Evolved Requirements for Cognition
(DRAFT: Liable to change)
Installed: 18 Apr 2011
Last updated: 18 Apr 2011
This paper is
A PDF version may be added later.
Many of the ideas are developed further in presentations here:
LIFE and INFORMATION
Self-modifying information-processing architectures
(lecture for undergraduates)
Genomes for self-constructing, self-modifying information-processing architectures
A partial index of discussion notes is in
Some evolutionary transitions to think about:
Changing relationships between organism and environment
Types of environment with different information-processing requirements
NB: This list illustrates only a tiny subset of the diversity of
requirements and designs for information-processing functions and mechanisms in
products of biological evolution. There may have been thousands of important
transitions in information processing functions and designs in our evolutionary
ancestors (some more important than others).
- Microbes in chemical soup, can be wholly dependent on nutrients in their
- Soup with detectable gradients: offers opportunities to improve location if
motion can be controlled.
- Soup plus some stable structures, e.g. places with good stuff, bad stuff,
obstacles, supports, shelters:
offers advantages for organisms that can build up long term spatial memories,
and can plan routes.
- Many different kinds of matter in the environment, with different
nutritional, toxic, or other properties, not all immediately distinguishable
from external appearance.
Requires notion of "kind of stuff" related to potential behaviours and/or
responses to prodding, pulling, twisting, hitting, pouring, etc.
(What philosophers have called dispositional properties.)
- Things that have to be manipulated to be eaten (e.g. disassembled) need new
forms of process perception and process control, including ontologies that
include kinds of ``stuff'' with different properties.
- Controllable manipulators: mouth, hands, feet, require different uses of
- Things that try to eat you -- lead to forms of control for escaping, hiding,
- Food that tries to escape -- lead to forms of control for chasing, trapping,
lying in wait, heading off, etc.
- Mates with preferences, lead to forms of control of behaviours for attracting
attention and winning favour.
- Competitors for food and mates lead to deception, fighting, warding off,
defending territory, etc.
- Collaboration with others requires action controlled to aid collaboration,
and possibly communication.
- and so on (don't forget information-processing in plants) .....
Some of the solutions seem to have been compiled into genomes for species that
have survived for a long time. Others seem to have been meta-compiled into
parametrisable specifications that are instantiated during development and can
cope with novel environments (like human-toddlers using mouse and pointer on a
computer -- unlike any of their ancestors).
How information-processing requirements change, depends on both features of the
environment and features of the organism (products of previous evolution).
Contrast: how designs change.
TO BE CONTINUED
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham