November 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm (Publications)
I have been invited to become a member of the editorial board of the open-access journal Constructivist Foundations. The latest issue is a collection of papers on the theme of Computational Approaches to Constructivism. I contributed two commentaries:
Ashby’s Passive Contingent Machines Are not Alive: Living Beings Are Actively Goal-directed
Franchi argues that Ashby’s homeostat can be usefully understood as a thought experiment to explore the theory that life is fundamentally heteronomous. While I share Franchi’s interpretation, I disagree that this theory of life is a promising alternative that is at odds with most of the Western philosophical tradition. On the contrary, heteronomy lies at the very core of computationalism, and this is precisely what explains its persistent failure to construct life-like agents.
Tool-use Leads to Bodily Extension, but not Bodily Incorporation: The Limits of Mind-as-it-could-be?
Sato and colleagues make use of an innovative method that combines robotics modeling and psychological experimentation to investigate how tool use affects our living and lived embodiment. I situate their approach in a general shift from robotics to human-computer interface studies in enactive cognitive science, and speculate about the necessary conditions for the bodily incorporation of tools.
November 11, 2013 at 10:44 am (Presentations)
Tags: adaptive behavior, altered states of consciousness, complex systems, cybernetics
Last week I gave a poster presentation during the conference Complejidad y multidisciplina: El Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad de la UNAM, which took place November 4-6, 2013 at Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” A dynamical systems account by Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson, and David A. Rosenblueth
I also gave the opening talk of the Segundo Coloquio Internacional de Ciencias Cognitivas, which took place November 7-8, 2013 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Can altered states of consciousness be adaptive? Two proofs of concept by Tom Froese
Click on the titles of the presentations for PDFs of the poster and the technical report of the talk.
November 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm (Publications)
Tags: adaptive behavior, artificial life, origins of life, synthetic biology
The conference paper I presented with Nathaniel Virgo and Takashi Ikegami at the 2011 European Conference on Artificial Life was selected for a special issue of the journal Artificial Life dedicated to showcasing the best work of that conference. Our expanded paper has finally become available.
Motility at the Origin of Life: Its Characterization and a Model
Tom Froese, Nathaniel Virgo and Takashi Ikegami
Due to recent advances in synthetic biology and artificial life, the origin of life is currently a hot topic of research. We review the literature and argue that the two traditionally competing replicator-first and metabolism-first approaches are merging into one integrated theory of individuation and evolution. We contribute to the maturation of this more inclusive approach by highlighting some problematic assumptions that still lead to an impoverished conception of the phenomenon of life. In particular, we argue that the new consensus has so far failed to consider the relevance of intermediate time scales. We propose that an adequate theory of life must account for the fact that all living beings are situated in at least four distinct time scales, which are typically associated with metabolism, motility, development, and evolution. In this view, self-movement, adaptive behavior, and morphological changes could have already been present at the origin of life. In order to illustrate this possibility, we analyze a minimal model of lifelike phenomena, namely, of precarious, individuated, dissipative structures that can be found in simple reaction-diffusion systems. Based on our analysis, we suggest that processes on intermediate time scales could have already been operative in prebiotic systems. They may have facilitated and constrained changes occurring in the faster- and slower-paced time scales of chemical self-individuation and evolution by natural selection, respectively.
September 4, 2013 at 11:23 am (Presentations)
Tags: agent-based models, complex systems, sociology
Tomorrow I will give a presentation for the Mathematical Sociology group of UNAM. The title and abstract are as follows:
Mathematical approaches to exploring the social mind
The sciences of man are sharply divided over the role played by sociality. On the one hand, cognitive science tries to reduce all explanations of behavior, including human social behavior, to a single person (and often even to nothing but a single organ: their brain). On the other hand, anthropology and sociology have long insisted that most (if not all) human behavior is an irreducible product of our shared socio-cultural environment. My research aims to build a bridge between these two viewpoints. In particular, I use mathematical models as formal proofs of concept for the possibility that the individual and the social co-determine each other. In order to illustrate this possibility I will present two case studies that are represent two different scales of sociality. First, I will briefly discuss a computer model of embodied agents in which a dyadic interaction process reconfigures the internal activity of each agent such that it exhibits mathematical properties that are in principle impossible for the agents in isolation. Second, I will present some results of a mathematical model that is loosely based on the social organization of the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. The model demonstrates that local social interactions between agents who selfishly optimize their own utility can consistently give rise to globally optimal social configurations even without any a priori knowledge of the problem space.
September 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Publications)
This paper examines the consequences of recent developments in the cognitive sciences, such as a focus on biological autonomy, agency and embodied consciousness, for our understanding of the nature and future of technology.
Bio-machine Hybrid Technology: A Theoretical Assessment and Some Suggestions for Improved Future Design
Philosophy & Technology
In sociology, there has been a controversy about whether there is any essential difference between a human being and a tool, or if the tool–user relationship can be defined by co-actor symmetry. This issue becomes more complex when we consider examples of AI and robots, and even more so following progress in the development of various bio-machine hybrid technologies, such as robots that include organic parts, human brain implants, and adaptive prosthetics. It is argued that a concept of autonomous agency based on organismic embodiment helps to clarify the situation. On this view, agency consists of an asymmetrical relationship between an organism and its environment, because the continuous metabolic and regulatory activity of the organism gives rise to its own existence, and hence its specific behavioral domain. Accordingly, most (if not all) of current technologies are excluded from the class of autonomous agents. Instead, they are better conceptualized as interfaces that mediate our interactions with the world. This has important implications for design: Rather than trying to help humans to achieve their goals by duplicating their agency in artificial systems, it would be better to empower humans directly by enhancing their existing agency and lived experience with technological interfaces that can be incorporated into their embodiment. This incorporation might be especially facilitated by bio-machine hybrid technology that is designed according the principles of biological autonomy and multi-agent coordination dynamics.
August 23, 2013 at 11:02 am (General)
Tags: altered states of consciousness, cognitive science, hallucinations, origins of art, Turing patterns
Due to the publicity that was generated by the article on Turing patters and altered states of consciousness, the publisher of Adaptive Behavior has made it freely available online and has placed a special banner on the journal’s homepage.
Click the image to access the article!
August 6, 2013 at 5:04 pm (Presentations)
I presented a talk at the 12th International Conference on SocioCybernetics, which was held June 24-28 in Merida, Mexico.
This research is based on ongoing collaborations between the Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS) and the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas (IIA) of UNAM.
Can urban society self-organize its government? The case of Teotihuacan
Tom Froese, Linda Manzanilla and Carlos Gershenson
Keywords: self-organization, archaeology, adaptive systems
Teotihuacan (100 BC – 600 AD) was the first urban civilization in Mesoamerica. During its peak it was one of the world’s most populous cities, and its pyramids are still among the world’s largest monumental constructions. Yet despite its importance in the sociocultural development of Central America, the governing system of this city is a longstanding scientific puzzle because it was exceptional. Teotihuacan uniquely built itself as an inclusive corporate society. But how could a collective system have been organized to ensure the long-lasting success of the city? More precisely, assuming that citizens act in their own best interest, how could such an aggregate of selfish individuals bring about a stable supply of public goods? This question goes beyond the specific case of Teotihuacan, as it is related with the maintenance of cooperation, and has relevance to social policies today.
Read the rest of this entry »
July 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm (Publications)
The next issue of Behavioral and Brain Sciences includes a target article on second-person neuroscience by Schilbach et al.
I contributed a commentary with my collaborators in Japan based on our extensive research with agent-based models of social interaction. The title and abstract are as follows:
From synthetic modeling of social interaction to dynamic theories of brain-body-environment-body-brain systems
Tom Froese, Hiroyuki Iizuka and Takashi Ikegami
Synthetic approaches to social interaction support the development of a second-person neuroscience. Agent-based models and psychological experiments can be related in a mutually informing manner. Models have the advantage of making the nonlinear brain–body–environment–body–brain system as a whole accessible to analysis by dynamical systems theory. We highlight some general principles of how social interaction can partially constitute an individual’s behavior.
July 10, 2013 at 8:02 pm (Presentations)
This week starts the 17th annual conference of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC 17). It will be held in San Diego, California, July 12-15, 2013. I will be involved in 2 poster presentations:
Joint action, joint consciousness: A psychological study of the interaction dynamics of intersubjective experience
Tom Froese, Hiroyuki Iizuka, Takashi Ikegami
P2-082, July 15th, 14.30 – 16.30
The study of social cognition in interactive settings is gaining in prominence, and second-person neuroscience has begun to reveal different neural mechanisms in contrast to passive spectator settings. We contribute to these developments with a psychological study of the effects of social interaction on consciousness. Pairs of adults controlled their avatars in a 1D virtual space and interacted with each other using nothing but a computer mouse and binary tactile feedback interface. They were instructed to avoid two distractor objects that only differed from the other’s avatar in their lack of responsive movement (one was static; the other precisely copied the avatar’s movements at a distance). They clicked to signal the experimenter when they felt to be interacting with the other’s avatar. We tested 18 teams (36 participants), each for 15 trials of one-minute duration. We thereby replicated the setup of Auvray et al. (2009), but with one crucial difference: we explicitly asked participants to help each other. We confirmed Auvray’s finding that participants clicked successfully (88% correct); additionally, our statistics indicated conscious recognition. The best strategies involved the development of interactions that required mutual participation for their realization, e.g. imitative turn-taking. We assessed the clarity of experience of the other’s presence with post-trial questionnaires, including a perceptual awareness scale and confidence ratings. Subjective clarity significantly correlated with objective clicking success. Moreover, highest scores were significantly correlated with each other and with joint success (indeed, clicks often happened nearly concurrently), indicating that intersubjective experience results from a co-creative process.
Synesthesia: Continuous or discrete? A study on the prevalence of number personification in Japan
Eiko Matsuda, Tom Froese, Hideya Kitamura, Kazuo Hiraki
Read the rest of this entry »
June 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm (Publications)
One of the last pieces of work I started during my time at Ikegami Lab in Tokyo has finally been published. It is part of my efforts to try to understand the qualitative transition toward human symbolic cognition.
Turing instabilities in biology, culture, and consciousness? On the enactive origins of symbolic material culture
Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward, and Takashi Ikegami
It has been argued that the worldwide prevalence of certain types of geometric visual patterns found in prehistoric art can be best explained by the common experience of these patterns as geometric hallucinations during altered states of consciousness induced by shamanic ritual practices. And in turn the worldwide prevalence of these types of hallucinations has been explained by appealing to humanity’s shared neurobiological embodiment. Moreover, it has been proposed that neural network activity can exhibit similar types of spatiotemporal patterns, especially those caused by Turing instabilities under disinhibited, non-ordinary conditions. Altered states of consciousness thus provide a suitable pivot point from which to investigate the complex relationships between symbolic material culture, first-person experience, and neurobiology. We critique prominent theories of these relationships. Drawing inspiration from neurophenomenology, we sketch the beginnings of an alternative, enactive approach centered on the concepts of sense-making, value, and sensorimotor decoupling.
To download the paper, click on the paper’s title above.