Tuesday 5 November 2019

The Task Dynamics of Angiogenesis

In the last two posts, I have laid out the proposal that endothelial cells seem to actively perceive their environments, and set out the details of the argument in favour of explicitly taking an ecological approach to understanding why they do what they do during angiogenesis. It's now time to develop that analysis more explicitly.

To do this, I will apply the 4 questions we proposed in Wilson & Golonka (2013) to the question of the endothelial cell behaviour.  These are
  1. What is the task to be solved? 
  2. What are the resources the organism has access to that might solve the task?
  3. How might these resources get assembled so as to solve the task?
  4. Do organisms actually do what you describe in Q3?
We gave some worked examples of this analysis in the 2013 paper, and have described how it drives my work on coordinated rhythmic movement (Golonka & Wilson, 2012, 2019). This will hopefully serve as another example.

Monday 4 November 2019

Endothelial Cells are Intelligent, Perceiving-Acting Agents

In my last post, I laid out a new project I'm working on about the perceptual life of cells. I spent the day at the Crick Institute recently to move the project forward, and this post is about developing the perception-action analysis in more detail. The goal in this post is to address the first question that needs an answer, specifically, are the cells perceiving-acting agents, or just doing something more mechanical?. In the next post, I will apply our task dynamical analysis to frame the project (from Wilson & Golonka, 2013). 

To cut to the chase, I'm now pretty happy that a perception-action analysis is appropriate at this particular cellular level. I set a high bar for this (mostly by reading Turvey & Carello papers, which should illustrate that height pretty clearly :) but it seems clear the cells are behaving with respect to information, and not simply being buffeted by forces. Applying some key criteria, and resting on the hard work of Turvey & Carello showing that intelligence isn't about brains but about behaviour, I will claim here that Bentley's endothelial cells are agents that exhibit intelligent behaviour, and there is a clear need for a behavioural scale contribution to any explanation of that behaviour.