DOI: 2004.00058Mar 31, 2020Paper

A macro agent and its actions

Larissa AlbantakisGiulio Tononi


In science, macro level descriptions of the causal interactions within complex, dynamical systems are typically deemed convenient, but ultimately reducible to a complete causal account of the underlying micro constituents. Yet, such a reductionist perspective is hard to square with several issues related to autonomy and agency: (1) agents require (causal) borders that separate them from the environment, (2) at least in a biological context, agents are associated with macroscopic systems, and (3) agents are supposed to act upon their environment. Integrated information theory (IIT) (Oizumi et al., 2014) offers a quantitative account of causation based on a set of causal principles, including notions such as causal specificity, composition, and irreducibility, that challenges the reductionist perspective in multiple ways. First, the IIT formalism provides a complete account of a system's causal structure, including irreducible higher-order mechanisms constituted of multiple system elements. Second, a system's amount of integrated information ($\Phi$) measures the causal constraints a system exerts onto itself and can peak at a macro level of description (Hoel et al., 2016; Marshall et al., 2018). Finally, the causal principles ...Continue Reading

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