Multiscale free energy analysis of human ecosystem engineering

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Unlike ecosystem engineering by other living things, which brings a relatively limited range of sensations that are connected to a few enduring survival preferences, human ecosystem engineering brings an increasing variety and frequency of novel sensations. Many of these novel sensations can quickly become preferences as they indicate that human life will be less strenuous and more stimulating. Furthermore, they can soon become addictive. By contrast, unwanted surprise from these novel sensations may become apparent decades later. This recognition can come after the survival of millions of humans and other species has been undermined. In this paper, it is explained that, while multiscale free energy provides a useful hypothesis for framing human ecosystem engineering, disconnects between preferences and survival from human ecosystem engineering limit the application of current assumptions that underlie continuous state-space and discrete state-space modelling of active inference.
Original languageEnglish
Article number396
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • active inference
  • free energy principle
  • human ecosystem engineering
  • multiscale free energy
  • preferences
  • surprise
  • survival


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