Blog

Two recent papers looking at the micro and macro aspects of enaction

Egbert, M. D., Barandiaran, X. E., & Di Paolo, E. A. (2012). Behavioral metabolution: The adaptive and evolutionary potential of metabolism-based chemotaxis. Artificial Life, 18(1), 1-25. doi:10.1162/artl_a_00047.

Abstract

We use a minimal model of metabolism-based chemotaxis to show how a coupling between metabolism and behavior can affect evolutionary dynamics in a process we refer to as behavioral metabolution. This mutual influence can function as an in-the-moment, intrinsic evaluation of the adaptive value of a novel situation, such as an encounter with a compound that activates new metabolic pathways. Our model demonstrates how changes to metabolic pathways can lead to improvement of behavioral strategies, and conversely, how behavior can contribute to the exploration and fixation of new metabolic pathways. These examples indicate the potentially important role that the interplay between behavior and metabolism could have played in shaping adaptive evolution in early life and protolife. We argue that the processes illustrated by these models can be interpreted as an unorthodox instantiation of the principles of evolution by random variation and selective retention. We then discuss how the interaction between metabolism and behavior can facilitate evolution through (i) increasing exposure to environmental variation, (ii) making more likely the fixation of some beneficial metabolic pathways, (iii) providing a mechanism for in-the-moment adaptation to changes in the environment and to changes in the organization of the organism itself, and (iv) generating conditions that are conducive to speciation.

Froese, T. and Di Paolo, E. A. (2011). The enactive approach: Theoretical sketches from cell to society. Pragmatics and Cognition, 19, 1-36.

Abstract

There is a small but growing community of researchers spanning a spectrum of disciplines which are united in rejecting the still dominant computationalist paradigm in favor of the enactive approach. The framework of this approach is centered on a core set of ideas, such as autonomy, sense-making, emergence, embodiment, and experience. These concepts are finding novel applications in a diverse range of areas. One hot topic has been the establishment of an enactive approach to social interaction. The main purpose of this paper is to serve as an advanced entry point into these recent developments. It accomplishes this task in a twofold manner: (i) it provides a succinct synthesis of the most important core ideas and arguments in the theoretical framework of the enactive approach, and (ii) it uses this synthesis to refine the current enactive approach to social interac- tion. A new operational definition of social interaction is proposed which not only emphasizes the cognitive agency of the individuals and the irreducibility of the interaction process itself, but also the need for jointly co-regulated action. It is suggested that this revised conception of ‘socio-cognitive interaction’ may provide the necessary middle ground from which to understand the confluence of biological and cultural values in personal action.

Keywords: adaptivity, autonomy, cognition, enaction, sense-making, social interaction

And watch out for a couple of forthcoming papers in the participatory sense-making saga!

Gogoa ez dago buruan!

That (apparently!) means: The mind ain’t in the head! in Basque. I’ve learned it from this short interview published in the Ikerbasque monthly bulletin where I briefly talk about my research. If you’re interested you can read the Spanish and Basque versions too.

(Still working on the website update/transfer – Research pages next; I promise more interesting posts here soon.).

Moving my webpage

This is something long overdue. I’m now in the process of moving my old Sussex webpage (which was still being updated) to WordPress. This will make updates easier as well as the possibility of adding better content and this blog.

Why WordPress and not a “typical” academic page associated with the institutions I’m affiliated with? Well, because in general universities provide silly restrictions to format, functionality and content (it wasn’t quite the case at Sussex during the time I was there, not sure how it is now) and they don’t update with the times. But perhaps more importantly, because it seems to me that affiliations these days are much more loose and a matter of convenience. I feel more strongly affiliated to a network of researchers around the globe who share similar interests and passions than to a stuffy bureaucratic machine that manufactures degrees and papers either out of sheer inertia (in Spain) or for profit (in the UK).

So there it is. I hope to bring some thoughts here about the latest research work as well as more general concerns. The interesting and the important stuff.

Greetings,
Ezequiel