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

The Cognitive Agent

Overcoming informational limits

Orlin Vakarelov

Philosophy & Cognitive Science

University of Arizona


Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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


Autonomy1

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

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

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

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

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

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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