Thursday 23rd (09:30) - Friday 24th May 2013
The University of Birmingham
http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs This paper is
A PDF version may be added later.
A partial index of discussion notes is in
The Meta-Morphogenesis project offers a different stance: we can think of embodied agents
of various sorts as being embedded in environments of varying complexity and with varying
challenges and opportunities, which resulted in evolutionary changes in both sensory-motor
morphologies, and forms of information-processing, including development of new more
complex information-processing architectures, more varied forms of representation and more
complex uses of information.
Developmental biology also investigates such changes in the morphology, behaviours,
environments, capabilities, challenges, opportunities, during development of individuals
including changes before and after separation from mother or hatching from egg or cocoon, etc.
We need to add to such investigations the transitions in information processing including, for example, changes in
There may be some continuous changes (e.g. increase in size, or speed) but the important
changes in information-processing are discontinuities.
Identifying the many past discontinuities may give us new deep insights into existing
information processing mechanisms and capabilities that are too complex and intricate to
be directly inspected, either in behavioural experiments/observations or physiological
observations/measurements. For a growing list of transitions see:
This talk will highlight particular types of evolutionary transition, from direct,
immediate and practical interaction with the immediate environment, using "online
intelligence" to increasingly indirect remote and theoretical engagement,
or "offline intelligence".
Online intelligence includes for example, chemotaxis, sensory triggering, reflex
responses, and various types of servo-control, including walking, running, grasping or
catching things, all of which require detailed and accurate information about states
and processes in the immediate environment, to be used and over-written almost
Offline intelligence involves use of information about collections of possibilities,
constraints on possibilities, chains of sets of future possibilities, and also backward
reasoning concerning possible explanations of perceived states, events and processes.
Often instead of precise and detailed information (e.g. measures of distance, direction,
speed, angle curvature, etc.) it abstracts away from such details in order to represent a
range of possibilities and some of their invariants, or constraints, and may even include
branching sets of possibilities.
The information used in "offline intelligence" neither refers to the precise details
of what's going on here and now, nor is restricted to immediate use in controlling
actions, It is very closely related to human mathematical competences, I suggest that
detailed research will find many examples of offline intelligence that can be seen as
precursors to mathematical reasoning that evolves or develops later.
Note that possibilities are not probabilities: possibilities are intrinsically unordered,
for example, and need not form a metric space, though many sets of possibilities can over
time, have their ontology enriched to include metrical properties. For example, they may
start as partially ordered sets.
One of the striking results was production of abilities in our ancestors that led to
discoveries in Euclidean geometry before there were teachers or textbooks, and without
which Euclid's Elements, one of the high points of human intelligence, would not have been
possible. I suspect an earlier transition, in the evolution of many more species, was
evolution of abilities to discover and reason about affordances and constraints on
affordances prior to making use of those affordances, without which corvid nest building,
elephant adults helping their infants, and many other examples of non-human intelligence
would have been impossible. Likewise intelligence in pre-verbal humans, who discover what
I call 'Toddler Theorems'.
Unfortunately, we still lack theories or mechanisms able to explain the main reasoning
processes involved, and neither the vast amounts of research on bayesian mechanisms nor
the work on powerful logical and algebraic theorem provers seems able to fill the gap. I
can't yet provide mechanisms, but I'll present some clues about a way forward.
Compare Karmiloff-Smith's, Beyond Modularity (1992):