Preprint Article Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

From Allostatic Agents to Counterfactual Cognisers: Active Inference, Biological Regulation, and The Origins of Cognition

Version 1 : Received: 6 November 2019 / Approved: 8 November 2019 / Online: 8 November 2019 (03:50:08 CET)

How to cite: Corcoran, A.W.; Pezzulo, G.; Hohwy, J. From Allostatic Agents to Counterfactual Cognisers: Active Inference, Biological Regulation, and The Origins of Cognition. Preprints 2019, 2019110083 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201911.0083.v1). Corcoran, A.W.; Pezzulo, G.; Hohwy, J. From Allostatic Agents to Counterfactual Cognisers: Active Inference, Biological Regulation, and The Origins of Cognition. Preprints 2019, 2019110083 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201911.0083.v1).

Abstract

What is the function of cognition? On one influential account, cognition evolved to co-ordinate behaviour with environmental change or complexity (Godfrey-Smith 1996). Liberal interpretations of this view ascribe cognition to an extraordinarily broad set of biological systems – even bacteria, which modulate their activity in response to salient external cues, would seem to qualify as cognitive agents. However, equating cognition with adaptive flexibility per se glosses over important distinctions in the way biological organisms deal with environmental complexity. Drawing on contemporary advances in theoretical biology and computational neuroscience, we cash these distinctions out in terms of the representation and resolution of different varieties of uncertainty. This analysis leads us to propose a formal criterion for delineating cognition from other, more pervasive forms of adaptive plasticity. On this view, biological cognition is rooted in a particular kind of functional organisation; namely, one that enables the agent to detach from the present and engage in counterfactual (active) inference.

Subject Areas

complexity; uncertainty; cognition; allostasis; homeostasis; free energy principle; active inference; environmental complexity thesis

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