Chris Fields Research
Caunes Minervois, France
Mesilla, NM, USA
What is observation?
What does it mean to get some information by observing something? We open our eyes and instantly get new information about what's going on around us. How? What happens when we open our eyes? What about us changes when we get new information? Photons hit our eyes, rhodopsin molecules are activated, neurons fire ... but where's the information? And what makes it about something?
What is memory?
What does it mean to record some information somewhere and then be able to find it later? When you find something in memory, how do you know it's the same information you recorded? Could you tell if it's changed? What are the reference frames we use to tell that something is a memory, not a current percept?
What are objects?
We see the world as made up of more-or-less separate things that we can manipulate individually. How does that work? What's going on when an infant figures out that the moving thing she's watching is her own hand? Suppose you pick up a coffee cup. What else happens in the world as a result? How would you go about finding out?
What is time? What is space? What is causation?
These are traditionally regarded as philosophical questions, but they have practical importance in physics, computer science, biology, cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. Time, space and causation all involve boundaries, so these questions revolve around the single question: "what is a boundary?" All of my work, including my investigation of the boundaries of scientific disciplines, attempts to understand how observers draw boundaries and what the consequences of this boundary-drawing are. I mainly work on these questions from the perspectives of physics (some background on the physics of boundaries), cognitive neuroscience (some background on the cognitive neuroscience of boundaries), and developmental biology. I've also explored this question of boundaries using visual art.
Many of my scientific ideas come to me while I'm out walking in the woods or during my meditation practice. You can read my chapter on how meditation enables creativity from Meditation: If You're Doing It, You're Doing It Right: Conversations with Meditators, written with my wife, Alison Tinsley.
Questions about perception, memory, space, and time are obviously relevant to the development of AI systems, particularly autonomous robots. Philosophers have long contested the possibility of solving these problems in an AI context. Great Philosophical Objections to Artificial Intelligence: The History and Legacy of the AI Wars, written with colleagues Eric Dietrich, John Sullins, Bram von Heuveln, and Robin Zebrowski critically reviews prominent arguments for and against AI from 1950 to the present. Read an excerpt here.
For an interesting sample of work on objects and how we perceive them by some of my colleagues, see How Humans Recognize Objects: Segmentation, Categorization and Individual Identification, a Research Topic ebook from Frontiers in Perception Science.
Informal publications and videos:
I am a regular participant in Science and Non-Duality (SAND) conferences. Recent presentations include What is entanglement, anyway?, What are our bodies?, All science is intuitive, Self-control is a useful illusion, What are neurons for?, Why do we die? and a dialog on the relational nature of reality with psychologist and AI researcher Riccardo Manzotti.
The Institute of Art and Ideas recently published my brief discussions of why we do not perceive an "objective" reality and why we needn't worry about the "hard problem" of consciousness. Recent videos include a "Chasing Consciousness" interview on entanglement with Freddy Drabble, a "Bold Conjectures" interview on quantum information with Paras Chopra, and a "Theories of Everything with Curt Jaimungal" conversation with colleagues Karl Friston and Michael Levin.
More technical discussions of active inference from a quantum-information perspective and a quantum formulation of the free-energy principle are available at ActInfLab. My colleague Shanna Dobson presented our joint work "Making up our minds" at the 2021 Models of Consciousness conference.
In June, 2023, I presented "Dissolving the Boundaries: Toward a scale-free formalization of physical systems as observers" at the UCLA Luskin Symposium - Pushing the Boundaries: Neuroscience, Cognition and Life.
Lectures from my 2023 course, "Physics as Information Processing":
Recent academic publications:
- Friston, K., Parr, T., Heins, C., Constant, A., Friedman, D., Isomura, T. Fields, C., Verbelen, T., Ramstead, M., Clippinger, J. and Frith, C. D. (2023) Federated inference and belief sharing. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews in press (doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2023.105500).
- Dobson, S. and Fields, C. (2023) Constructing condensed memories in functorial time. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence in press (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2023.2222374).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2023) All quantum systems are strange: A commentary on "Path integrals, particular kinds, and strange things" by Friston, Da Costa, Sakthivadivel, Heins, Pavliotis, Ramstead, and Parr. Physics of Life Reviews 47: 145-147 (doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2023.10.033).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2023) Separability, contextuality, and the quantum Frame Problem. International Journal of Theoretical Physics 62: 159 (doi: 10.1007/s10773-023-05406-9).
- Friston, K., Friedman, D. A., Constant, A., Knight, V. B., Fields, C., Parr, T. and Campbell, J. O. (2023) A variational synthesis of evolutionary and developmental dynamics. Entropy 25: 964 (doi: 10.3390/e25070964).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2023) Regulative development as a model for origin of life and artificial life studies. BioSystems 229: 104927 (doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2023.104927).
- Fields, C., Fabrocini, F., Friston, K., Glazebrook, J. F., Hazan, H., Levin, M. and Marcianò, A. (2023) Control flow in active inference systems, Part II: Tensor networks as general models of control flow. IEEE Transactions on Molecular, Biological, and Multi-Scale Communications 9: 246-256 (doi: 10.1109/TMBMC.2023.3272158).
- Fields, C., Fabrocini, F., Friston, K., Glazebrook, J. F., Hazan, H., Levin, M. and Marcianò, A. (2023) Control flow in active inference systems, Part I: Classical and quantum formulations of active inference. IEEE Transactions on Molecular, Biological, and Multi-Scale Communications 9: 235-245 (doi: 10.1109/TMBMC.2023.3272150).
- Fields, C., Friston, K., Glazebrook, J. F., Levin, M. and Marcianò, A. (2022) The free energy principle induces neuromorphic development. Neuromorphic Computing and Engineering 2: 042002 (doi: 10.1088/2634-4386/aca7de).
- Fields, C., Glazebrook, J. F. and Marcianò, A. (2022) The physical meaning of the Holographic Principle. Quanta 11: 72-96 (doi: 10.12743/quanta.v11i1.206).
- Fields, C., Glazebrook, J. F. and Marcianò, A. (2022) Sequential measurements, topological quantum field theories, and topological quantum neural networks. Fortschritte der Physik 70: 202200104 (doi: 10.1002/prop.202200104).
- Fields, C., Friston, K., Glazebrook, J. F. and Levin, M. (2022) A free energy principle for generic quantum systems. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 173: 36-59 (doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2022.05.006).
- Marcianò, A., Chen, D., Fabrocini, F., Fields, C., Greco, E., Gresnigt, N., Jinklub, K., Lulli, M., Terzidis, K. and Zappala, E. (2022) Quantum neural networks and topological quantum field theories. Neural Networks 153: 164-178 (doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2022.05.028).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2022) Competency in navigating arbitrary spaces as an invariant for analyzing cognition in diverse embodiments. Entropy 24: 819 (doi: 10.3390/e24060819).
- Fields, C., Glazebrook, J. F. and Levin, M. (2022) Neurons as hierarchies of quantum reference frames. BioSystems 219: 104714 (doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2022.104714).
- Kuchling, F., Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2022) Metacognition as a consequence of competing evolutionary time scales. Entropy 24: 601 (doi: 10.3390/e24050601).
- Fields, C. (2022) Editorial: Symmetry in quantum theory of gravity. Symmetry 14: 775 (doi: 10.3390/sym14040775).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2022) Information flow in context-dependent hierarchical Bayesian inference. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 34: 111-142 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2020.1836034).
- Dietrich, E., Fields, C., Sullins, J. P., von Heuveln, B., and Zebrowski, R. (2022) The AI Wars, 1950-2000, and their consequences. Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness 9: 127-151 (doi: 10.1142/S2705078521300012).
- Fields, C. (2021) What is a theory of consciousness for? Journal of Consciousness Studies 28(9-10): 104-115 (doi: 10.53765/20512188.8.131.52).
- Prakash, C., Stephens, K. D., Hoffman, D. D., Singh, M. and Fields, C. (2021) Fitness beats truth in the evolution of perception. Acta Biotheoretica 69: 319-341 (doi: 10.1007/s10441-020-09400-0).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2021) Metabolic limits on classical information processing by biological cells. BioSystems 209: 104513 (doi: 10.1016/j.biosystems.2021.104513).
- Fields, C., Glazebrook, J. F. and Levin, M. (2021) Minimal physicalism as a scale-free substrate for cognition and consciousness. Neuroscience of Consciousness 2021: niab013 (doi: 10.1093/nc/niab013).
- Addazi, A., Chen, P., Fabrocini, F., Fields, C., Greco, E., Lulli, M., Marcianò, A. and Pasechnik, R. (2021) Generalized holographic principle, gauge invariance, and the emergence of gravity à la Wilczek. Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science 8: 563450 (doi: 10.3389/fspas.2021.563450).
- Fields, C., Glazebrook, J. F. and Marcianò, A. (2021) Reference frame induced symmetry breaking on holographic screens. Symmetry 13: 408 (doi: 10.3390/sym13030408).
- Dietrich, E., Fields, C., Sullins, J. P., von Heuveln, B., and Zebrowski, R. (2021) Great Philosophical Objections to Artificial Intelligence: The History and Legacy of the AI Wars. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2020) Why isn't sex optional? Stem-cell competition, loss of regenerative capacity, and cancer in metazoan evolution. Communicative and Integrative Biology 13: 170-183 (doi: 10.1080/19420889.2020.1838809).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2020) Do Process-1 simulations generate the epistemic feelings that drive Process-2 decision making? Cognitive Processing 21: 533-553 (doi: 10.1007/s10339-020-00981-9).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2020) How do living systems create meaning? Philosophies 5: 36 (doi: 10.3390/philosophies5040036).
- Dietrich, E., Fields, C., Hoffman, D. D. and Prentner, R. (2020) Editorial: Epistemic feelings:
Phenomenology, implementation, and role in cognition. Frontiers in Psychology 11: 606046 (doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.606046).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2020) Does evolution have a target morphology? Organisms 4: 57-76 (doi: 10.13133/2532-5876/16961).
- Fields, C. and Marcianò, A. (2020) Markov blankets are general physical interaction surfaces. Physics of Life Reviews 33: 109-111 (doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2019.08.004).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2020) Integrating evolutionary and developmental thinking into a scale-free biology. BioEssays 42: 1900228 (doi: 10.1002/bies.201900228).
- Dietrich, E. and Fields, C. (2020) Equivalence of the Frame and Halting problems. Algorithms 13: 175 (doi:10.3390/a13070175).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2020) Scale-free architectures support representational diversity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 43: e133 (doi:10.1017/S0140525X19002966).
- Fields, C. and Marcianò, A. (2020) Holographic screens are classical information channels. Quantum Reports 2: 326-336 (doi: 10.3390/quantum2020022).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2020) Representing measurement as a thermodynamic symmetry breaking. Symmetry 12: 810 (doi:10.3390/sym12050810).
- Prakash, C., Fields, C., Hoffman, D. D., Prentner, R., and Singh, M. (2020) Fact, fiction, and fitness. Entropy 22: 514 (doi: 10.3390/e22050514).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2020) Does regeneration recapitulate phylogeny? Planaria as a model of body-axis specification in ancestral eumetazoa. Communicative and Integrative Biology 13: 27-38 (doi: 10.1080/19420889.2020.1729601).
- Fields, C., Bischof, J. and Levin, M. (2020) Morphological coordination: A common ancestral function unifying neural and non-neural signaling. Physiology 35: 16-30 (doi: 10.1152/physiol.00027.2019).
- Fields, C. and Marcianò, A. (2019) Sharing nonfungible information requires shared nonfungible information. Quantum Reports 1: 252-259 (doi: 10.3390/quantum1020022).
- Prentner, R. and Fields, C. (2019) Using AI methods to evaluate a minimal model for perception. Open Philosophy 2: 503-524 (doi: 10.1515/opphil-2019-0034).
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2019) Somatic multicellularity as a satisficing solution to the prediction-error minimization problem. Communicative and Integrative Biology 12: 119-132 (doi: 10.1080/19420889.2019.1643666). Interactive model associated with this paper.
- Durant, F., Bischof, J., Fields, C., Morokuma, J., LaPalme, J., Hoi, A. and Levin, M. (2019) The role of early bioelectric signals in the regeneration of planarian anterior/posterior polarity. Biophysical Journal 116: 948-961 (doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2019.01.029). Interactive model associated with this paper.
- Fields, C. (2019) Decoherence as a sequence of entanglement swaps. Results in Physics 12: 1888-1892 (doi: 10.1016/j.rinp.2019.02.007).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2019) A mosaic of Chu spaces and Channel Theory II: Applications to object identification and mereological complexity. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 31: 237-265 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2018.1544285).
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2019) A mosaic of Chu spaces and Channel Theory I: Category-theoretic concepts and tools. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 31: 177-213 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2018.1544282).
Fields, C. (2018) Some consequences of the thermodynamic cost of system identification. Entropy 20: 797 (doi: 10.3390/e20100797).
Fields, C. (2018) Sciences of observation. Philosophies 3: 29 (doi: 10.3390/philosophies3040029).
- Fields, C. (2018) Mind is an abstraction. Constructivist Foundations 13: 350-352.
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2018) Are planaria individuals? What regenerative biology is telling us about the nature of multicellularity. Evolutionary Biology 45: 237-247 (doi: 10.1007/s11692-018-9448-9). Interactive model associated with this paper.
- Fields, C. (2018) First-person science is third person and vice versa. Constructivist Foundations 13: 240-241.
- Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2018) Multiscale memory and bioelectric error correction in the cytoplasm-cytoskeleton-membrane system. WIRES Systems Biology and Medicine 10: e1410 (doi: 10.1002/wsbm.1410).
- Fields, C., Hoffman, D. D., Prakash, C. and Singh, M. (2018) Conscious agent networks: Formal analysis and application to cognition. Cognitive Systems Research 47: 186-213 (doi: 10.1016/j.cogsys.2017.10.003).
- Fields, C. (2017) Object permanence. In: T.K. Shackelford and V.A. Weekes-Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Entry 2373 (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2373-1).
- Fields, C., Hoffman, D. D., Prakash, C. and Prentner, R. (2017) Eigenforms, interfaces and holographic encoding: Toward an evolutionary account of objects and spacetime. Constructivist Foundations 12: 265-291 (includes commentaries by E. Dietrich, U. Korde, L. H. Kauffman, K. Werner and A. Marcianò plus author response).
- Durant, F., Morokuma, J., Fields, C., Williams, K., Adams, D.S. and Levin, M. (2017) Long-term, stochastic editing of regenerative anatomy via targeting endogenous bioelectric gradients. Biophysical Journal 112: 2231-2243 (doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.04.011). Supplementary information and interactive model associated with this paper.
- Fields, C. and Glazebrook, J. F. (2017) Disrupted development and imbalanced function in the global neuronal workspace: A positive-feedback mechanism for the emergence of ASD in early infancy. Cognitive Neurodynamics 11: 1-21 (doi: 10.1007/s11571-016-9419-8).
- Dietrich, E. and Fields, C. (2015) Science generates limit paradoxes. Axiomathes 25: 409-432 (doi: 10.1007/s10516-015-9267-x).
- Fields, C. (2015) Reverse engineering the world: A commentary on Hoffman, Singh and Prakash, "The interface theory of perception". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 22: 1526-1529 (doi: 10.3758/s13423-014-0742-y).
- Fields, C. (2015) Co-authorship proximity of A. M. Turing Award and John von Neumann Medal winners to the disciplinary boundaries of computer science. Scientometrics 104: 809-825 (doi: 10.1007/s11192-015-1575-9).
- Fields, C. (2015) Close to the edge:
Co-authorship proximity of Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine, 1991 - 2010, to
cross-disciplinary brokers. Scientometrics 103: 267-299 (doi: 10.1007/s11192-015-1526-5).
- Chernet, B. T., Fields, C. and Levin, M. (2015) Long-range gap junctional signaling controls oncogene-mediated tumorigenesis in Xenopus laevis embryos. Frontiers in Physiology: Biophysics 5: 519 [15 pp.] (doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00519). Interactive model associated with this paper.
- Fields, C. (2015) How small is the center of science? Short cross-disciplinary cycles in co-authorship graphs. Scientometrics 102: 1287-1306 (doi: 10.1007/s11192-014-1468-3).
- Fields, C. (2014) Motion, identity and the bias toward agency. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8: 597 [13 pp.] (doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00597).
- Fields, C. (2014) Some effects of the Human Genome Project on the Erdős collaboration graph. Journal of Humanistic Mathematics 4(2): 3-24 (doi: 10.5642/jhummath.201402.03).
- Fields, C. (2014) Equivalence of the symbol grounding and quantum system identification problems. Information 5: 172-189 (doi: 10.3390/info5010172).
- Fields, C. (2014) On the Ollivier-Poulin-Zurek definition of objectivity. Axiomathes 24: 137-156 (doi: 10.1007/s10516-013-9218-3).
- Fields, C. (2014) A physics-based metaphysics is a metaphysics-based metaphysics. Acta Analytica 29: 131-148 (doi: 10.1007/s12136-013-0204-6).
- Fields, C. (2014) Consistent quantum mechanics admits no mereotopology. Axiomathes 24: 9-18 (doi: 10.1007/s10516-012-9202-3).
- Fields, C. (2014) This boundary-less world. In: D. Chopra (Ed.) Brain, Mind, Cosmos: The Nature of Our Existence and the Universe. Carlsbad, CA: Chopra Foundation. Ch. 13.
- Fields, C. (2013) Review of The Transactional Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics by Ruth Kastner (Cambridge, 2013). Disputatio V(37): 361-367.
- Fields, C. (2013) How humans solve the frame problem. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 25: 441-456 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2012.741624).
- Fields, C. (2013) On recognizing an object with a partition. Logique et Analyse 56 (224): 391-403.
- Fields, C. (2013) A whole box of Pandoras: Systems, boundaries and free will in quantum theory. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence (Special Issue on Paradox and Mind) 25: 291-302 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2013.782981).
- Fields, C. (2013) Metaphorical motion in mathematical reasoning: Further evidence for pre-motor implementation of structure mapping in abstract domains. Cognitive Processing 14: 217-229 (doi: 10.1007/s10339-013-0555-3).
- Fields, C. (2013) The principle of persistence, Leibniz's law, and the computational task of object re-identification. Human Development 56: 147-166 (doi: 10.1159/000350206).
- Fields, C. (2013) Bell's theorem from Moore's theorem. International Journal of General Systems 42: 376-385 (doi: 10.1080/03081079.2012.751382).
- Fields, C. (2012) Implementation of classical communication in a quantum world. Information 3: 809-831 (doi: 10.3390/info3040809).
- Fields, C. (2012) A model-theoretic interpretation of environment-induced superselection. International Journal of General Systems 41: 847-859 (doi: 10.1080/03081079.2012.707197).
- Fields, C. (2012) Do autism spectrum disorders involve a generalized object categorization and identification dysfunction? Medical Hypotheses 79: 344-351 (doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.05.032).
- Fields, C. (2012) The very same thing: Extending the object token concept to incorporate causal constraints on individual identity. Advances in Cognitive Psychology 8: 234-247 (doi: 10.2478/v10053-008-0119-8).
- Fields, C. (2012) Autonomy all the way down: Systems and dynamics in quantum Bayesianism. Physics and Philosophy 2012: 018 [27 pp.] (http://hdl.handle.net/2003/29402).
- Fields, C. (2012) If physics is an information science, what is an observer? Information 3: 92-123 (doi: 10.3390/info3010092).
- Fields, C. (2012) Motion as manipulation: Implementation of motion and force analogies by event-file binding and action planning. Cognitive Processing 13: 231-241 (doi: 10.1007/s10339-012-0436-1).
- Fields, C. (2012) What humans can't do: A review of Derek Partridge, The Seductive Computer. Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial Intelligence 24: 267-270 (doi: 10.1080/0952813X.2011.653101).
CV and Publications, 1978 - 2022
My Erdős number is 3. Explanation, supporting data and musings about the structure of scientific disciplines.
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