Do plants minimize surprise?

by on June 26, 2017 at 1:46 pm in Science | Permalink

Calvo and Friston came up with this:

In this article we account for the way plants respond to salient features of their environment under the free-energy principle for biological systems. Biological self-organization amounts to the minimization of surprise over time. We posit that any self-organizing system must embody a generative model whose predictions ensure that (expected) free energy is minimized through action. Plants respond in a fast, and yet coordinated manner, to environmental contingencies. They pro-actively sample their local environment to elicit information with an adaptive value. Our main thesis is that plant behaviour takes place by way of a process (active inference) that predicts the environmental sources of sensory stimulation. This principle, we argue, endows plants with a form of perception that underwrites purposeful, anticipatory behaviour. The aim of the article is to assess the prospects of a radical predictive processing story that would follow naturally from the free-energy principle for biological systems; an approach that may ultimately bear upon our understanding of life and cognition more broadly.

I suspect it is speculative, but it is always interesting to see how economics-related ideas sometimes shape biology, and vice versa.

Here is the paper, and for the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.

1 Thiago Ribeiro June 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm

Is this why they seem so stoic and unsurprised when I eat them? Chickens, on the other hand, make such an undignified outcry when my mother kills them.

2 Cptn Obvious June 26, 2017 at 3:01 pm

That’s because they are Brazilian. Argentinian chickens are a lot better at minimizing surprises.

3 Thiago Ribeiro June 26, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Do you mean no one can kill them or they know they will die and march quietly to their deathes as the noble Socrates did? Do they ask their friends ro sacrifice a rooster to Asklepios?

4 Ray Lopez June 27, 2017 at 12:04 am

Really? Your chickens must be smart and free-ranging. My birds, Cx hybrids only a month old when they are slaughtered, are too dumb to cry (most of them) and in fact some of them can barely walk, they get so fat. PS–I told you about Temer, indicted today.

5 Thiago Ribeiro June 27, 2017 at 4:57 am

It is a legal formality. He has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Superior Electoral Court. I am sure he will be cleared by Congress too

6 dearieme June 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm

“economics-related ideas sometimes shape biology”: didn’t Hayek comment about the relationship between free market arguments and Darwinian evolution?

7 Cock Piss Partridge June 26, 2017 at 4:30 pm

In my mind God made Adam and Eve, he didn’t make Adam and Steve.

8 Anonymous June 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm

I can’t comment on this, but crows are now eating the toadstools on my front lawn. Are they getting high?

9 uair01 June 26, 2017 at 3:07 pm

I would not be surprised, they’re quite intelligent. Please keep us informed.
But this is not mushroom season. How do the toadstools look? Any pictures?

10 Anonymous June 26, 2017 at 3:59 pm

White puff ball looking things? Possibly not harmful. Possibly they were just picking them apart to be sure they weren’t bread.

Possibly they were trying to fake me into trying them.

11 Cptn Obvious June 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Soooo did plants already adapt to Trump? Or were they alt-right to begin with?

12 Thiago Ribeiro June 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Actually, I was told Trump himself is a Russian plant. I do not know whick kind of plant he is. Is he like the noble oak or like the opportunistic vine?

13 Anonymous June 26, 2017 at 3:57 pm

That is a nice pun. I would allow it. And seriously, the most remarkable thing in American politics at the moment is the way we don’t want to discuss, or even let our attention settle on, Putin’s instructions for the 2016 election.

https://www.rferl.org/a/cia-told-obama-august-2016-that-putin-ordered-election-interference/28575911.html

14 Thiago Ribeiro June 26, 2017 at 5:07 pm

“Report: CIA Told Obama in August 2016 That Putin Ordered Election Interference”
And what has he done? First, the Democrats lost China to Russia, now they lose America. I demand a full investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee. I have a list of 100 known secret Russians at the U.S. Department of State.

15 Anonymous June 26, 2017 at 7:05 pm

I think the secret Russians were those commenters who showed up in the summer of 2016 to say “why are liberals so mean to Putin? Can’t they see he is our friend?”

16 Anonymous June 26, 2017 at 8:12 pm
17 Thiago Ribeiro June 26, 2017 at 8:28 pm

“I think the secret Russians were those commenters who showed up in the summer of 2016 to say ‘why are liberals so mean to Putin? Can’t they see he is our friend?'”

Maybe they posted from Clinton’s server. And I remember former President Bush said he saw Putin’s soul and liked it. Maybe Mr. Bush hacked the DNC’s e-mails at Clinton’s server in Benghazi.

18 Evans_KY June 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm

A motley collection of disciplines made the first two sections tedious. Surprise is an interesting term, anthropomorphic is an understatement.

The Wood Wide Web is catchier.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20141111-plants-have-a-hidden-internet

19 Jeremy June 26, 2017 at 4:39 pm

“…it is always interesting to see how economics-related ideas sometimes shape biology, and vice versa.”

Evolution and economics have always looked very similar to me.

20 Nick_L June 26, 2017 at 6:50 pm

No mention of comparative plantage? For shame..

21 carlospln June 26, 2017 at 9:05 pm

“…it is always interesting to see how economics-related ideas sometimes shape biology, and vice versa.”

V good work, by Richard Koch [ex-BCG, Bain]: http://www.summary.com/book-reviews/_/The-Natural-Laws-of-Business/

22 P June 26, 2017 at 11:27 pm

What on earth is this paper meant to be about? Has it been written by a machine?

I challenge anyone to give a jargon-free summary in less than a paragraph.

23 Unanimous June 27, 2017 at 5:32 am

It is more engineering than economics. You need to study thermodynamics, information theory (starting with Shanon) and control systems.

I only read about a third of it. Now I’ve run out of time. So far it is just describing how plant responses to their environment can be understood in terms used in information theory.

24 Dallas June 27, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Started reading the article and it sounded a lot like postmodernist Social Sciences artificial complexity using buzz words from non-equilibrium thermodynamics while forgetting about control theory. Once I started to understand what they were actually saying, it was like giving “agency” to a bunch of feedback and feedforward control loops that are utilized by engineers to keep rockets from blowing up.

One of the basic units is the PID control loop that uses proportional, integral and derivative information between a signal and a set point (variable) to make control corrections to minimize the error. These systems only “predict” the future based upon the past and have no vision or ability to include any variable or interactions not included in their initial design.

For older people who remember rockets blowing up from instabilities in their control system should note that all these types of system can have control instabilities whenever the dynamics of the control variable is the same as the dynamics of the overall system. For example, a housing market will have a natural response time related to construction time + permit time and a normal market oscillation time (business cycle related). When the permit time is zero and the construction time is much less than the normal market oscillation time, you will have a stable market. However, when the added permit time becomes large enough and comparable to the normal market oscillation time, the system goes unstable and becomes a bubble.

Perhaps adopting some more system dynamic type analysis (back to dynamic programming type approaches to economics) utilized by engineers and the physical scientists would be a lot more productive than trying to translate thermodyanic buzz words into meaningless nonsense. When you realize that you can’t control a car whose response time is the same as your reflex time, you may think of the economy from a more effective viewpoint.

25 Dan L June 28, 2017 at 12:19 am

Free energy maximizing is thermodynamics , not Econ. If the ideas are in Econ, they are so by second hand analogy.

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