CNS*2020 Keynote 3:Information and Decision-Making - Daniel Polani

K3: Information and Decision-Making - Daniel Polani

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that (Shannon) information is a central resource for organisms, akin in importance to energy. Any decision that an organism or a subsystem of an organism takes involves the acquisition, selection, and processing of information and ultimately its concentration and enaction. It is the consequences of this balance that will occupy us in this talk. This perception-action loop picture of an agent’s life cycle is well established and expounded especially in the context of Fuster’s sensorimotor hierarchies. Nevertheless, the information-theoretic perspective drastically expands the potential and predictive power of the perception-action loop perspective. On the one hand information can be treated - to a significant extent - as a resource that is being sought and utilized by an organism. On the other hand, unlike energy, information is not additive. The intrinsic structure and dynamics of information can be exceedingly complex and subtle; in the last two decades one has discovered that Shannon information possesses a rich and nontrivial intrinsic structure that must be taken into account when informational contributions, information flow or causal interactions of processes are investigated, whether in the brain or in other complex processes. In addition, strong parallels between information and control theory have emerged. This parallelism between the theories allows one to obtain unexpected insights into the nature and properties of the perception-action loop. Through the lens of information theory, one can not only come up with novel hypotheses about necessary conditions for the organization of information processing in a brain, but also with constructive conjectures and predictions about what behaviours, brain structure and dynamics and even evolutionary pressures one can expect to operate on biological organisms, induced purely by informational considerations.

Referring to your previous paper:

Empowerment is formalized as the maximal potential causal flow from an agent’s actuators to an agent’s sensors at a later point in time.
paper link:

Can you say that Agent’s goal related to the empowerment is to: maximize (sensory) perceived impact to the world? If so, would you use it as the objective function in the autoencoder to maximize empowerment?

Hi Ziemowit,
Thanks for the question.
Would you be joining the Q&A session at 10.00 PM (Berlin Time) ?
In that case, we could transfer this question to the live session so you can ask your question directly to Dr. Polani.

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Thanks for the question @Ziemowit_Slawinski. I’ve added it to the list of questions to be answered in the crowdcast now. We’ll look for you if you are there to invite you on stage to ask your question and discuss it with Daniel if you’d like to do that.