Corona and Deacon

by John Doyle

It’s been a long time since we discussed Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature here and here at Dead Voles. I’ve forgotten most of it by now, but the book came abruptly to mind the other morning when I woke up from a dream. Coronavirus was delivering a speech; it stopped to reconsider, then it began again with a second speech. I don’t remember what Corona was talking about, what information it was trying to convey. What struck me was that the virus was trying – exercising intentional agency.

Even the rain runoff has agency, self-organizing into rivulets that carry pine straw and twigs, fill up the overflow reservoirs, flood streets and basements. In Deacon’s lingo the runoff rivulets are “morphodynamic systems,” the pull of gravity on the water constrained and channeled by the terrain over which it flows. But it’s just hydraulics interacting with topology: the water doesn’t care about getting down to sea level; the land doesn’t care about retaining its structural integrity.

Is this the same sort of agency exercised by Coronavirus, its individual virions accumulating and cascading through airborne droplets from host to host? Or does the virus care – does it in effect want to enter into the new host, appropriating the host’s cellular metabolic functions in order to replicate itself, gathering its forces in a life-and-death battle with the host’s immunologic system, activating the host’s cough reflex in order to fly into other nearby hosts, extending its territory? “Want” is too strong an attribution. Deacon would characterize the virus as a “teleodynamic system,” its actions to survive and to replicate itself as “ententional” – not full-fledged intent, but an evolutionary precursor. The consequences of the virus’s action sequence aren’t just happenstance; they’re in effect the point of undertaking those actions. The expected effect of the action – shaped by generations of mutation and natural selection that increase the likelihood of the species’s self-preservation and reproduction — is the action’s cause.

Ententional actions are spontaneous, instinctive, internally generated – what Deacon calls “orthograde.” Sometimes the orthograde behaviors of two teleodynamic organisms act in opposition to each other. In that case, one or both organisms must generate a “contragrade” response to the adverse situation in order to survive and thrive – a non-spontaneous response that requires work.

Confronted by the orthograde assault of the human immunologic system, a virus has no flexibility in its behavioral repertoire. The only sort of contragrade adaptation available to it is mutation. Humans, in contrast, can override at least some of their own instinctive behavior patterns in order to resist environmental threat. Some human contragrade behaviors are themselves instinctive – fight, flee, affiliate. Other contragrade behaviors, like driving on the right side of the road, are learned and, through repetition, converted into habits – second nature that doesn’t require much work to perform. Sometimes environmental constraints demand that the organism act in opposition to its own instincts. Resisting the internal pull of instinct and habit in order to survive environmental assault requires work. It’s the work of acting with intent.

We come at last to the matter of humans resisting the threat posed by Coronavirus.

Most human instinctive or habitual contragrade activities are triggered by environmental threats that can readily be perceived: a coiled snake, the stench of rot, an onrushing automobile. We might instinctively avoid someone who’s coughing, but not someone who’s shedding virus merely by talking, or singing, or breathing. Even recognizing the threat posed by Corona requires intentional work.

Viral contagion can be regarded as a kind of ententional dynamic equilibration process, in which the virus migrates from a saturated environment – the infected host –  into the viral vacuum of the uninfected person. To resist the threat, humans have to partition the environment so as to sustain the virus-human disequilibrium, physically separating themselves from their would-be submicroscopic invaders. Physical constraints must be imposed on the spontaneous flow of proximate human interaction via lockdown, social distancing, masks, quarantine. Performing these contragrade behaviors to protect against Corona requires intentional work.

Several aspects of the pandemic militate against humans effectively separating themselves from the virus. First, the threat doesn’t manifest at the human scale of granularity. Contagion is interpersonal, passing from one person to another at close distance. Immunity is even more intimately local than contagion, acting out its drama inside the individual human body. But the virus itself operates at an ecological microlevel in which humans are ill-equipped to engage; the threat it poses, while viscerally real, is recognized not through spontaneous instinctive perception but abstractly, intellectually. A dead body is as real as it gets, but a mortality rate? It’s an algorithm, an artifice, a simulation, shaping the contours of a probabilistic ecology that’s removed from the actual here-and-now physicality of individual human beings getting sick and dying.

All the while the epidemiologic aspects of the virus are being played out at an ecological macrolevel for which humans are not well adapted. Fetid corpses of the infected piling up in the streets is one thing, but case-positive percentages, effective viral reproduction rates, even daily death counts of people you don’t know who died sequestered in ICUs? Too abstract to trigger an instinctive orthograde response. In social aggregates the relevant metrics are also aggregate: averages, trends, demographics, surveys, forecasts, confidence intervals, statistical models. Effective contragrade responses to the threat must be adopted and practiced that demand intentional conscious monitoring of the self in response to abstract representations of the environment. That’s work.

The intimate, microscopic, visceral interplay between viral proliferation and antibody response, playing out between and within individual bodies and across entire populations – that’s where the covid action is. illness and recovery are just proxies and sequelae. But for humans the microbial cellular level and the aggregate statistical level are equally abstract. Humans spontaneously engage the world at neither the microlevel nor the macrolevel but at the mesolevel. I started feeling sick, then I got sicker, then I started feeling better, and now I feel fine: immunity at the mesolevel. And then you tell me that I can be infected, and contagious, without experiencing symptoms? Social distancing, like the virus and the pandemic, feels abstract, theoretical, unnatural, maybe unnecessary — remote from the reality of staying well versus getting sick.

It’s hard enough mastering any new behavioral repertoire, performing it flawlessly in every appropriate circumstance – that’s why they call it work. Making matters worse, the contragrade behavioral responses effective in neutralizing the coronavirus fly in the face of instinctive and habitual orthograde responses to the human social environment. Isolating oneself physically and avoiding close contact with strangers: these actions are typically prompted by fear, shame, disgust, sorrow. Covering one’s nose and mouth: fear again, or disgust, perhaps embarrassment or submission, maybe even malevolent intent. Distancing oneself physically from family and friends might be prompted by anger, shame, treachery. In short, people instinctively tend to distance themselves physically from others when they feel either repulsed by, or repellant to, others. Social distancing behaviors also send signals – to those shut out by the other’s self-isolation, to those evaded in close quarters through avoidant maneuvers, to those who can’t read the facial expressions hidden behind the mask. Physically, emotionally, interpersonally, it’s hard work to exapt instinctively antisocial defensive reactions as prosocial and proactive actions.

So, what’s to be done when the environmental threat isn’t perceived instinctively, and when the actions required for evading and minimizing that threat in social interactions are diametrically opposed to what people would ordinarily do spontaneously? One possibility is to amp up the intentionality. Learn to evaluate covid risk probabilistically rather than viscerally. Practice mindful attentiveness to specific interpersonal situations that call for evasive distancing maneuvers. Simulate situations that one might encounter in daily life in order to increase the likelihood of responding appropriately in real time to a real situation.

Another possibility is to amp up the ententionality. Alter the social environment so that the appropriate distancing behaviors are deemed prosocial rather than antisocial, altruistic rather than self-absorbed. Alter the interpretation of social distancing behavior not as a fearful reflex of self-abnegation but as a bold stroke of self-assertion. Alter the social affordances so that performing the effective contragrade behaviors for resisting contagion align with the spontaneous orthograde instinct to be perceived by others, and by oneself, as proactive and prosocial.

Another strategy for amping ententionity is subjecting to social sanction those who fail to act in accord with antivirus protocols. Moral and legal codes impose threats on those who don’t restrain their exercise of spontaneous impulse. Those who through misfeasance or malfeasance fail to perform the mandated protective behaviors incur the disapproval of gods and men, are consigned to purgatory or jail, must perform ritual sacrifice or pay a fine.

This should have been pretty easy. The environmental threat posed by the virus is lethal, providing ample motivation. The protective behaviors required to partition human space from viral space aren’t difficult to perform. Though the virus is highly transmissible, any individual who’s been infected remains contagious for only about ten days. Three or four weeks of serious lockdown, social distancing, and masking would do the trick, stopping the pandemic in its tracks with only localized intermittent outbreaks to be cleaned up as they arise.  What could go wrong?

Disseminate ambivalent, inconsistent, and incomplete information about the magnitude of the threat. Promulgate ambivalent, inconsistent, and incomplete recommendations for what  antiviral behaviors should be performed. Establish ambivalent, inconsistent, and incomplete social norms as to whether intentionally inhibiting spontaneous but dangerous acts of social self-expression is deemed proactively altruistic or reactively fearful, a voluntary expression of freedom or a totalitarian suppression of freedom. Implement ambivalent, inconsistent, and incomplete enforcement of recommended antiviral behaviors.

In the US the virus isn’t running rampant, but neither is it quashed and contained. Instead we’re occupying a semi-stable equilibrium between viral and human agency, in which the covid reproduction rate fluctuates between 1.3 and 0.8, with new infections and deaths alternately waxing and waning across the population and localized spikes shifting from one state or city or county to another. A thousand deaths and 120 thousand new infections, plus or minus, every day.

The American ethos celebrates the exercise of intentional agency in pursuit of personal and societal goals. Some neurophilosophers argue that intentionality is epiphenomenal, a conscious recognition after the fact of what’s already been “decided” in the cause-effect cascade of interactions between organism and environment and the synaptic pathways that those interactions activate. It seems – maybe I read it in Deacon? – that the reality of intent is demonstrated in part when intent fails, when we’re unable to accomplish what we’ve decided to do.

 

15 Responses to “Corona and Deacon”

  1. I really like this post. Although we’ve talked about him this way and I’ve picked at him for other projects, I’d never really thought through Deacon for understanding the disconnects between scales that confound strategic responses to novel challenges. And it’s congenial to me, because in general I think strategic responses to complex processes are rife with confounds. This post really nails all that in a startling and timely way.

    It strikes me, as we’ve also discussed before, that in the absence of an omnipotent and omniscient designing hand, the next best system is a distribution of default responses. Throw everything from instant full engagement to comprehensive denial and heel dragging at the problem and let the sort play out. If that kind of differentiated response is happening across multiple dimensions of the problem you’re going to lock in both lose and win rates that look like adaptation in the big picture, without anyone having to do too much contragrade work. I’m not sure that adds much to what you’ve already said.

  2. Well, you can tell all the little molecules to behave and stay in their corners instead of bouncing around like little molecules do, or you can just keep them in their rooms. I mean, there are approaches that rely on self-regulation, and there are others that structure the landscape so that they don’t have to self-regulate so much.

    Don’t touch your face! But I’m always at home, so I do. No self-regulation required. In fact, because I’m just at home, all of that difficult stuff just doesn’t apply.

  3. Glad you liked it, Carl. What do I regard as my own default response to corona? Abstraction to me feels like default — gather some data, model the phenomena in some set of variables and forces, iterate and tweak, respond to the model rather than the raw phenomena. Arguably that’s an instinctive response to the environment, though a refined one — kind of like intent being built on the foundation of entent. Adaptation in the big picture — it would seem that infection and death rates would be a reasonable metric for evaluating societal adaptation. On that scoreboard the US isn’t adapting very well, while a number of other societies are doing relatively much better. Of course there’s also the matter of unintended consequences — a concept that supports through the back door the reality of intentions.

  4. I’m with you, Jacob — contour the environment in such a way that one’s habits and instincts don’t get in the way of one’s intentions. People who are good at resisting temptation mostly succeed by structuring their worlds so that they’re led not into temptation in the first place. And if you can occupy a world in which giving in to the temptation to touch your face has no adverse consequences — then you likely will survive the winter. I’m at home too, barely notice the difference of lockdown from ordinary life. As I’m sure you agree, it’s unfortunate that so many “essential” jobs require interaction at close quarters with other humans, and that those jobs are disproportionately performed by underclass workers for relatively low pay.

  5. Really enjoyed this piece. It touches on a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s hard for me to watch the major events happening in the US right now and not think of people as tiny, nearly causeless particles pushed around by larger currents. People going to large parties or holding big wedding receptions are just a little more positively charged, while people like me are charged more negatively. I see people who long so much for contact that it distorts their idea of risk. It’s an orienting force (I don’t know a good word for it), like the “irrational exuberance” Greenspan saw in the stock market, pre-dot-com bust. Even if we’re not particles, it seems like this orienting force aligns our thinking — turns down the volume down just a little on one thing; turns it up just a little on another — in a way that any signal coming in will end up aligning to. Even political rhetoric feels like it’s less an active force trying to effect change and more a thing trying to tune itself to the orientation of its audience — turning the volume up on the scariness of riots, maybe, and down on the significance of the injustice that’s occurring.

    And even if we’re not ruled by our non-conscious cognitive alignment, choice feels like very little more than a loopy detour taken by incoming signals as they’re transformed into control signals.

    Scales confound us, that’s for sure. On Twitter, I see a lot of people saying that I should boycott the Amazon store. The dials are tuned to make it feel like a moral choice, but I think behind it is the thought that if we all individually stopped buying things from Bezos, the imagination-beggaring inequality would be fixed. It’s the same thought that’s behind individual-behavior-based recycling initiatives, which are often invisibly useless because your municipality just puts everything from both bins in the landfill anyway. What actually puts an end to the inequality is serious-assed anti-trust action at a much higher scale. But what sets that current in motion? Is a government anti-trust suit an emergent property of a whole lot of angry e-mails and tweets?

    I’d like to understand these forces better and how the scales relate to each other (not least because I work for an organization that’s trying to effect change in the criminal justice system).

  6. I wanted to call one other thing out that didn’t fit in with my other rambly comment:

    “Practice mindful attentiveness to specific interpersonal situations that call for evasive distancing maneuvers. Simulate situations that one might encounter in daily life in order to increase the likelihood of responding appropriately in real time to a real situation.”

    I’ve lately been working through a sort of pre- or proto-Deacon pragmatic account of morality. Moral systems in philosophy sometimes almost comically ignore the reality of decision making, which often needs to be too rapid to involve the deliberation that the proposed moral system would require. One solution to that problem is the idea of *practice*. Most of our lives don’t involve big moral decisions, so some of our down-time could be spent practicing for the big moments, through simulation, play, or other activities.

    Kind of sounds like the idea of “virtues”, no?

    What really resonated for me in this piece though, was how our lack of knowledge plays into this. Morality, when I think about it, is much more an epistemological problem than a normativity problem. Like, we’d probably all be utilitarians if we actually had dependable utility functions. Very often, we’re not confused about what we value so much as we’re unsure of what effect our actions will have.

    This is so much like our interactions with the world in a pandemic. We don’t know how risky it is to be in a grocery store, or to be passed by a jogger when we’re walking outdoors, or how that’s modulated by time or the type of mask we have on. Etc., etc. And again, one solution is something that looks like a “virtue” — a general way of acting that doesn’t focus on specific consequences of specific situations, but if practiced consistently will generally have good results.

    I’m not becoming a virtue ethics person or anything. It was just striking to me how workable it is.

  7. I’m glad you like the post, Asher. I hear you about the positive and negative charge. Deacon seems to suggest that spontaneous orthograde action is mostly a positive charge, whereas contragrade action is more negatively charged, requiring the exercise of restraint over the instinctive urge to party. But again, some restraints are instinctive, established through natural selection — don’t pet the sabre-tooth, don’t eat the rotten antelope carcass. And surely some people are more instinctively outgoing than others, as evidenced by the ubiquity of the introvert-extrovert dimension in so many different personality theories. This is a nation that valorizes the extrovert, but maybe we’re living through an environmental upheaval in which the introverts are equipped with more adaptive instincts and are more likely to survive and advance? It’s our time now, baby!

    Boycotting Amazon — in his book Deacon focused pretty narrowly on the individual organism, trying to trace the evolutionary pathway from rivulets through viruses to sapient beings. Under current circumstances the orienting forces inciting us to buy stuff are aligned with the incoming signal to stay home, generating the control signal to order from Amazon. The role of systemic collective effort to counteract aggregate individual spontaneous actions: certainly it’s contested territory between the invisible-hand emergentists and the social engineers.

  8. Deacon wrote a lot about constraint as a negentropic force, both thermodynamically and informationally. He emphasized the benefits of neural constraint, with synapses and neurotransmitters separating signal from noise and eliminating redundancies, as an evolved strategy of sentient beings for adapting and thriving without requiring the expenditure of much energy. Thinking about adapting to covid, I’m probably channeling some of the recent emphasis on embodied cognition. It’s not enough just to think my way to adaptive constraints for resisting the entropic advances of the virus; I actually have to do the things you’re thinking: wash hands, don’t touch your face, evade proximity, etc. Neural capacity is a wide-area distributed system, extending all the way to your face, your hands, your feet. And it’s not self-contained: there’s continual iteration between inner and outer, between neural and environmental. This I suppose is a kind of neural pragmatism: thinking is action-oriented, and as such it requires the expenditure of physical energy to align right thinking and right action. Practice takes practice, but as the routine gets compiled and automated into habit the energy required to perform the practice successfully gradually diminishes at the margin.

    Talking about the uncertainty of risk… I’ve written like a million posts over at my place trying to address that issue (well, more like a hundred posts). This effort too is an effort to reduce informational entropy, separating signal from noise, reducing degrees of freedom, narrowing confidence intervals, imposing empirical and theoretical constraints on the free unorganized influx of experience and phenomena. As Carl can attest, I’ve tried to quantify the viral exposure when I go out on the nearby American Tobacco Trail, calculating required distancing parameters when passing or being passed by walkers, runners, cyclists. Mostly I’ve cultivated an alternative practice that avoids the Trail altogether, running and walking mostly on roadsides. There’s still some risk entailed, but I consistently stay over to the edge and things generally work out okay. I’ve also estimated risk of going to the grocery store. There again I’ve altered my practice: home delivery, or have the store personnel do the shopping and I come pick up the bagged groceries. Hmm, I’m starting to feel more virtuous…

  9. Infection and death rates as a metric for evaluating societal adaptation to the virus… In August the US and Western Europe experienced pandemic surges: how do they compare? The current US daily death/infection rates are less than half what they were during the April peak, so that’s the good news. In contrast, daily death/infection rates in France, Italy, Spain, UK, and Germany are only 1 to 2 percent of their national peak rates. More details here.

  10. This weekend I gouged my palm with a drill bit (I wasn’t operating the drill – I was just reaching for something else). The calculus of whether to see a doctor during a pandemic is stressful.

    Anyway, I’ve got so many thoughts that I should probably try to write a post. But for the time being I wanted to flag two interesting pieces that popped up.

    The first is a post about “group agency” wrt rioting. It’s interesting in that it frames the discussion around “emergent” behavior vs individual agency. And it’s an indication that this kind of concept is gaining purchase with non-philosophers — I saw it because it was retweeted by Nicole Hannah Jones.

    View at Medium.com

    The second is a post about moral luck and COVID. I would frame the entire thing differently (maybe that’s my post), but I think it hints at how philosophy can be useful, and how policy vs individual moral thinking leads to different solutions.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/international/2020/08/what-problem-moral-luck-can-teach-us-about-lockdown-rule-breakers

  11. “contour the environment in such a way that one’s habits and instincts don’t get in the way of one’s intentions”

    Nice. In World History 1 this term I’m focusing on China so I can learn more about China. I’m reading old Chinese philosophy (Zhuangzi is a particular favorite) because EVERYONE KNOWS A CIVILIZATION IS DEFINED BY ITS PHILOSOPHY and last night what should appear from Mencius but this:

    “The goodness of human nature is like water tending to flow downward. Just as there is no water that does not flow downward, there are no humans who do not have goodness. . . . You can dam and direct the water, and you can force it to remain on the top of a mountain without flowing down. But is this what water’s nature really is? It is what you have done to it that makes it so. Humans can also be made to be not good in the same way.”

    This old piece of folk wisdom about working with the grade rather than against it shows up all over the place, as it turns out. It’s one of the basic heuristics of good livestock husbandry, good teaching, and good governance. It’s the part of conservative thought properly speaking that I really agree with, and easy enough to translate into the language of attractors and complex interdependent systems.

    Making change on purpose is almost unfathomably hard, unless you find the flow and work with the contour. Otherwise you’re just breaking things and hoping something better grows out of the rubble.

    “What I dislike about crafty people is that they chisel their way through. If they were instead like the sage king [Yu] when he was moving the waters, then there would be nothing to dislike. As for Yu’s moving the waters, he moved them without interference. If crafty people also moved without interference, their craft would also be great indeed.”

    Speaking of flow and contour, I’ve always really enjoyed how our conversations take a nice walk around a topic, looking at it from various angles.

  12. Hopefully the universe isn’t conspiring to give you the stigmata, Asher. And hopefully the injury is healing up.

    From the looting article: “What we really need to do is to stop creating social conditions that generate angry crowds of people who don’t see any other way to have their grievances heard.” The author refuses to assign blame either individually or collectively to those who destroy or loot during mass civil unrest. He does seem to assign blame to societies that generate widespread anger, producing civil unrest as a “natural consequence of the dynamic of pissed-off crowds.” That seems asymmetrical. The social conditions that generate angry crowds are also a natural consequence of a dynamic, an unintended consequence: does that dynamic deserve assignation of blame? Both oppressive social conditions and widespread rioting are undesirable, maybe also blameworthy, at a collective level. “We have to intervene before the angry crowd is created, by finding some other way of addressing the grievances that lead to the angry crowds, that lead to the rioting and looting.” Whether the adverse social conditions are blameworthy or not, and even though the dynamics are emergent and the adverse consequences are unintended, the author believes that systemic and systematic interventions can predictably alter the emergent dynamics in a desirable direction, reducing anger among aggrieved sectors of the citizenry. That seems right to me.

    Shifting back to covid… Contagion is an emergent phenomenon operating at the interaction between virus, host, the symptomatic shedding of virus, and the physical proximity of other people. While contagion is a natural consequence, it’s a probabilistic function, as the second article emphasizes. Still, as the article also notes, certain behaviors can reduce the probability of contagion in any given social encounter, and so blame can be assigned to those who don’t perform the protective behaviors regardless of whether luck was with those who were exposed to contagion. A pandemic is kind of like an angry crowd: put a bunch of infected people in close proximity with others and the odds are that the rate of infection will go up as a natural unintended consequence of the dynamic. Social conditions might create conditions of higher likelihood of contagion: jobs requiring close physical interaction with others, multifamily housing arrangements, church services, fraternities, etc. Blameworthy? While increased contagion rates are unintended consequences of these social conditions, the consequences are predictable. And systemic, systematic interventions can predictably alter those social conditions so as to reduce contagion rates.

    Over the past 14 days the countries in the EU/EEA + the UK have on average experienced about 0.5 covid-related deaths per 100K of population. In contrast, the US has recorded 4 covid deaths per 100K — a rate 8 times as high as the EU. Is that blameworthy? If so, how should the blame be apportioned, between the collective behavior of Americans and the social conditions that afford contagion? Are there societal interventions that the US could implement that would predictably lower the contagion rate to numbers approaching those of the EU? If the US fails to implement those interventions, is it blameworthy?

  13. Midway through my second G&T, I find myself drifting into some sort of radical nostalgia for a time when incremental social change seemed such a puny ambition, when rage felt like power, when revolution was right there for the taking. My outrage was largely self-centered then — avoiding the draft — and no doubt it is again — avoiding the “boomer remover.” Tom Seaver died today, complications of Lewy Body dementia and covid-19. The University of Illinois — my home state’s university — running 15,000 diagnostic tests daily, is locking down for two weeks due to virus outbreak, threatening to send the students home if they don’t shape up and comply with partying abstinence directives. My own alma mater, Michigan State, is going fully remote for the first quarter. Our daughter is starting grad school at a university that’s also going remote. As students we shut down the campus on purpose, with firm intent and naive idealism. Glory days — where’s Bruce Springsteen when you need him?

  14. …individual cells are not just building blocks, like the basic parts of a ratchet or pump; they have extra competences that turn them into (unthinking) agents that, thanks to information they have on board, can assist in their own assembly into larger structures, and in other large-scale projects that they needn’t understand….

    Agents, in this carefully limited perspective, need not be conscious, need not understand, need not have minds, but they do need to be structured to exploit physical regularities that enable them to use information (following the laws of computation) to perform tasks, beginning with the fundamental task of self-preservation, which involves not just providing themselves with the energy needed to wield their tools, but the ability to adjust to their local environments in ways that advance their prospects….

    The central point about cognitive systems, no matter their material implementation (including animals, cells, synthetic life forms, AI, and possible alien life) is what they know how to detect, represent as memories, anticipate, decide among and – crucially – attempt to affect. Call this the system’s cognitive horizon. One way to categorise and compare cognitive systems, whether artificial or evolved, simple or complex, is by mapping the size and shape of the goals it can support (represent and work toward). Each agent’s mind comprises a kind of shape in a virtual space of possible past and future events. The spatial extent of this shape is determined by how far away the agent can sense and exert actions – does it know, and act to control, events within 1 cm distance, or metres, or miles away? The temporal dimension is set by how far back it can remember, and how far forward it can anticipate – can it work towards things that will happen minutes from now, days from now, or decades from now?

    – from “Cognition all the way down,” a new article in Aeon by Michael Levin (a developmental biologist) and Daniel Dennett that explores some of the central themes addressed in Deacon’s book.

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