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Physical Invariants of Intelligence

Current research involves a quantumlike aspect of mental-to-motor feedback.

A program of research is dedicated to development of a mathematical formalism that could provide, among other things, means by which living systems could be distinguished from non-living ones. A major issue that arises in this research is the following question: What invariants of mathematical models of the physics of systems are (1) characteristic of the behaviors of intelligent living systems and (2) do not depend on specific features of material compositions heretofore considered to be characteristic of life?

This research at earlier stages has been reported, albeit from different perspectives, in numerous previous NASA Tech Briefs articles. To recapitulate: One of the main underlying ideas is to extend the application of physical first principles to the behaviors of living systems. Mathematical models of motor dynamics are used to simulate the observable physical behaviors of systems or objects of interest, and models of mental dynamics are used to represent the evolution of the corresponding knowledge bases. For a given system, the knowledge base is modeled in the form of probability distributions and the mental dynamics is represented by models of the evolution of the probability densities or, equivalently, models of flows of information.

At the time of reporting the information for this article, the focus of this research was upon the following aspects of the formalism: Intelligence is considered to be a means by which a living system preserves itself and improves its ability to survive and is further considered to manifest itself in feedback from the mental dynamics to the motor dynamics. Because of the feedback from the mental dynamics, the motor dynamics attains quantumlike properties: The trajectory of the physical aspect of the system in the space of dynamical variables splits into a family of different trajectories, and each of those trajectories can be chosen with a probability prescribed by the mental dynamics.

From a slightly different perspective, the mechanism of decision-making is feedback from the mental dynamics to the motor dynamics, and this mechanism provides a quantumlike collapse of a random motion into an appropriate deterministic state, such that entropy undergoes a pronounced decrease. The existence of this mechanism is considered to be an invariant of intelligent behavior of living systems, regardless of the origins and material compositions of the systems.

This work was done by Michail Zak of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . NPO-46085