The Life & Mind Seminar Network

Norm-establishing and norm-following in autonomous agency

Posted in Seminars by matthewegbert on July 18, 2012

As some of you already know, Xabier and I have a new publication entitled “Norm-establishing and norm-following in autonomous agency” that will be appearing in Artificial Life later this year (or perhaps early next year).

The paper illustrates with a minimal model the notion of normativity, showing how it is possible to include within a single model the processes that determine the viability-limits of a system, and suggesting how behaviour can be in response to those limits. We believe it to be of interested to a wide audience, ranging from philosophy of biology, to cognitive science, to protocell research.

Last week I gave a talk based on the paper at Sussex, which was filmed.  The presentation, along with the slides from the talk can be found here.

Also, a preprint of the paper can be found on either of our websites:

We hope that you enjoy the talk and paper, and that they will generate some discussion on this blog.  We feel like we made some progress with some of the key ideas, but that there is (of course) much still to be done!
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Norm-establishing and norm-following in autonomous agency
Xabier E. Barandiaran, Matthew D. Egbert
Accepted to appear in Artificial Life

ABSTRACT: One of the fundamental aspects that distinguishes acts from mere events is that actions are subject to a normative dimension that is absent from other types of interaction: natural agents behave according to intrinsic norms that determine their adaptive or maladaptive nature. We briefly review current and historical attempts to naturalize normativity from an organism-centred perspective that conceives of living systems as defining their own norms in a continuous process of self-maintenance of their individuality. We identify and propose solutions for two problems of contemporary approaches to viability and normative behaviour in this tradition: 1) How is the topology of the viability space to be defined in an emergent manner that does not presuppose rigid boundaries? 2) How to include in theoretical advances and computational models of natural agents both the processes that establish norms and those that result in norm-following behaviour. In this paper we present a minimal metabolic system that is coupled to a gradient climbing chemotactic mechanism. Through studying the interaction between metabolic dynamics and environmental resource conditions, we identify an emergent viable region and precarious region where the system tends to die should environmental conditions remain the same. We develop the concept of normative field as the change of environmental conditions required to bring the system back to its viable region. Norm-following or normative action is defined as the course of behaviour whose effect is positively correlated with the normative field. We generalize from our minimal model to a wider range of theoretical and modelling interest, and close with some discussion about the limitation of our model, possible extensions and some final reflexions around the nature of norms and teleology in agency.

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