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Art Woods, Marty Martin
What is agency? How does it evolve? Do non-living things have agency?
On this episode of Big Biology, we talk with Tufts University professor Michael Levin about his recent article in Aeon magazine called ‘Cognition all the way down’. In it, Mike and Dan Dennett discuss the phenomenon of agency and what it means for biology, basic to medical. We discuss with Mike what it means to be an agent - whether you’re a metabolite, a cell, or a human - and how agency affects and is affected by evolution. We discuss how agents at different levels of organization influence each other, how agency research could change our thinking about the ethics of artificial intelligence, and how the internet has expanded collective human agency by broadening our cognitive horizons.
If you missed our first chat with Mike on the role of bioelectric fields in development, tissue regeneration, and evolution, check that out here.
Cover photo: A high magnification of the cilia (hair like structures that beat, allowing the living robots to swim) present on the surface of a living robot swarm by Douglas Blackiston and Sam Kriegman
Length of Episode
1 hour, 8 minutes, 12 seconds
Digital File Format
Woods, Art and Martin, Marty, "Episode 065: Mouse on a hill: the structure and function of agency" (2021). BigBiology Podcasts. 66.