clem, they/them, researcher @ alignment of complex systems (acs)

Wiki Contributions


Motivation 1 ('organisms-as-agents thesis') "says that organisms really do exhibit some or even all of the attributes of agency". Motivation 2 ('organism-as-agents heuristic') "says that it can be heuristically useful to treat organisms as if they were agents for certain intellectual purposes". 

It's interesting that both motivations appear to be about modelling organisms as agents, as opposed to any other level of organisation. This feels like it misses some of the most interesting insights we might get from biological agency, namely those around agents at different levels of organisation interacting - e.g: ants and ant colonies, cancer cells and multicellular organisms, or individual organisms and selection pressures (which could be treated as as-if agents at evolutionary timescales). 

"Social" is slightly too coarse-grained a tag. The thing we're actually interested in is "whether successfully predicting the behaviour of other members of its own species is a strong selection pressure". Social collaboration is one way this happens - another seems to be "deception" arms races (such as corvids stealing and hiding things from each other), or specific kinds of mating rituals. It also depends on the relative strength of other selection pressures - in most cases highly intelligent creatures also seem to have developed a "slack" in resources they can devote to intelligence (e.g. humans cooking food). 

This does seem to hold for cephalopods - a strong datapoint for which being their highly sophisticated forms of communication (e.g. video below).