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Agency through Physical Lenses - Jenann Ismael
I will offer a broad-brush account of what explains the emergence of agents from a physics perspective, what sorts of conditions have to be in place for them to arise, and the essential features of agents when they are viewed through the lenses of physics. One implication will be a tight link to informational asymmetries associated with the thermodynamic gradient. Another will be a reversal of the direction of explanation from the one that is usually assumed in physical discussions. In in an evolved system, while it is true in some sense that the macroscopic behavior is the way it is because of the low-level dynamics, there is another sense in which the low-level dynamics is the way that it is because of the high-level behavior it supports. (More precisely and accurately, the constraints on the configuration of its components that define system as the kind of system it is are the way they are to exploit the low-level dynamics to produce the emergent behavior.) Another will be some insight into what might make human agency special.

Jun 24, 2021 10:00 AM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

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Jenann Ismael, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy @Columbia University