Free Energy Principle

There is a plethora of discussion, for example in the nonprofit Active Inference Lab.

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The Officially-Received Wisdom on “localization of major brain functions” was fixed by philosophical fiat during the 1800s, based on little-or-none of the then-available empirical data.
Prof. Mark Solms, following on work by Damasio, Kihlstrom, Moruzzi, and Panksepp, consolidated a wide range of research, resulting in his 2013 “The Conscious Id” paper.
Today’s (6/11/2022) discussion tackles the most focused aspects of the questions, “Freud’s anatomical model of the Id/Ego and Conscious/Unconscious axes - is it correct?” and “What is the seat of consciousness?”


Best line in this paper: Recent research demonstrates unequivocally that the corticocentric view of consciousness (as the seat of the sentient self) is mistaken.

I’m glad you liked it, so did I, but perhaps for different reasons. I’m deeply suspicious of references to “Recent research” that are not actually accompanied by any references.

I am equally suspicious of

Moreover, the upper brainstem is intrinsically
conscious whereas the cortex is not; it derives its consciousness from the brainstem.


These facts have substantial implications for psychoanalytic metapsychology

Facts? “psychoanalytic metapsychology”? Seriously?

This guy Mark Solms brings some arguments The Source of Consciousness - with Mark Solms - YouTube

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I, too, was captivated by all the promises of Free Energy Principle and the related Predictive Coding, Robotic Active Inference and plenty of other emerging fields … After spending lots of time trying to grasp the math (I think I got 90% of it), then spending some disillusion sad times, I think that for people trying to understand how minds work, I boils down to

  1. All the intimidating math equations are sugar coatings on top of the humble Bayes Theorem … It really is just that (that, and Kullback-Liebler approximation for all the intractable probabilities distribution that real life is made of).
  2. FEP (Free Energy Principle) tells us what the brain does - not how it does it … And even when there are efforts to explain how, it’s via non biology inspire mechanisms of error propagation…

The best article that best captured my felt disillusion from the FEP promises is by a philosopher of science

My personal take on the FEP is that, when someone can come up with a working “algorithm of mind” - FEP could be used to show that the algorithm indeed minimize the surprise (free energy) between where it wants to be and where it actually is (in states space), by building an internal world model that generates predictions that match reality.


Thank you. I gave up before I tried to understand that artificially ugly math :frowning:

I just got via a very naïve reasoning: if FEP and PC requires predictions (to compare with). From bootstrap, there are no predictions “available” (some people trying to argue say that the information is in the genome, which is just plain nonsensical). Then if predictions require learning, but learning requires predictions… :roll_eyes:.

That paper looks nice. Thanks.

I am not commenting yes or no on FEP but on this point I will offer that the subcortex does have a significant library of built in behaviors programmed by evolution.

As these are used by the infant critter (babbling on all motor controls) it serves to train up the cortex. At some point the predictions from the cortex start to augment the basic subcortical controls.

After the cortex becomes more capable the subcortex still monitors all traffic to and from the cortex and will override the cortex if it violates the basic programming built into the subcortex. Example - hold your breath voluntarily; at some point your subcortex will override your voluntary control.

Feel the power of the dumb boss!

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That’s to be expected from a theory literally named after physics envy :slight_smile:

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I thought that. Today, the pervasive pruning (and the intricacies and beauty of the thing) makes me doubt that. Probably, some nuclei in the brain steam are “preprogrammed”. But a massive number of silent synapses are sitting almost everywhere. And when you learn, and you can prune the useless ones. Part of that learn is done in the cortex.

According FEP, my understanding is that V1 should have “preprogrammed” what is a vertical line or a horizontal to be able to learn what is a square. If you do the same reasoning in the PFC, it’s just nonsensical to me. Probably I’m missing something. Otherwise, I don’t understand all the buzz about FEP.

It just a forced translation of statistical mechanics to biology. The funny thing is that statistical mechanics (as far I remember from my thermodynamic courses) is elegant and easy to understand.

Many animals can perform very elaborate behaviors immediately after birth - bovine can and must stand to suckle and walk to stay with the herd. This speaks to significant subcortical programs. As to V1 and other cortical areas, one-shot learning as described by the basic HTM theory is more than sufficient to describe the acquisition of programming in the sensory driven areas. No need to get caught up in free energy dogma.

I see some value in thinking about free energy as a way to analyze system behavior. Likewise, there is a lot of utility in looking at Dr. Cisek’s evolutionary analysis in exploring the functions of the brain and how it got the way that it is.There are so many models of the brain and brain subsystems and each has some useful properties in it’s domain.

A frequently overlooked property of the brain in the search for AGI is that is that the brain is primarily a system to learn, select, and drive behaviors useful for survival. Some behaviors built in, some learned. Human intelligence is an emergent property and mostly not present in mammals. The “secret sauce” of human intelligence is some fortunate combination of built in behaviors, connections and/or number of processing maps present in all mammals.

A big chunk of why I am interested in this area is that the first brain-based AI is likely to explain how it all works and unify the various models.

N.B: I am pretty sure that if octopus were social creatures things would be very different on this planet.

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Talking about bovine learning to walk in the first few hours…

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There is a paper

Schmidhuber is not mentioned on it