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First published 20 July 2015

Apparent actions and apparent goal-directedness

Martin Biehl and Daniel Polani

Abstract (Excerpt)

In human history countless phenomena have been (wrongly) attributed to agents. For instance, now science believes there are no gods (agents) of lightning, thunder and wind behind the associated phenomena.

In physics (assuming quantum decoherence) the universe is modelled as a state space with a dynamical law that determines everything that happens within it. This however, is incompatible with most notions of agency (cf. Barandiaran et al., 2009) which require actions: For an agent candidate to have actions it must be able to “make something happen” as opposed to only “have things happen to it.”

Here we ask which single sequences of partial obserations may appear to contain agency to a passive observer who has its own memory. For this we define measures of apparent actions and apparent goal-directedness. Goal-directedness is another feature commonly attributed to agents. We here ignore whatever causes the appearances and the concept of individuality of agents.