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Notice

AISB event Bulletin Item

Today! For those in the area: Whitehead Lecture 3rd November - John Barnden


The third Whitehead lecture of autumn term 2010 will be given by Professor John Barnden, University of Birmingham, UK, at 4 pm on Wednesday 3rd November 2010, and will be entitled "Metaphor is Both Simpler and More Quirky than You Thought: Lessons from an AI Assault". An abstract for the lecture and short biography for the speaker are appended below.

The lecture will take place on 3rd November at 4pm in the Ben Pimlott lecture theatre at Goldsmiths College .

Everyone is very welcome to attend the lecture and a drinks reception afterwards.

PLEASE ADVERTISE: a colour display poster can be downloaded from 


Metaphor is Both Simpler and More Quirky than You Thought: Lessons from an AI Assault
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- Professor John Barnden (University of Birmingham, UK)

ABSTRACT: Metaphor is a central aspect of not only literary language but also of mundane types of discourse such as ordinary conversation, newspaper articles, explanatory documents for the public, and popular novels. It is also central in forms of communication other than language, such as gesture, pictures, diagrams, music, ... Thus, AI systems capable of interacting naturally with people, and capable of understanding communication between people, must ultimately be able to understand and produce metaphor. However, despite the high salience of metaphor in fields such as Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics, AI has given relatively little attention to the topic. In the talk I will outline an approach to parts of the problem of metaphor understanding that I have been developing. This approach is partially realized in an AI system called ATT-Meta. The approach is focussed largely on how to understand metaphorical language that rests on familiar metaphorical conceptions of what is being talked about but builds in an open-ended and possibly creative way on those conceptions. I will discuss how this type of metaphor shows that it is misguided to rely too firmly to the idea that metaphor rests on knowing or finding a detailed analogy between the two subject matters related by a metaphorical utterance. I will also argue that sometimes the task of understanding a partially metaphorical piece of discourse can involve episodes of mentally translating what is literally presented into metaphorical terms, not just trying to translate the metaphorical into the literal.

BRIEF BIO: John Barnden has been Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham since 1997. Previously he worked at the computer science departments of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, USA and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA, following a post-doctoral project at Reading University, England. He was educated as a mathematician at Trinity College, Cambridge and as a computer scientist there and at Oxford University, where he obtained his D.Phil. in 1976. He has interests in figurative language generally, in various aspects of reasoning (notably reasoning about mental states), and related areas of philosophy and psychology. He would like to have time to do research in areas such as diagrammatic cognition, emotion and consciousness. He was until recently chair of AISB (Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour) and is now the vice-chair. He was a founding board member of RaAM, the International Association for Researching and Applying Metaphor. More soberly he is on the Research Committee of the recently-instituted BCS Academy of Computing.