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Life as we know it

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How much about our interaction with – and experience of – our world can be deduced from basic principles? This talk reviews recent attempts to understand the self-organised behaviour of embodied agents – like ourselves – as satisfying basic imperatives for sustained exchanges with our world. In brief, one simple driving force appears to explain nearly every aspect of our behaviour and experience. This driving force is the minimisation of surprise or prediction error. In the context of perception, this corresponds to (Bayes-optimal) predictive coding that suppresses exteroceptive prediction errors.  In the context of action, simple reflexes  can be seen as suppressing proprioceptive prediction errors. We will look at some of the phenomena that emerge from this formulation, such as hierarchical message passing in the brain and the perceptual inference that ensues. I hope to illustrate  these points using  simple simulations of how life-like behaviour emerges almost inevitably from coupled dynamical systems – and how this behaviour can be understood in terms of perception, action and action observation.

This talk is part of the Chaucer Club series.

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