IAS-Research Seminar by Iñigo Arandia. “Epistemic entanglement in the macroscopic world”

Date and time: April 9th, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Iñigo Arandia (UPV/EHU)

Title: “Epistemic entanglement in the macroscopic world”


Scientific non-reductionism emphasizes that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Beyond metaphor, such holistic idea can be made concrete (namely, mathematically formulated and empirically testable) via the notion of entanglement, which is a foundational concept and an established phenomenon in quantum mechanics related to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (a fundamental limit to the precision of simultaneously measuring two complementary variables, like the position and momentum of an electron, which is not a consequence of experimental limitations). Here we present a classical analog of entanglement, where uncertainty relations arise from experimental commitments, like the selection of variables and/or subsystems, or ignorance about the context. Inspired by a theoretical work offering a definition of entanglement in a model of macroscopic brownian particles (Allahverdyan et al., 2005), we propose a general sufficient condition for epistemic entanglement that is valid for any underlying dynamics and any pair of macroscopic stochastic observables. Our bound reflects a trade-off between inter-vs-intra particle correlations, and only requires estimating dispersions. This makes it empirically accessible and also somewhat intuitive. We explored the origin of epistemic entanglement by taking advantage of analytical results available in brownian models and simulations of stochastic systems. Then, we applied our sufficient condition to behavioral data of fly courtship, and found entanglement between position and coarse-grained velocity. This result implies the existence of macroscopic correlations that cannot be effectively explained in causal terms, thus limiting the common cause principle. Our work also challenges the idea of pure objectivity, as our choice of measurement variables induced epistemic correlations that cannot be adjudicated to the observed system but that, through coarse-graining, belong to the observer.

IAS-Research Seminar by Miguel Escribano. “G.W. Leibniz y el problema del origen de los cuerpos orgánicos. Educción y preformacionismo”

Date and time: January 22, Tuesday, 14:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Miguel Escribano (UPV/EHU)

Title: “G.W. Leibniz y el problema del origen de los cuerpos orgánicos. Educción y preformacionismo”


“El problema del origen de la vida, como hoy en día se plantea, no es directamente abordado durante la modernidad filosófica. Existen, sin embargo, algunos debates que podríamos considerar al respecto por su cercanía a este problema. El caso de G.W. Leibniz es especialmente relevante. Por un lado, su Dinámica tiene la pretensión de convertirse en una ‘ontología general’ que de cuenta de todas las parcelas de lo real en términos de fuerza y forma. En este sentido, su visión de la naturaleza implica una cierta continuidad y coordinación entre las dinámicas características a los tres reinos naturales. Este programa ontológico no está exento de contradicciones. Leibniz nos aporta algunas herramientas para abordar estas contradicciones. En esta presentación haré mención a dos de ellas: por un lado, la teoría de la educción (importancia del pensamiento químico) y, por otro lado, la idea de preformación (importancia del pensamiento biológico). Considerando ambas teorías se plantea el siguiente problema: ¿existe una incompatibilidad entre la perspectiva diacrónico-embriogenética (biológica) que defiende que toda forma orgánica procede de otra forma orgánica y la perspectiva sincrónico-emergente (química) que defiende por su parte que la dinámica organizacional que caracteriza a un organismo educe a un cierto nivel de complejidad natural?”

Reading group on Evolution and Cognition


1. Objectives: 

  • Introduce basic notions of evolutionary biology and physiology of the nervous system.
  • Understand current discussion on the evolution of human cognition.
  • Discuss the role of the interaction between organism and environment in the evolution of the nervous system.

2. Format

Eleven reading seminars lasting 1.5h around different authors and topics that aim to explain the evolution of the nervous system and cognition in human beings. In each session, one participant will shortly (20min) present the topic in order to facilitate the discussion. After every session, this participant will prepare a summary of the discussion. The final transcript will be evaluated for feedback by the coordinator.

3. Schedule, topics, and readings

Seminars will take place from January to June 2019, on alternate Thursdays from 15:00 to 16:30h, open to online and in-person participation at the Carlos Santamaría Center Seminar 14.

Session Date Topic Bibliography
1. January, 10 Introduction Moreno, A., & Lasa, A. (2003). From basic adaptivity to early mind. Evolution and Cognition, 9(1).

Rosslenbroich, B. (2014). On the origin of autonomy: a new look at the major transitions in evolution (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media. Chapters 8, 10.1 y 10.2

2. January, 24 Evolution of the nervous system I. Dynamic Systems Barandiaran, X., & Moreno, A. (2006). On what makes certain dynamical systems cognitive: A minimally cognitive organization program. Adaptive Behavior, 14(2), 171-185.
3. February, 7 Evolution of the nervous system II. Plant and animal cognition Calvo Garzón, P., & Keijzer, F. (2011). Plants: Adaptive behavior, root-brains, and minimal cognition. Adaptive Behavior, 19(3), 155-171.

Keijzer, F. (2015). Moving and sensing without input and output: Early nervous systems and the origins of the animal sensorimotor organization. Biology & Philosophy, 30, 311–331

4. February, 21 Evolution and Agency Barandiarán, X. (2008). Mental Life. A naturalized approach to the autonomy of cognitive agents. [Thesis Capítulos 5 y 6]
5. 7 March The 4 dimensions of evolution Jablonka, E., & Lamb, M. J. (2007). Précis of evolution in four dimensions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30(4), 353-365.
6. March, 21 Cognitive functions: working memory and the frontal lobe Damasio, El error de Descartes. capítulos 2,3 y 4.

Frederick L. Coolidge, Thomas Wynn. 2009.The Rise of Homo Sapiens, The Evolution of Modern Thinking [capítulo 3]

7. April, 4 Evolution and reproduction Gruss, L. T., & Schmitt, D. (2015). The evolution of the human pelvis: changing adaptations to bipedalism, obstetrics and thermoregulation. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 370(1663), 20140063.
8. April, 18 Cultural Evolution I Portin, P. (2015). A comparison of biological and cultural evolution. Journal of genetics, 94(1), 155-168.

Lewens, T. (2015). Cultural evolution: conceptual challenges. OUP Oxford (capítulo 1)

9. May, 2 Cultural Evolution II Dunbar, R. I. (2009). The social brain hypothesis and its implications for social evolution. Annals of human biology, 36(5), 562-572.

Laland, K., Matthews, B., & Feldman, M. W. (2016). An introduction to niche construction theory. Evolutionary ecology, 30(2), 191-202.

10. May, 16 Evolution and 4E Cognition Barrett, L. The evolution of cognition: a 4E perspective. The Oxford Handbook of 4e Cognition. New York: Oxford UP.

Malafouris, L. Bringing things to mind. In The Oxford Handbook of 4E Cognition.

11. May, 30
Congress July, 10-14 4E Cognition Theories

4. Coordination and more information

In order to join the reading group or request further information, please contact the coordinators:

Enara Garcia (enara.garcia.otero@gmail.com)

Guglielmo Militello (guglielmo.militello@ehu.eus)

Alejandra Martínez Quintero (alejandra.mtz.quintero@gmail.com)

IAS-Research Seminar by Miguel Aguilera: “Integrated information and autonomy in the thermodynamic limit”

Date and time: June 26, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Miguel Aguilera (sci@maguilera.net)

Title: Integrated information and autonomy in the thermodynamic limit

Abstract: The concept of autonomy is fundamental for understanding biological organizationand the evolutionary transitions of living systems. Understanding how a system constitutes itself as an individual, cohesive, self-organized entity is a fundamental challenge for the understanding of life. However, it is generally a difficult task to determine whether the system or its environment has generated the correlations that allow an observer to trace the boundary of a living system as a coherent unit. Inspired by the framework of integrated information theory, we propose a measure of the level of integration of a system as the response of a system to partitions that introduce perturbations in the interaction between subsystems, without assuming the existence of a stationary distribution. With the goal of characterizing transitions in integrated information in the thermodynamic limit, we apply this measure to kinetic Ising models of infinite size using mean field techniques. Our findings suggest that, in order to preserve the integration of causal influences of a system as it grows in size, a living entity must be poised near critical points maximizing its sensitivity to perturbations in the interaction between subsystems. Moreover, we observe how such a measure is able to delimit an agent and its environment, being able to characterize simple instances of agent-environment asymmetries in which the agent has the ability to modulate its coupling with the environment.


Date: 5th of June, 2018

Location: Sala de Juntas (Batzar Aretoa). Faculty of Education, Philosophy and Anthropology (second floor) (UPV/EHU)


Harry Heft – Department of Psychology, Denison University (Ohio, USA)

Manuel Heras Escribano – IAS-Research Centre for Life, Mind, and Society, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU (Spain)

Lorena Lobo – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Isabel I University (Spain)

Laura Menatti – UMR 5319 CNRS Passages, University of Bordeaux (France)

Mikel Subiza Pérez – Department of Psychology, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU (Spain)

Cristian Saborido – Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, UNED, Madrid (Spain)

Info and programhttps://ecologicalcognition.wordpress.com/



Date: 3 – 4 May, 2018

Location: Carlos Santamaría Center (EHU – UPV), room A4

Opening: Arantza Etxeberria and Leonardo Bich (EHU – UPV)

Chairs: Argyris Arnellos (1),  Alba Amilburu (2), Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo (3), Jon Umerez (4)

Speakers: Cédric Brun (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), Matteen Rafiqi (Bezmialem Vakıf University), Jan Pieter Konsman (CNRS – Université de Bordeaux) [in collaboration with Lynn Chiu, CNRS – Université de Bordeaux], Ezequiel Di Paolo (IAS- Research, Ikerbasque), Mark Canciani (IAS- Research, Universidad del País Vasco) and  Derek Skillings (CNRS – Université de Bordeaux)

Program: IV Workshop Program (new)

Abstracts: Abstracts-IV Bordeaux-San Sebastian Workshop (new)

Fundamentals of IAS-Research Seminars

On March 6th we begin with a series of 6 bi-weekly seminars on the core lines of research of our group. The seminars are oriented towards PhD students but are open. If interested, please, get in touch with Ezequiel Di Paolo or Kepa Ruiz-Mirazo.

Information about topics, schedule, and readings following this link.

Location: Centro Santamaría, Sala de seminarios del grupo IAS (B14)

Time: 15:00 – 17:00


IAS-Research Seminar by Xabier Barandiaran: “Artificial Democratic Life: re-engineering the autonomy of the social”

Date and time: January 23, Tuesday, 11:15 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Xabier Barandiaran (UPV/EHU)

Title: Artificial Democratic Life: re-engineering the autonomy of the social

Abstract: New constraints and opportunities often give rise to the
emergence of new forms of life or their radical transformation. Such
is the case of administrative institutions, the emergence and
autonomization of economic life with capitalism or the emergence of
spread of academic life through peer-review journals, conferences and,
ultimately, the internet. This last infrastructure, the internet, has
made possible a profound transformation of many human and societal
forms of life. And Democracy is waiting its turn. In the era of
Artificial Intelligence and Algorithmic Governance, the combination of
corporate controlled social networks, big data analytics and political
cyberwar, the issue of how to build public infrastructures for
peacefull, deliverative and privacy-aware democratic life becomes
essential. Barcelona City Council is leading the project Decidim: an
online platform for participatory democracy, with thousands of users.
The platform is rapidly extending to other cities in Europe (Spain,
Italy, Sweden, France, etc.). Its sucess depends partly on the
capacity of the development team to include algorithms that maximize
democratic rights, minimize lobby-influence and favors
self-organization and social autonomy. Instead of applying AI
techniques (deep learning, machine learning) to user profiling and
other standard (ab)uses of corporate dominated social networks, the
challenge ahead lies on defining Artificial Life models that boost
Democratic Life. The goal of this talk is to review such posibilities
and explore the way in which Artificial Life can help improve our
democracies in an era of maximal inequality on digital power. With the
lessons learned during the rise of networked multitudinous identities
during the 15M we currently face the challenge of designing the
interaction dynamics within Decidim.Barcelona (the participatory
democracry platform of Barcelona City Council) so as to make possible
the emergence of both city-scale and social autonomous identities.
Regarding city-scale identity, and inspired on the way in which cells
become autonomous (after all it is in greek cities where autonomy was
born as a concept), Decidim makes possible the interaction between
bottom-up and top-down dynamics on the constitution of global
contraints (such as Municipal Action Plan or city wide regulations).
We see institutions as channeling collective energy and matter (human,
urban and economic) to produce meso and macroscopic constraints for
the production and reproduction of city life. Citizen interactions on
the other hand are equivalent to molecular interactions. When it comes
to political decision making, planing and policy making, Decidim is
designed to generate a dialectic between bottom-up (proposal
production and voting) and top-down (selection and result
construction) dynamics. The PAM (Pla d’Actuació Municipal, Municipal
Action Plan, 4 yearly strategic planning for the city) is a good
example of city-scale “identity” production through bottom-up and
top-down interaction dynamics. The second aspect of autonomous
identity generation mechanism we want to foster will soon be available
through citizen initiatives and enhanced horizontal communication
channels within Decidim.Barcelona. The newly aproved participatory
regulation makes possible for citizens to organize and create
different king of large scale interventions that can finally end up on
a public consultation. We consider that the perceived oportunity for
citizen initiatives to be institucionally channeled will create a kind
of energy gradient (like those found at the roots of physical
self-organized processes, such as Benard cells). Decidim.Barcelona is
currently been designed to facilitate social interaction on the
creation of citizen proposal for initiatives, their interaction
through social media, and the self-organization of public discussion
and coordination of communicative action to boost the emergence of
political collective identities. How can we foster a better democratic
life making use of the tools and principles of Artificial Life?

IAS-Research Seminar by Guglielmo Militello: “Harnessing energy production: functional integration in symbiotic relationships”

Date and time: November 14, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.

Location: Carlos Santamaría Building, Room B14.

Speaker: Guglielmo Militello


Functional integration is broadly defined in life sciences as the causal interdependence among the subsystems forming an organism. However, this characterisation is vague and not able to describe the different degrees of functional integration in living beings (Pradeau 2010). From an organizational perspective, functional integration is interpreted as the mutual dependence of the constitutive constraints that collectively maintain the whole organisation (Moreno and Mossio 2015; Bich 2016). Therefore, organisational closure (i.e. the closure of constitutive constraints) implies functional integration (Moreno and Mossio 2015).

This talk aims to investigate some important organisational requirements for the functional integration of two (or more) symbionts.

Two case-studies will be analysed and compared: the first one is the endosymbiotic relationship between an α-proteobacterium (the ancestor of mitochondrion) and the proto-eukaryotic cell; the second one is the set of mutualistic relationships that mixotricha paradoxa establishes with its ectosymbionts (essential for the locomotion of mixotricha) and with its endosymbionts (crucial for the bioenergetics of mixotricha).

The analysis supports the thesis that a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for integrated symbionts is the ability of harnessing energy production (namely the synthesis of ATP molecules) through a number of metabolic and genetic constraints that are mutually dependent.