New article: On the spatiotemporal extensiveness of sense-making

The battle over the spatial extensiveness of mind has pretty much been won in recent debates in cognitive science. Here we argue that the next step is to defend the temporal extensiveness of mind!

On the spatiotemporal extensiveness of sense-making: Ultrafast cognition and the historicity of normativity

Laura Mojica and Tom Froese

The enactive approach conceives of cognition as acts of sense-making. A requirement of
sense-making is adaptivity, i.e., the agent’s capacity to actively monitor and regulate its own trajectories with respect to its viability constraints. However, there are examples of sense-making, known as ultrafast cognition, that occur faster than the time physiologically required for the organism to centrally monitor and regulate movements, for example via long-range neural feedback mechanisms. These examples open a clarificatory challenge for the enactive approach with respect to how to operationalize monitoring and regulation, and with respect to the temporal scale of sense-making, which has traditionally been limited to the here-and-now in accordance with the axiom of structural determinism. We explore possible responses to this challenge and suggest that this axiom should be explicitly rejected: adaptivity is a property of organism-environment interactions over a time span that includes both present and past conditions. Therefore, ultrafast performances are no longer a challenge for the enactive approach because the constitutive basis of their normativity is spatiotemporally extensive. This is in accordance with recent developments in different varieties of enactivism, which all converge toward assigning a constitutive role to an agent’s history of interactions.

Keynote at From Animals to Animats 15 (SAB 2018)

I will be a keynote speaker at FROM ANIMALS TO ANIMATS 15: The 15th International Conference on the Simulation of Adaptive Behavior (SAB 2018), which will take place 14-17 August 2018, in Frankfurt, Germany, and is organized by the International Society for Adaptive Behavior (ISAB).

Here is my title and abstract:

Searching for the conditions of genuine intersubjectivity: From robotics to HCI

Tom Froese

Many our most valued experiences are experiences that we share with others. Yet the basis for this sense of we-ness remains mysterious. Could it really be possible that two people share one and the same experience? How so? Two lines of research are providing important insights. First, complex systems analyses of social robotics and agent-based models have demonstrated that there is nothing mysterious about the possibility of cognitive activity being distributed in a multi-agent system. Second, experimental investigations of real-time embodied social interaction mediated by human-computer interfaces demonstrate that co-regulation of interaction dynamics makes a difference to experience. This formal and empirical research on social interaction supports the possibility of genuine intersubjectivity: we can directly participate in the unfolding of each other’s experience.

Editor-in-Chief of Adaptive Behavior

After many years of service to the community, Ezequiel Di Paolo​ has stepped down as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Adaptive Behavior.

I will take over the reins from the current issue onward.

It’s going to be a tough act to follow, but I hope that I will be able to further consolidate the journal as a truly interdisciplinary forum for current research in the mind sciences.

For more information, please read the editorial we co-authored to mark this transition.

Please consider sending us your latest work! 🙂

Two presentations on the role of destabilization

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.

Motility at the Origin of Life: Its Characterization and a Model

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.