The cognitive agent
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The Cognitive Agent. Overcoming informational limits Orlin Vakarelov Philosophy & Cognitive Science University of Arizona. Synopsis. Question: What are the systems for which the capacity of cognition is useful and what “function” does it serve? Answer:

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The Cognitive Agent

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The Cognitive Agent

Overcoming informational limits

Orlin Vakarelov

Philosophy & Cognitive Science

University of Arizona


Synopsis

  • Question:

    • What are the systems for which the capacity of cognition is useful and what “function” does it serve?

  • Answer:

    • The “function” of cognition is to allow informationally deprived autonomous agents to overcome the informational deficit so that they can have more successful behaviour.

    • In a sense, cognition is that which makes agents smarter.

Cognitio 09


Assumptions

  • Cognition vs. cognition

  • Cognition is essentially an embedded and embodied phenomenon, and is related to system control of the dynamical interactions with environment.

  • Cognition is a phenomenon of complexity, i.e. it exist only within complex, organized systems, and it is possible in virtue of the complexity.

Cognitio 09


A minimal approach

  • Maturana & Varela1 – autopoiesis

    • A system is autopoiesis iff it can actively maintain itself by implementing a process closure, and it can maintain separation from the environment.

  • M & V claim: Autopoiesis implies both life and cognition.

    • Natural teleology, self-reference, meaning, perspective (umwelt), etc.

  • Di Paolo2: Autopoiesis is a structural condition, while adaptiveness is not. Cognition requires adaptiveness. Therefore, autopoiesis does not cognition.

1 H. R. Maturana & F. J. Varela (1980) Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living, Dordecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co

2 Di Paolo, E. A., (2005). Autopoiesis, adaptivity, teleology, agency.Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4(4): 429 - 452.

Cognitio 09


Methodology

  • Bottom-up approach

    • The theoretical distinctions must correspond to natural dynamical/system theoretic distinctions arising from the increasing complexity of organization of the systems.

    • I.e. if you are wondering among various systems, you should be able to stumble on the collection of cognitive system.

  • I describe a sequence of nested design problems whose general strategies for solution warrant theoretical distinctions – cognition is viewed as one such general strategy for a problem.

  • Autonomy  Agency  Cognitive Agency

Cognitio 09


Autonomy

  • Problem I: System persistence

    • Rocks vs. Vortexes vs. Living systems

  • Autonomy: a system that can self-govern.

  • Autopoiesis – simplest dissipative systems that can dynamically self-maintain their organization – simplest autonomous systems.

  • Autonomy comes in degrees – ability of the system to remain within (or widen) its viability limits.

  • We need to look at the strategies for making a system more autonomous.

Cognitio 09


Autonomy

  • Characterize organization in terms of effective description:

    • Dynamical interactions with environment

    • Mechanistic interactions with environment

  • It becomes useful to isolate environment-to-systeminteractions, system-to-environment interactions, and control relations between them.

  • Proto-percepts and proto-actions

  • Problem II: How can proto-actions,by changing the environment, improve achievement of the goal of persistence?

Cognitio 09


Agents

  • As complexity increases it becomes more efficient to describe the interactions in informational term. (Semiosis)

  • When an autonomous system is such that it is best described with informational term, I suggest to call it an autonomous agent.

  • In an agent proto-actions become actions and proto-percepts become percepts.

  • Prob. II can be improved on when information from the environment becomes relevant for the actions.

  • Problem III: How can an agent use “better” information to control its actions?

Cognitio 09


Informational Limits

  • A real agent, as a locus of high level organization, is still too simple to “absorb” and “contain” all the relevant information in the environment.

  • An agent is severely informationally deprived – it is connected to the environment through a low capacity information channel.

  • Problem IV: How can the internal organization of the control mechanism of the agent be improved to begin to overcome the informational limitations?

Cognitio 09


Sequence of problems and systems

Problem I: System persistence

Problem II: How can proto-actions improve persistence?

Problem III: How can an agent use “better” information to control its actions?

Problem IV: How can the internal organization of the control mechanism of the agent be improved to begin to overcome the informational limitations?

I

II

III

IV

Cognitio 09


Cognitive Agents

  • Conditional informational entropy (CIE) – information deficit

    • Form: Entropy of Source onReceiver

    • The lower the CIE between the agent and the environment, the less immediate information must be transmitted through the informational channel.

  • I claim that the structures and mechanisms within an agent that have the function of lowering the conditional informational entropy to solve IVare exactly the ones that cognitive science studies.

  • The Cognitive system is the set of the mechanisms/organizational constraints of an autonomous agent that:

    • allows lowering of the conditional information entropy of selected importantinformational sources in the environment onthe control structure of the agent,

    • so that the agent can improve the selection of actions to produce successful behavior in light of its information gathering and carrying limitations.

Cognitio 09


Back to the familiar

  • Two general strategies for CIE lowering

    • Internalize efficiently information from the environment so that you don’t have to communicate it.

    • Focus on the most relevant source of information.

  • More specific strategies:

    • accumulation and integration of information over time;

    • targeting specific useful feature of the environment;

    • building internal structures that encode information about the environment and its dynamics, and using them to anticipate the future state of the environment based on limited information from perception;

    • going beyond the immediate information thought informational transformations (with reasoning capacities), etc.

  • The prototypical cognitive capacities accomplish exactly such tasks: learning, memory, feature detection, representation, reasoning, etc.

Cognitio 09


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