Author: Tom Froese

Jorge Campos receives 2018 ISAL Award for Outstanding Student Research

Well done Jorge!! I am happy that your hard work is being recognized.

Dr. Tom Froese

I am proud to announce that the International Society for Artificial Life (ISAL) has awarded the following conference paper, which was based on Jorge’s Master’s thesis, with the “2018 ISAL Award for Outstanding Student Research”:

Campos, J.I. & Froese, T. (2017). Referential communication as a collective property of a brain-body-environment-body-brain system: A minimal cognitive model. 2017 IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence (SSCI), Honolulu, HI: IEEE Press, pp. 863-870.

Out of the nominated papers this paper was chosen as the best in terms of its scientific rigor and clarity.

The award will be announced at the ALIFE 2018 conference in Tokyo this year. alife2018-logo-screengrab

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New Spanish translation: Donde hay vida, hay mente

Many thanks to our group’s translator Laura Rodriguez Benavidez for all her hard work on this very tough text!

Dr. Tom Froese

I was invited to contribute a chapter to the book Biocomplejidad edited by Moisés Villegas, Lorena Caballero and Eduardo Vizcaya. The book will come out online in open access format later this year.

The contribution is a Spanish translation of an article written by Kirchhoff and Froese (2017). Here it is:

Donde hay vida, hay mente: en apoyo a una tesis fuerte de la continuidad vida-mente

Michael D. Kirchhoff and Tom Froese

El presente texto considera cuestiones en torno a la continuidad y la discontinuidad entre la vida y la mente. Inicia examinando dichas cuestiones desde la perspectiva del principio de energía libre (PEL). El PEL se ha vuelto considerablemente influyente tanto en la neurociencia como en la ciencia cognitiva. Postula que los organismos actúan para conservarse a sí mismos en sus estados biológicos y cognitivos esperados, y que lo logran al minimizar su energía libre, dado que el…

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Explaining the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Many thanks to Jorge for all his hard work on implementing and running the model!!

Dr. Tom Froese

Here is the result of my two-month stay at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which was made possible by ELSI’s Origins Network. I quite like the implication that life could have been an inherently social phenomenon from its very origins!

Horizontal transfer of code fragments between protocells can explain the origins of the genetic code without vertical descent

Tom Froese, Jorge I. Campos, Kosuke Fujishima, Daisuke Kiga, and Nathaniel Virgo

Theories of the origin of the genetic code typically appeal to natural selection and/or mutation of hereditable traits to explain its regularities and error robustness, yet the present translation system presupposes high-fidelity replication. Woese’s solution to this bootstrapping problem was to assume that code optimization had played a key role in reducing the effect of errors caused by the early translation system. He further conjectured that initially evolution was dominated by horizontal exchange…

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Sensitivity to social contingency in adults with high-functioning autism

As part of his doctoral research, Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca coordinated this analysis of embodied social interaction. Great team effort!

Sensitivity to Social Contingency in Adults with High-Functioning Autism during Computer-Mediated Embodied Interaction

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca, Tom Froese, Leonhard Schilbach, Kai Vogeley, and Bert Timmermans

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be understood as a social interaction disorder. This makes the emerging “second-person approach” to social cognition a more promising framework for studying ASD than classical approaches focusing on mindreading capacities in detached, observer-based arrangements. According to the second-person approach, embodied, perceptual, and embedded or interactive capabilities are also required for understanding others, and these are hypothesized to be compromised in ASD. We therefore recorded the dynamics of real-time sensorimotor interaction in pairs of control participants and participants with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), using the minimalistic human-computer interface paradigm known as “perceptual crossing” (PC). We investigated whether HFA is associated with impaired detection of social contingency, i.e., a reduced sensitivity to the other’s responsiveness to one’s own behavior. Surprisingly, our analysis reveals that, at least under the conditions of this highly simplified, computer-mediated, embodied form of social interaction, people with HFA perform equally well as controls. This finding supports the increasing use of virtual reality interfaces for helping people with ASD to better compensate for their social disabilities. Further dynamical analyses are necessary for a better understanding of the mechanisms that are leading to the somewhat surprising results here obtained.

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Self-modeling in Hopfield Neural Networks with Continuous Activation Function

Finally a large part of Mario’s thesis on unsupervised learning in artificial neural networks has been published and is available open access:

Self-modeling in Hopfield Neural Networks with Continuous Activation Function

Mario Zarco and Tom Froese

Hopfield networks can exhibit many different attractors of which most are local optima. It has been demonstrated that combining states randomization and Hebbian learning enlarges the basin of attraction of globally optimal attractors. The procedure is called self-modeling and it has been applied in symmetric Hopfield networks with discrete states and without self-recurrent connections. We are interested in knowing which topological constraints can be relaxed. So, the self-modeling process is tested in asymmetric Hopfield networks with continuous states and self-recurrent connections. The best results are obtained in networks with modular structure.


Postgraduate course by Dr. Froese this semester

This semester Dr. Froese will teach the following course, which introduces the foundations of many of this group’s lines of research:

Agentes autónomos, sistemas sociales, y la nueva ciencia cognitiva

When: Mondays and Wednesdays, 13:00 – 14:30 (First class: 29/01/2018)
Where: Anexo del IIMAS, Circuito Escolar, Ciudad Universitaria, DF

This course will introduce ongoing debates in cognitive science about our changing understanding of the mind. Instead of being thought of as a digital computer inside the brain, mind is now widely considered to be an embodied, embedded and extended activity in the world. These ideas will be illustrated based on case studies of research in agent-based models and human-computer interfaces, with special emphasis on demonstrating how social interactions and technologies shape our mind. Students are not expected to program models nor to design interfaces, but to understand the implications of the new cognitive science and to apply them to their own research interests. The course will be taught mainly in English to better prepare students for the special terms used by leading researchers in cognitive science.

Click here for the course website.


Is there room for normativity in a dynamical world?

This can serve as our seminar of this week!

Dr. Tom Froese

Tomorrow at 2pm I will be giving an online talk for the ENactive Seminars Online (ENSO) Series. Here are the title and abstract:

Is there room for normativity in a dynamical world?

Enactivism rejects the standard working hypothesis of cognitive science, according to which all cognition involves the unconscious manipulation of mental representations, and replaces it with a dynamical systems account. And yet enactivism resists other, purely dynamical approaches that see no role for any kind of subjectivity, because it appeals to the role of our lived phenomenology and claims that living beings behave with respect to norms directed at maintaining their viability.

So far, this middle way seems to be philosophically unsatisfactory: at best it allows us to claim that acting in accordance with experience or norms just is a certain kind of dynamic pattern. But this turns subjectivity into a mysterious difference that makes no difference as such…

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Mario Zarco graduates with honors!

Today Mario Zarco graduated with honors from UNAM’s Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering for his work on self-optimization in neural networks.

The title and extended abstract of his thesis are as follows:

􀀈􀀓􀀔􀀕􀀇􀀌􀀐􀀁􀀇􀀈􀀁􀀄􀀕􀀔􀀐􀀂􀀐􀀑􀀔􀀌􀀎􀀌􀀖􀀄􀀆􀀌􀀘􀀏􀀁􀀈􀀏􀀁􀀒􀀈􀀇􀀈􀀓􀀁Estudio de Auto-Optimización en Redes Neuronales de Hopfield
Mario Alberto Zarco López

Las redes neuronales de Hopfield de tiempo discreto, cuya dinámica presentan múltiples atractores de punto fijo, han sido ampliamente usadas en dos casos: (1) memoria asociativa, basada en aprender un conjunto de patrones de entrenamiento los cuales son representados por atractores, y (2) optimización, basado en representar un problema de satisfaccion de restricciones con la topología de la red de tal forma que los atractores sean soluciones de ese problema. En el ultimo caso, la función de energía de la red debe tener la misma forma que la función a ser optimizada, de modo que los m´ınimos de la primera también sean mínimos de la segunda. Aunque se ha demostrado que los atractores de baja energía tienen un amplio domino de atracción, la red usualmente queda atrapada en mínimos locales. Recientemente se demostró que las redes de Hopfield de tiempo-discreto pueden converger en atractores globalmente óptimos ampliando las mejores cuencas de atracción. La red combina el aprendizaje de sus propios atractores usando aprendizaje Hebbiano y la aleatorizacion de los estados neuronales una vez que la red ha reforzada su configuración actual.


International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry

This event could be interesting for 4E Cognition fans in Colombia!

Dr. Tom Froese

I have been invited as a plenary speaker to the International Colloquium of Philosophy and Psychiatry, which will take place August 31 – September 2 in Bogota, Colombia. The title and abstract of my talk are as follows:

Integrating phenomenology and systems theory: The case of embodied memory

I will give an introduction to dynamical systems analysis and use it to formalize and ground the phenomenology of embodied memory. Three kinds of extra- neural processes will be considered: 1) physiological dynamics, 2) movement dynamics, and 2) social interaction dynamics. Their potential to serve as forms of memory will be illustrated on the basis of three simple agent-based models. These computational thought experiments help to demonstrate the problems faced by a purely brain-based account of the self and its capacities. They also support the adoption of a broader notion of psychopathology that takes into account the cognitive effects of undergoing changes…

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CFP: Understanding social cognition


EXTENDED DEADLINE: *August 31st, 2017*

Third Avant Conference
Trends in Interdisciplinary Studies


October 20-22 2017
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University
Lublin, Poland

Within the social sciences, it is widely accepted that groups of people exhibit social properties and dynamics that emerge from, but cannot be reductively identified with the actions and properties of individual members. Nevertheless, psychology and cognitive science have only reluctantly embraced the idea that something similar might happen in the domain of mind and cognition.