Predictive coding

Does the model that our brains do bayesian variational prediction make any actual predictions about our brains?

November 27, 2011 — February 9, 2023

Figure 1

Maybe related (?) prediction processes. To learn: Is this what the information-dynamics folks are wondering about also, e.g. Ay et al. (2008) or Tishby and Polani (2011)? Perhaps this overvew of different brain models will place it in context: Neural Annealing: Toward a Neural Theory of Everything.

There is some interesting hype in this area, along the lines of understanding biological learning as machine learning: Predictive Coding has been Unified with Backpropagation, concerning Millidge, Tschantz, and Buckley (2020b). I have not read the article or the explanation properly, but at first glance it indicates that perhaps I do not understand this area properly. The assertion, skim-read, seems to be that predictive coding, which I imagined was some form of variational inference, can approximate minimum loss learning by backpropagation in some sense. While not precisely trivial, this would seem like well-trodden ground— unless I have failed ot understand how they are using the terms, which seems likely. TBC.

If we think there are multiple learning algorithms we find ourselves in a multi agent self situation.

1 Layperson intros

Figure 2

2 “Free energy principle”

This section is dedicated to vivisecting a confusing discussion happening in the literature which I have not looked in to. It is could be a profound insight, or terminological confusion, or a re-statement of the mind-as-statistical learner idea with weirder prose style. I may return one day and decide which.

In this realm, the “free energy principle” is instrumental as a unifying concept for learning systems such as brains.

Here is the most compact version I could find:

The free energy principle (FEP) claims that self-organization in biological agents is driven by variational free energy (FE) minimization in a generative probabilistic model of the agent’s environment.

The chief pusher of this wheelbarrow appears to be Karl Friston (e.g. K. Friston 2010, 2013; Williams 2020). He starts his Nature Reviews Neuroscience with this statement of the principle:

The free-energy principle says that any self-organizing system that is at equilibrium with its environment must minimize its free energy.

Is that “must” in the sense that it is a

  • moral obligation, or
  • a testable conservation law of some kind?

If the latter, self-organising in what sense? What type of equilibrium? For which definition of the free energy? What is our chief experimental evidence for this hypothesis?

I think it means that any right thinking brain, seeking to avoid the vice of slothful and decadent perception after the manner of foreigners and compulsive masturbators, would do well to seek to maximise its free energy before partaking of a stimulating and refreshing physical recreation, such as a game of cricket. We do get a definition of free energy itself, with a diagram, which

…shows the dependencies among the quantities that define free energy. These include the internal states of the brain \(\mu(t)\) and quantities describing its exchange with the environment: sensory signals (and their motion) \(\bar{s}(t) = [s,s',s''…]^T\) plus action \(a(t)\). The environment is described by equations of motion, which specify the trajectory of its hidden states. The causes \(\vartheta \supset {\bar{x}, \theta, \gamma }\) of sensory input comprise hidden states \(\bar{x} (t),\) parameters \(\theta\), and precisions \(\gamma\) controlling the amplitude of the random fluctuations \(\bar{z}(t)\) and \(\bar{w}(t)\). Internal brain states and action minimize free energy \(F(\bar{s}, \mu)\), which is a function of sensory input and a probabilistic representation \(q(\vartheta|\mu)\) of its causes. This representation is called the recognition density and is encoded by internal states \(\mu\).

The free energy depends on two probability densities: the recognition density \(q(\vartheta|\mu)\) and one that generates sensory samples and their causes, \(p(\bar{s},\vartheta|m)\). The latter represents a probabilistic generative model (denoted by \(m\)), the form of which is entailed by the agent or brain…

\[F = -<\ln p(\bar{s},\vartheta|m)>_q + -<\ln q(\vartheta|\mu)>_q\]

This is (minus the actions) the variational free energy in Bayesian inference.

OK, so self-organising systems must improve their variational approximations to posterior beliefs? What is the contentful prediction?

See also: the Slate Star Codex Friston dogpile, based on an exposition by Wolfgang Schwarz.

3 Actual predictions about minds arising from predictive coding models

Figure 3

Does predictive coding tell us anything about minds in practice? Here are a some things that look like they must relate.

3.1 Dark room problem

Basically: why do anything at all? Why not just live by self-fulfilling prophecies that guarantee good predictions, but ensuring that essentially nothing happens that requires not-trivial predictions? (K. Friston, Thornton, and Clark 2012.)

Question: is this a perspective on depression?

4 Computable

ForneyLab (Akbayrak, Bocharov, and de Vries 2021) is a variational message passing library for probabilistic graphical models with an eye to computing it in a biologically plausible way and building predictive coding models.

ForneyLab is designed with a focus on flexibility, extensibility and applicability to biologically plausible models for perception and decision making, such as the hierarchical Gaussian filter (HGF). With ForneyLab, the search for better models for perception and action can be accelerated

5 Incoming

What does all this say about classical psychological therapies? e.g. Acceptance and commitment therapy.

6 References

Aguilera, Millidge, Tschantz, et al. 2021. How Particular Is the Physics of the Free Energy Principle? arXiv:2105.11203 [q-Bio].
Akbayrak, Bocharov, and de Vries. 2021. Extended Variational Message Passing for Automated Approximate Bayesian Inference.” Entropy.
Ay, Bertschinger, Der, et al. 2008. Predictive Information and Explorative Behavior of Autonomous Robots.” The European Physical Journal B - Condensed Matter and Complex Systems.
Bishop. 2021. Artificial Intelligence Is Stupid and Causal Reasoning Will Not Fix It.” Frontiers in Psychology.
Broockman, and Kalla. 2020. When and Why Are Campaigns’ Persuasive Effects Small? Evidence from the 2020 US Presidential Election.”
Cao, Pastukhov, Aleshin, et al. n.d. Binocular Rivalry Reveals an Out-of-Equilibrium Neural Dynamics Suited for Decision-Making.” eLife.
Carhart-Harris, and Nutt. 2017. Serotonin and Brain Function: A Tale of Two Receptors.” Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Clark. 2015. Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind.
Cox, van de Laar, and de Vries. 2019. A Factor Graph Approach to Automated Design of Bayesian Signal Processing Algorithms.” International Journal of Approximate Reasoning.
Da Costa, Friston, Heins, et al. 2021. Bayesian Mechanics for Stationary Processes.” arXiv:2106.13830 [Math-Ph, Physics:nlin, q-Bio].
Friston, Karl. 2010. The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory? Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
———. 2013. Life as We Know It.” Journal of The Royal Society Interface.
Friston, Karl J., Parr, and de Vries. 2017. The Graphical Brain: Belief Propagation and Active Inference.” Network Neuroscience.
Friston, Karl, Thornton, and Clark. 2012. Free-Energy Minimization and the Dark-Room Problem.” Frontiers in Psychology.
Glymour. 2007. When Is a Brain Like the Planet? Philosophy of Science.
Heald, Lengyel, and Wolpert. 2021. Contextual Inference Underlies the Learning of Sensorimotor Repertoires.” Nature.
Ho, Abel, Correa, et al. 2022. People Construct Simplified Mental Representations to Plan.” Nature.
Kay, Chung, Sosa, et al. 2020. Constant Sub-second Cycling between Representations of Possible Futures in the Hippocampus.” Cell.
Ma, Kording, and Goldreich. 2022. Bayesian Models of Perception and Action.
Mathys, Daunizeau, Friston, et al. 2011. A Bayesian Foundation for Individual Learning Under Uncertainty.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Millidge, Tschantz, and Buckley. 2020a. Whence the Expected Free Energy? arXiv:2004.08128 [Cs].
———. 2020b. Predictive Coding Approximates Backprop Along Arbitrary Computation Graphs.” arXiv:2006.04182 [Cs].
O’Connor, Wellisch, Stanton, et al. 2008. Craving Love? Enduring Grief Activates Brain’s Reward Center.” NeuroImage.
Ororbia, and Mali. 2023. The Predictive Forward-Forward Algorithm.”
Parr, Markovic, Kiebel, et al. 2019. Neuronal Message Passing Using Mean-Field, Bethe, and Marginal Approximations.” Scientific Reports.
Parr, Pezzulo, and Friston. 2022. Active Inference: The Free Energy Principle in Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
Porr, and Miller. 2020. Forward Propagation Closed Loop Learning.” Adaptive Behavior.
Still. 2020. Thermodynamic Cost and Benefit of Memory.” Physical Review Letters.
Tishby, Pereira, and Bialek. 2000. The Information Bottleneck Method.” arXiv:physics/0004057.
Tishby, and Polani. 2011. “Information Theory of Decisions and Actions.” In PERCEPTION-ACTION CYCLE.
Laar, Thijs van de, Cox, Senoz, et al. 2018. ForneyLab: A Toolbox for Biologically Plausible Free Energy Minimization in Dynamic Neural Models.” In Conference on Complex Systems.
Laar, Thijs W. van de, and de Vries. 2019. Simulating Active Inference Processes by Message Passing.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
Laar, Thijs van de, Koudahl, and de Vries. 2023. Realising Synthetic Active Inference Agents, Part II: Variational Message Updates.”
Laar, Thijs van de, Koudahl, van Erp, et al. 2022. Active Inference and Epistemic Value in Graphical Models.” Frontiers in Robotics and AI.
Williams. 2020. Predictive Coding and Thought.” Synthese.