Ecology of Mind

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The metaphor Ecology of Mind has been coined by Gregory Bateson, for instance in his book "Steps to an ecology of mind". In the Society of Mind approach, we try to understand the mind as a society, as a social group of interacting agents. In the ecology of mind approach, we try to understand the mind as an ecology, as a network of interactions.

Bateson's idea of an "Ecology of Mind" and Minsky's idea of a "Society of Mind" have something in common. Both are similar because they try to describe a whole system of interacting entities - species for ecology and agents for society. Both are very interesting, because they maybe help to connect psychology with neuroscience. A useful theory of this kind has much in common with ecology or sociology: it must describe complex adaptive systems which consist of many elements - systems that are able to adjust and adapt themselves.

Ecology of Mind Society of Mind Biology
  • System
  • Individual
  • Collective
  • Total
  • Flow
  • Interaction
  • Ecosystem
  • Species
  • Populations
  • Ecological Community
  • Energy flow
  • Food web (Predator/Prey)
  • Cognitive System
  • Agents
  • Agent population
  • Mind
  • Information Flow
  • Information Web (Actions/Perceptions)
  • Biological System
  • Neurons
  • Neural Assemblies
  • Brain
  • Information Flow
  • Associations

Ecology is the study of the ecosystem and the environment as it relates to living organisms. It is the study of interactions between organisms and their environment and tries to describe how living systems are connected. A large variety of species and a huge network of interactions - a food web - is characteristic for Ecology. Gregory Bateson thinks the nature of the mind can be understood as a network of connections and interactions relating the individual with his society and his species and with the universe at large.

While the key feature of an ecosystem is the transmission of energy through its different components, the key feature of the mind is the transmission of information through its different components. In the former case, energy flows through the system, in the latter information (or electrical energy). Instead of a food web we food have an information web where information moves from perceptions to actions. In this sense perceptions correspond to prey and actions to predators, respectively.

In the ecological pyramid, the trophic pyramid, there are different levels of consumers and producers, from primary producers at the bottom to secondary and tertiary consumers at the top. The brain is structured similarly in different levels of abstraction, from the primary sensory areas at the bottom to the secondary and tertiary areas and the prefrontal cortext at the top.


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