Applying Global Workspace Theory to the Frame Problem

Murray Shanahan and Bernard Baars


The subject of this article is the frame problem, as conceived by certain cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind, notably Fodor for whom it stands as a fundamental obstacle to progress in cognitive science. The challenge is to explain the capacity of so-called informationally unencapsulated cognitive processes to deal effectively with information from potentially any cognitive domain without the burden of having to explicitly sift the relevant from the irrelevant. The paper advocates a global workspace architecture, with its ability to manage massively parallel resources in the context of a serial thread of computation, as an answer to this challenge. Analogical reasoning is given particular attention, since it exemplifies informational unencapsulation in its most extreme form. Because global workspace theory also purports to account for the distinction between conscious and unconscious information processing, the paper advances the tentative conclusion that consciousness may go hand-in-hand with a solution to the frame problem in the biological brain.