Publication 6306

Sharov A. A. (2018) Mind, agency, and biosemiotics. Journal of Cognitive Science 19(2): 195–228. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/6306
Development of artificial cognition, one of the major challenges of contemporary science, requires better understanding of the nature and function of mind. This paper follows the idea of Searle that mind is more than computation, and explores the notion that mind has to be embodied in agency that actively interacts with the outside world. To avoid anthropocentrism and dualism, I develop the concept of agency using principles of biosemiotics, a new discipline that integrates semiotics (science on signification and meaning) with biology. In evolutionary terms, human cognition is an advanced form of agency that emerged from simpler ancestral forms in animals, plants, and single-cell organisms. Agency requires autonomy, informed choice, and goal-directedness. These features imply a capacity of agents to select and execute actions based on internal goals and perceived or stored signs. Agents are always constructed by parental agents, except for the most simple primordial molecular-scale self-reproducing agents, which emerged from non-living components. The origin of life coincides with the emergence of agency and primitive communication, where signs are not yet associated with objects, and instead used to activate or regulate actions directly. The capacity of agents to perceive and categorize objects appeared later in evolution and marks the emergence of minimal mind and advanced communication via object-associated signs. Combining computation with agential features such as goal-directedness, adaptability, and construction may yield artificial systems comparable in some respects to human mind.

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