University of Oulu

Weinstein V, Sakcak B and LaValle SM (2022) An enactivist-inspired mathematical model of cognition. Front. Neurorobot. 16:846982. doi: 10.3389/fnbot.2022.846982

An enactivist-inspired mathematical model of cognition

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Author: Weinstein, Vadim1; Sakcak, Basak1; LaValle, Steven M.1
Organizations: 1Center for Ubiquitous Computing, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-06-08


In this paper we start from the philosophical position in cognitive science known as enactivism. We formulate five basic enactivist tenets that we have carefully identified in the relevant literature as the main underlying principles of that philosophy. We then develop a mathematical framework to talk about cognitive systems (both artificial and natural) which complies with these enactivist tenets. In particular we pay attention that our mathematical modeling does not attribute contentful symbolic representations to the agents, and that the agent’s nervous system or brain, body and environment are modeled in a way that makes them an inseparable part of a greater totality. The long-term purpose for which this article sets the stage is to create a mathematical foundation for cognition which is in line with enactivism. We see two main benefits of doing so: (1) It enables enactivist ideas to be more accessible for computer scientists, AI researchers, roboticists, cognitive scientists, and psychologists, and (2) it gives the philosophers a mathematical tool which can be used to clarify their notions and help with their debates. Our main notion is that of a sensorimotor system which is a special case of a well studied notion of a transition system. We also consider related notions such as labeled transition systems and deterministic automata. We analyze a notion called sufficiency and show that it is a very good candidate for a foundational notion in the “mathematics of cognition from an enactivist perspective.” We demonstrate its importance by proving a uniqueness theorem about the minimal sufficient refinements (which correspond in some sense to an optimal attunement of an organism to its environment) and by showing that sufficiency corresponds to known notions such as sufficient history information spaces. In the end, we tie it all back to the enactivist tenets.

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Series: Frontiers in neurorobotics
ISSN: 1662-5218
ISSN-E: 1662-5218
ISSN-L: 1662-5218
Volume: 16
Article number: 846982
DOI: 10.3389/fnbot.2022.846982
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This work was supported by a European Research Council Advanced Grant (ERC AdG, ILLUSIVE: Foundations of Perception Engineering, 101020977), Academy of Finland (projects PERCEPT 322637, CHiMP 342556), and Business Finland (project HUMOR 3656/31/2019). All authors are with the Center for Ubiquitous Computing, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, University of Oulu, Finland.
EU Grant Number: (101020977) ILLUSIVE - Foundations of Perception Engineering
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 322637
Detailed Information: 322637 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
342556 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 Weinstein, Sakcak and LaValle. 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) and the copyright owner(s) 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.