Of woodlice and men: A Bayesian account of cognition, life and consciousness
Interviewed by Martin Fortier & Daniel A. Friedman
Bayesian brain hypothesis; computational psychiatry; free energy principle; predictive coding
Prof. Karl J. Friston is a scientist who has made fundamental contributions to areas such as functional brain imaging, statistical techniques for dynamical systems, and the Free Energy Principle (FEP). Here, various topics are formally and informally explored. First there are personal, scientific, and mathematical accounts related to the (origins of the) FEP, and how the FEP diverges from the Predictive coding and Bayesian brain hypotheses. Next, there is a discussion of how the FEP addresses and encompasses the philosophical ideas of David Marr (multiple levels of systems analysis) and Karl Popper (classical statistical inference and hypothesis falsification). The following segment of the interview provides a FEP perspective on human phenomenology, psychopathologies such as schizophrenia and psychosis, and psychology in general. This discussion leads to a clarification of how Active Inference undermines classical ideas related to internal neural representations and clear action-perception dichotomies. The interview closes with an expansion of Prof. Friston’s perspective on self-awareness in non-human systems such as computers and ant colonies.