Tutorial on Embodiment

In order to understand intelligent behavior in humans, animals, or machines, it is necessary to consider their embodiment and embedding. That is, "the behavior of any system is not merely the outcome of an internal control structure (such as the central nervous system). A system's behavior is also affected by the ecological niche in which the system is physically embedded, by its morphology (the shape of its body and limbs, as well as the type and placement of sensors and effectors), and by the material properties of the elements composing the morphology." (Pfeifer et al. 2007) Whereas embodiment is often used in its trivial meaning, i.e. "intelligence requires a body", we want to argue that there are deeper implications that are worth analyzing in detail. After elucidating the crucial importance of embodiment for "low-level" behaviors (such as walking), we will move on to illustrate the impact of physical processes on informational processes, and, finally, we will discuss the implications of embodiment for cognition.

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