Summer 2018, Vol. 24, No. 3, Pages 182-198
© 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Adaptation Is Not Just Improvement over Time
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The idea that an agent's actions can impact its actual long-term survival is a very appealing one, underlying influential treatments such as Di Paolo's (2005). However, this presents a tension with understanding the agent and environment as possessing specific objective physical microstates. More specifically, we show that such an approach leads to undesirable outcomes, for example, all organisms being maladaptive on average. We suggest that this problematic intuition of improvement over time may stem from Bayesian inference. We illustrate our arguments using a recent model of autopoietic agency in a model protocell, showing the limitations of previous approaches in this model and specific instantiations of Bayesian inference by ignorant observers in certain scenarios.