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A variational approach to niche construction

Constant, A; Ramstead, MJD; Veissière, SPL; Campbell, JO; Friston, KJ; (2018) A variational approach to niche construction. Journal of the Royal Society Interface , 15 (141) , Article 20170685. 10.1098/rsif.2017.0685. Green open access

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Abstract

In evolutionary biology, niche construction is sometimes described as a genuine evolutionary process whereby organisms, through their activities and regulatory mechanisms, modify their environment such as to steer their own evolutionary trajectory, and that of other species. There is ongoing debate, however, on the extent to which niche construction ought to be considered a bona fide evolutionary force, on a par with natural selection. Recent formulations of the variational free-energy principle as applied to the life sciences describe the properties of living systems, and their selection in evolution, in terms of variational inference.We argue that niche construction can be described using a variational approach.We propose newarguments to support the niche construction perspective, and to extend the variational approach to niche construction to current perspectives in various scientific fields.

Type: Article
Title: A variational approach to niche construction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0685
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2017.0685
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: evolutionary biology, niche construction theory, ecological inheritance, variational free-energy principle, active inference, situated learning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10048140
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