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      Universal Darwinism As a Process of Bayesian Inference

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          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.

          Abstract

          Many of the mathematical frameworks describing natural selection are equivalent to Bayes' Theorem, also known as Bayesian updating. By definition, a process of Bayesian Inference is one which involves a Bayesian update, so we may conclude that these frameworks describe natural selection as a process of Bayesian inference. Thus, natural selection serves as a counter example to a widely-held interpretation that restricts Bayesian Inference to human mental processes (including the endeavors of statisticians). As Bayesian inference can always be cast in terms of (variational) free energy minimization, natural selection can be viewed as comprising two components: a generative model of an “experiment” in the external world environment, and the results of that “experiment” or the “surprise” entailed by predicted and actual outcomes of the “experiment.” Minimization of free energy implies that the implicit measure of “surprise” experienced serves to update the generative model in a Bayesian manner. This description closely accords with the mechanisms of generalized Darwinian process proposed both by Dawkins, in terms of replicators and vehicles, and Campbell, in terms of inferential systems. Bayesian inference is an algorithm for the accumulation of evidence-based knowledge. This algorithm is now seen to operate over a wide range of evolutionary processes, including natural selection, the evolution of mental models and cultural evolutionary processes, notably including science itself. The variational principle of free energy minimization may thus serve as a unifying mathematical framework for universal Darwinism, the study of evolutionary processes operating throughout nature.

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          Most cited references 19

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          Life as we know it

           Karl Friston (2013)
          This paper presents a heuristic proof (and simulations of a primordial soup) suggesting that life—or biological self-organization—is an inevitable and emergent property of any (ergodic) random dynamical system that possesses a Markov blanket. This conclusion is based on the following arguments: if the coupling among an ensemble of dynamical systems is mediated by short-range forces, then the states of remote systems must be conditionally independent. These independencies induce a Markov blanket that separates internal and external states in a statistical sense. The existence of a Markov blanket means that internal states will appear to minimize a free energy functional of the states of their Markov blanket. Crucially, this is the same quantity that is optimized in Bayesian inference. Therefore, the internal states (and their blanket) will appear to engage in active Bayesian inference. In other words, they will appear to model—and act on—their world to preserve their functional and structural integrity, leading to homoeostasis and a simple form of autopoiesis.
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            Towards a unified science of cultural evolution.

            We suggest that human culture exhibits key Darwinian evolutionary properties, and argue that the structure of a science of cultural evolution should share fundamental features with the structure of the science of biological evolution. This latter claim is tested by outlining the methods and approaches employed by the principal subdisciplines of evolutionary biology and assessing whether there is an existing or potential corresponding approach to the study of cultural evolution. Existing approaches within anthropology and archaeology demonstrate a good match with the macroevolutionary methods of systematics, paleobiology, and biogeography, whereas mathematical models derived from population genetics have been successfully developed to study cultural microevolution. Much potential exists for experimental simulations and field studies of cultural microevolution, where there are opportunities to borrow further methods and hypotheses from biology. Potential also exists for the cultural equivalent of molecular genetics in "social cognitive neuroscience," although many fundamental issues have yet to be resolved. It is argued that studying culture within a unifying evolutionary framework has the potential to integrate a number of separate disciplines within the social sciences.
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              Every good regulator of a system must be a model of that system †

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                Front Syst Neurosci
                Front Syst Neurosci
                Front. Syst. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                1662-5137
                07 June 2016
                2016
                : 10
                Affiliations
                Independent Researcher Victoria, BC, Canada
                Author notes

                Edited by: Biswa Sengupta, University of Cambridge, UK

                Reviewed by: Nelson Jesús Trujillo-Barreto, The University of Manchester, UK; Pedro Larrañaga, Technical University of Madrid, Spain; Adeel Razi, University College London, UK

                *Correspondence: John O. Campbell jockocampbell@ 123456gmail.com
                Article
                10.3389/fnsys.2016.00049
                4894882
                27375438
                Copyright © 2016 Campbell.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 7, References: 38, Pages: 8, Words: 6596
                Categories
                Neuroscience
                Hypothesis and Theory

                Neurosciences

                universal darwinism, bayesian inference, information, natural selection, free energy

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