Practopoiesis: Or how life fosters a mind

The mind is a biological phenomenon. Thus, biological principles of organization should also be the principles underlying mental operations. Practopoiesis states that the key for achieving intelligence through adaptation is an arrangement in which mechanisms laying a lower level of organization, by their operations and interaction with the environment, enable creation of mechanisms lying at a higher level of organization. When such an organizational advance of a system occurs, it is called a traverse. A case of traverse is when plasticity mechanisms (at a lower level of organization), by their operations, create a neural network anatomy (at a higher level of organization). Another case is the actual production of behavior by that network, whereby the mechanisms of neuronal activity operate to create motor actions. Practopoietic theory explains why the adaptability of a system increases with each increase in the number of traverses. With a larger number of traverses, a system can be relatively small and yet, produce a higher degree of adaptive/intelligent behavior than a system with a lower number of traverses. The present analyses indicate that the two well-known traverses—neural plasticity and neural activity—are not sufficient to explain human mental capabilities. At least one additional traverse is needed, which is named anapoiesis for its contribution in reconstructing knowledge e.g., from long-term memory into working memory. The conclusions bear implications for brain theory, the mind-body explanatory gap, and developments of artificial intelligence technologies.

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