Self-supervision, normativity and the free energy principle

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9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The free energy principle says that any self-organising system that is at nonequilibrium steady-state with its environment must minimize its (variational) free energy. It is proposed as a grand unifying principle for cognitive science and biology. The principle can appear cryptic, esoteric, too ambitious, and unfalsifiable—suggesting it would be best to suspend any belief in the principle, and instead focus on individual, more concrete and falsifiable ‘process theories’ for particular biological processes and phenomena like perception, decision and action. Here, I explain the free energy principle, and I argue that it is best understood as offering a conceptual and mathematical analysis of the concept of existence of self-organising systems. This analysis offers a new type of solution to long-standing problems in neurobiology, cognitive science, machine learning and philosophy concerning the possibility of normatively constrained, self-supervised learning and inference. The principle can therefore uniquely serve as a regulatory principle for process theories, to ensure that process theories conforming to it enable self-supervision. This is, at least for those who believe self-supervision is a foundational explanatory task, good reason to believe the free energy principle.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalSynthese
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Active inference
  • Free energy principle
  • Normativity
  • Predictive processing
  • Principles
  • Process theories
  • Self-evidencing
  • Self-organisation
  • Self-supervision
  • Unsupervised learning

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