Chris Fields Research
Caunes Minervois, France
Mesilla, NM, USA

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Free online course on Physics as Information Processing, May - Oct 2023 (6 lectures, 6 discussions, web interactive Q&A), offered by the Active Inference Institute. Download the course outline here or watch an introductory video here.
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":

Part 1 (starts at 20 min) and Part 2 of my lecture on "Modeling complex systems as interacting agents" at the Erice International School on Complexity, Course XVIII, Machine learning approaches for complexity.

Recent academic publications:

CV and Publications, 1978 - 2022

My Erdős number is 3. Explanation, supporting data and musings about the structure of scientific disciplines.

Google Scholar Profile   ResearchGate Profile   Loop Profile

Email contact:

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