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Previous Programs

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World
Awardees

2019 Information as Fuel
Awardees

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Christopher John Watkins
Royal Holloway, University of London

Susanne Still
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa

Lee Altenberg
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa



Project Title

Intelligence in Context

Project Summary

We will take a new look at two fundamental problems in evolution. First, the genome encodes both body-structure and – for small animals – much of their behaviour. Evidence from whole-genome studies shows that information about just about any particular aspect of our bodies is encoded at very many locations spread all over the genome. We term this a `diffuse’ genetic code. How do these diffuse genetic codes evolve, and how are they decoded? Nobody knows. We will work from first principles using information theory to construct examples of such diffuse codes that would be informationally efficient in evolution. Second, how does evolution combine with learning? For simple animals – think of beetles or small birds – their behaviour is intricate and adapted for their survival. Bur their behaviour seems mostly genetically determined with limited contributions from individual learning from experience. We will use a newly developed type of evolutionary simulation to construct evolutionary models in which individual learning and evolutionary learning are treated in the same mathematical way. We how this will enable us to understand the possible interactions of evolutionary and individual learning better; for example, we may be able to give principled general explanations of what determines how much of behaviour is learned by individuals and how much is encoded in the genome. We hope our work will be useful in gaining a general mathematical understanding of how our genomes determine complex anatomy, and of how innate knowledge interacts with individual learning.



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