systematic questions concerning the nature of the “models of the action of the brain” cited in a 1946 letter form Turing to Ashby. The answers to these systematic question might help to overcome the seemingly strict, and intellectually sterile, dichotomy between the formal nature of modelling in AI and the principles of embodiment and environmental situatedness mobilised by its cybernetics-inspired critics.


Artificial Intelligence; Cybernetics; Embodied cognition; Biological functions; Models in science; Nouvelle AI