Michael Levin’s Scaling Basal Cognition: Exploring the Potential for Collective Intelligence

Michael Levin: Intelligence Beyond the Brain
*Intelligence Beyond Brain: Morphogenesis as an Example of Scaling of Basal Cognition*

We all take a remarkable journey, from physics into mind. We begin as a quiescent cell (collection chemical reactions), and gradually change to become centralized and advanced minds. How can unified complex cognition arise from the collective intelligence cells? In this presentation, I will use the morphogenesis as an example of how evolution scales cognition to problem spaces. The embryos and organs that regenerate produce complex and robust structures, and they stop growing and remodeling once these structures are completed. The most amazing thing about morphogenesis, however, is that it’s not just a feed-forward process. It has a high degree of plasticity. Even when the system is disrupted, such as by damage or changes in cell size, it still manages to reach its morphogenetic goals. How do collectives of cells know when to stop and what to build? A biological swarm’s collective intelligence is demonstrated in the construction and repair of anatomical structures under novel conditions. I propose a multiscale competency architecture as the way evolution exploits physics in order to create robust machines that can solve novel problems. I will discuss what we know about developmental bioelectricity, a precursor of neurobiology that is used to scale the intelligence and size of goals biological collectives can pursue. I will discuss the cognitive light-cone model and conclude with some examples of synthetic machines, a new platform for biorobotics that uses these ideas to create novel primitive intelligences. I will conclude by speculating on ethics, engineering and life in an integrated future of biological and synthetic agents.