May 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm (Presentations, Publications)
I will be presenting a talk at the 2013 IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation, which will be held June 20-23 in Cancun, Mexico. The paper is a contribution to the Special Session on Evolutionary Robotics.
Click on the title below to download a copy of the paper.
The Dynamically Extended Mind: A Minimal Modeling Case Study
Tom Froese, Carlos Gershenson, and David A. Rosenblueth
The extended mind hypothesis has stimulated much interest in cognitive science. However, its core claim, i.e. that the process of cognition can extend beyond the brain via the body and into the environment, has been heavily criticized. A prominent critique of this claim holds that when some part of the world is coupled to a cognitive system this does not necessarily entail that the part is also constitutive of that cognitive system. This critique is known as the “coupling-constitution fallacy”. In this paper we respond to this reductionist challenge by using an evolutionary robotics approach to create a minimal model of two acoustically coupled agents. We demonstrate how the interaction process as a whole has properties that cannot be reduced to the contributions of the isolated agents. We also show that the neural dynamics of the coupled agents has formal properties that are inherently impossible for those neural networks in isolation. By keeping the complexity of the model to an absolute minimum, we are able to illustrate how the coupling-constitution fallacy is in fact based on an inadequate understanding of the constitutive role of nonlinear interactions in dynamical systems theory.
March 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm (Publications)
After collaborating with experts in psychiatry for several years, we have launched a critique of cognitivist theory of mind on the basis of phenomenological psychopathology. Our first paper has just been published in Research in Developmental Disabilities.
The title and abstract are as follows:
Is it normal to be a principal mindreader? Revising theories of social cognition on the basis of schizophrenia and high functioning autism-spectrum disorders
Tom Froese, Giovanni Stanghellini, Marco O. Bertelli
Schizophrenia and high functioning autism-spectrum disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental conditions that mainly impair social competence, while general intelligence (IQ) is spared. Both disorders have a strong ancillary role in theoretical research on social cognition. Recently the debate has started to be inflected by embodied and phenomenological approaches, which claim that the standard portrayal of all social understanding as so-called ‘mindreading’, i.e. the attribution of mental states to others in the service of explaining and predicting their behavior, is misguided. Instead it is emphasized that we normally perceive others directly as conscious and goal-directed persons, without requiring any theorizing and/or simulation. This paper evaluates some of the implications of abnormal experiences reported by people with schizophrenia and ASD for the current debate in cognitive science. For these people the practice of explicit mindreading seems to be a compensatory strategy that ultimately fails to compensate for – and may even exacerbate – their impairment of intuitive and interactive social understanding. Phenomenological psychopathology thereby supports the emerging view that ‘mindreading’ is not the principal form of normal social understanding.
February 1, 2013 at 4:24 pm (Presentations, Publications)
My colleagues at the University of Tokyo, Nathaniel Virgo and Takashi Ikegami, are going to give a talk on some of our work at the 2013 IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence in Singapore. The talk will be given as part of the IEEE ALIFE 2013 symposium. Title and abstract are as follows:
The Positive Role of Parasites in the Origins of Life
Nathaniel Virgo, Tom Froese and Takashi Ikegami
One problem in the origins of life is how parasitic side-reactions can be mitigated. It is known that spatial self-organisation can help with this, making autocatalytic chemical systems more robust to invasion by parasitic species. In previous work we have shown that in such scenarios parasitic reactions can actually be beneficial. Here we demonstrate for the first time a system in which the presence of a parasitic autocatalytic cycle is not only beneficial but actually necessary for the persistence of its host. This occurs due to the effect the parasite has on the spatial organisation of the system; the host-parasite system is more stable than the host alone, despite the fact that the parasite’s direct effect on its host is purely negative. We briefly discuss the implications for the origins of life.
January 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm (Publications)
Tags: autopoiesis, biology of cognition, cognitive science, cybernetics, enaction
Back in 2010 John Stewart and I published a paper on Life after Ashby, in which we argued that the concept of autopoiesis is experiencing some growing pains within the paradigm of enaction, because the concept was originally conceived and expressed within an abstract systems framework that was already familiar from Ashby’s work.
This was followed in 2011 by a commentary by Maturana, in which he distances himself from what we had called the Ashbyan interpretation of autopoiesis and offers some additional clarifications about his work.
John and I wrote a response to Maturana’s commentary, Enactive Cognitive Science and Biology of Cognition, in which we clarify our position and offer some further reflections on the similarities and differences between Maturana’s biology of cognition and the enactive approach to cognitive science. We agree that Maturana’s work is an improvement over Ashby’s approach to biological function, but we also suggest that the enactive approach is in important respects an improvement over the biology of cognition.
Our response will be published in the next issue of Cybernetics & Human Knowing, which will also include another commentary on our original 2010 article by Bich and Arnellos. Like us and Maturana, these authors also reject the Ashbyan interpretation of autopoiesis, and they draw on the work of a number of other theoretical biologists in order to suggest that it is nevertheless possible to devise a notion of autopoiesis that can better deal with our initial criticisms.
January 11, 2013 at 7:04 pm (General, Presentations, Publications)
Tags: enactive interfaces, enactive perception, human-computer interface, sensory substitution
Our paper on the Enactive Torch, entitled The Enactive Torch: A New Tool for the Science of Perception, which was published in IEEE Transactions on Haptics, is discussed in that journal’s latest podcast. The coverage starts at 11:00.
July 25, 2012 at 2:19 pm (Publications)
Our paper for the Artificial Life 13 conference has been published by the MIT Press.
The Behavior-Based Hypercycle: From Parasitic Reaction to Symbiotic Behavior
Tom Froese, Takashi Ikegami and Nathaniel Virgo
Most researchers in the science of the origin of life assume that the process of living is nothing but computation in the chemical domain, i.e. information processing of a genetic code. This has had the effect of restricting research to the problem of stability, as epitomized by the concept of the hypercycle and its potential vulnerability against parasites. Stability is typically assumed to be ensured by a rigid compartment, but spatial self-structuring is a viable alternative. We further develop this alternative by proposing that some instability can actually be beneficial under certain conditions. We show that instability can lead to adaptive behavior even in the case of simple prebiotic reaction-diffusion systems. We demonstrate for the first time that a parasitic sidereaction on the metabolic level can lead to self-motility on the behavioral level of the chemical system as a whole. Moreover, self-motility entails advantages on an evolutionary level, thus constituting a symbiotic, behavior-based hypercycle. We relate this novel finding to several issues in the science of the origin of life, and conclude that more attention should be given to the possibility of a movement-first scenario.
July 11, 2012 at 1:13 am (Publications)
What is it like to use the Enactive Torch? The first systematic study of the experience of using this devise is going to come out soon in IEEE Transactions on Haptics. The title and abstract are as follows.
The Enactive Torch: A New Tool for the Science of Perception
Tom Froese, Marek McGann, William Bigge, Adam Spiers, and Anil K. Seth
The cognitive sciences are increasingly coming to terms with the embodied, embedded, extended, and experiential aspects of the mind. Exemplifying this shift, the enactive approach points to an essential role of goal-directed bodily activity in the generation of meaningful perceptual experience, i.e., sense-making. Here, building on recent insights into the transformative effects of practical tool-use, we make use of the enactive approach in order to provide a definition of an enactive interface in terms of augmented sense-making. We introduce such a custom-built interface, the Enactive Torch, and present a study of its experiential effects. The results demonstrate that the user experience is not adequately captured by any standardly assumed perceptual modality; rather, it is a new feeling that is mediated by the design of the device and shaped by the overall situation of the task. Taken together these findings show that there is much to be gained by synergies between engineering and the cognitive sciences in the creation of new experience-centered technology. We suggest that the guiding principle should be the design of interfaces that serve as a transparent medium for augmenting our natural skills of interaction with the world, instead of requiring conscious attention to the interface as an opaque object in the world.
July 5, 2012 at 4:08 am (Publications)
My attempt to promote the methods and insights of evolutionary robotics in the field of human neuroscience has had its first success. A model of social interaction has been published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. This paper completes the main project of my JSPS fellowship.
Imitation by social interaction? Analysis of a minimal agent-based model of the correspondence problem
Tom Froese, Charles Lenay, and Takashi Ikegami
Abstract: One of the major challenges faced by explanations of imitation is the “correspondence problem”: how is an agent able to match its bodily expression to the observed bodily expression of another agent, especially when there is no possibility of external self-observation? Current theories only consider the possibility of an innate or acquired matching mechanism belonging to an isolated individual. In this paper we evaluate an alternative that situates the explanation of imitation in the inter-individual dynamics of the interaction process itself. We implemented a minimal model of two interacting agents based on a recent psychological study of imitative behavior during minimalist perceptual crossing. The agents cannot sense the configuration of their own body, and do not have access to other’s body configuration, either. And yet surprisingly they are still capable of converging on matching bodily configurations. Analysis revealed that the agents solved this version of the correspondence problem in terms of collective properties of the interaction process. Contrary to the assumption that such properties merely serve as external input or scaffolding for individual mechanisms, it was found that the behavioral dynamics were distributed across the model as a whole.