Active inference and collective intelligence

15th-17th October 2021, Slideslive and Zoom

What Cognitio Is All About

The main topic of the workshop is Active Inference as physics-based models of cultural phenomena, and manners of understanding human behaviour from the social sciences and humanities. This workshop will be important because cross-talk and cross-fertilization between these fields is becoming unavoidable and necessary. Digital technologies are rapidly evolving, and powerful tools have been used in the past for social purposes, without relying on the perspectives and caution of social science experts.


As a consequence of this neglect, critical flaws in the design of such computational tools have led to furthering the oppression of vulnerable groups. One notable instance of this has been the use of artificial intelligences to help in the determination of guilt in trials. The US legal system, based on historically racist outcomes and practices, has only prolonged the “school to prison” pipeline, in which law enforcement largely disproportionately targets Black and Latino men in the states. The systems that perform such legal advisership tend to operate opaquely like black boxes, and as such, realizing that this bias held such way took the community a long time—too long. 

One of the main attributes of active inference in machine learning is that it is transparent: the models at play are fully explicit and specify the causal factors that generate data. This is an incredible advantage over black box networks that can lead to the perpetuation of social problems, when they draw from (e.g.) historical data. Working from the perspective that says “nothing about us without us,” we wish to foster collaboration between the fields of social science, computational modelling, and neuroscience, to further our ability to avoid such pitfalls and to develop the proper tools to benefit such vulnerable communities.

We will reach out to researchers in the field who specifically target social issues, or who make a contribution that focuses on social progress. We will focus on researchers from a variety of fields, and show an interest in an intersectional perspective.

Posters will also be presented, for students who may have smaller contributions or preliminary findings.

This workshop will be held online to promote safety and the international participation of actors across the world, as active inference is still a relatively new concept. Furthermore, we believe that access to such conferences may be rendered easier for participants with low financial means, or physical disabilities.

The different presentations will be collated in a special edition, that will become available for anyone who may want to read the subsequent talks, and continue of the social progress path. 

Glass Buildings


Mahault is a PhD student in cognitive computing, and has a masters in Sexology from the university of UQAM. Her project concerns the way active inference can help us model epistemic communities.
She strives to integrate anti-oppressive approaches to her endeavours, technological or social.



Ines Hipolito

Ines works on the intersection between philosophy of mind and computational cognitive neuroscience. 
​More specifically, she aims to elucidate how we understand cognition in everyday life in a way that is consistent with using the technical apparatus of dynamical systems theory.

Pierre Poirier is a research professor in the philosophy of cognitive science at the Université du Québec à Montréal. His areas of interest are the philosophy of science, the philosophy of neuroscience and the philosophy of mind. He has long been interested in enactive, embodied and situated cognition.



Call for Papers and Posters on Active inference and collective intelligence

You are invited to submit an abstract for a presentation at the Cognitio 2021 – Active inference and collective intelligence, organized by the Cognitive Sciences Institute (ISC) at UQAM, Montreal.

Related to deep learning and predictive coding, Active inference has had many practical applications in recent years. It has been used to gain insights and elucidate the dynamics underlying things (Friston, 2019), the multiscale nervous system (Friston,  Zeidman, Fagerholm,  Zarghami, Parr,  Hipólito,  Magrou,  & Razi, 2020 ; Hipólito, Ramstead, Convertino,  Bhat,  Friston,  Parr,  2021), organisms interacting with the environment (Veissière, Constant, Ramstead, Friston,  & Kirmayer, 2020), all the way up to forms of collective intelligence.

The aim of this colloquium is to collect and discuss insights upon forms of collective intelligence using the increasingly insightful tool of active inference under dynamical causal modelling. Specifically, this event focuses on using the insights on collective intelligence for action. The end goal of the colloquium is to (1) gain insights on active inference as a tool; (2) gain insights of collective intelligence of societal organization, or “epistemic communities”, through the lens of active inference; (3) collect insights on real-world ways of implementing real change towards human and social development, where this include climate change, sustainability, as well as societal segregation, discrimination and minority issues.

Graduates, postgraduates and postdoctoral students will gather to discuss how to use active inference as a means to promote social justice, and improve communication across multiple perspectives and disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, linguistics, education, neuroscience, anthropology, cognitive computing, but also biological sciences, chemistry and physics. Talks and poster presentations from young researchers affiliated with a university or a research centre and working on active inference in any of these fields are welcome. Collaborative submissions (more than one discipline and more than two young researchers) will be prioritized. We especially welcome proposals from scholars with backgrounds that are underrepresented in publishing and academia (including women, ethnic minority scientists, scientists with disabilities, researchers of the global south, and other underrepresented groups).


The topics of the event include (but are not limited to):

  1. Active inference (as well as deep learning and predictive coding)

  2. Active inference for collective intelligence

  3. Collective action for human and social development

Encouraged sub-themes for original presentations are:

  • Active inference and transparency

  • Designing active inference models that promote social justice

  • Ensuring representativity in active inference research

  • Social issues that can be modeled via active inference

  • Neo-materialist and feminist studies of active inference

  • Contributions of post/decolonial perspectives on active inference research

  • Active inference models of epistemic injustice

  • Focusing on bridging gaps and forming a common language through active inference

  • Learning, Teaching and Communicating about Active inference

  • The state of the active inference field as it pertains to diversity

  • Appropriation of the active inference tool for capitalistic purposes

  • The agency of the researcher in ensuring such tools are used for social good

  • Similar themes involving deep learning and predictive coding



Friston, K. (2019). A free energy principle for a particular physics. arXiv preprint arXiv:1906.10184.

Friston, K., Zeidman, P., Fagerholm, E., Zarghami, T., Parr, T., Hipólito, I., Magrou, L. & Razi, A. (2020) Parcels and particles: Markov blankets in the brain. Network Neuroscience

Hipólito, I. Ramstead, M., Convertino, L., Bhat, A. Friston, K. Parr, T. (2021). Markov Blankets in the Brain. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.

Veissière, S. P., Constant, A., Ramstead, M. J., Friston, K. J., & Kirmayer, L. J. (2020).

Guidelines for submission

All submissions must be made through the EasyChair system -


If you don’t have an EasyChair account, click on the "create an account " tab and follow the instructions. When you are connected, click the "New Submission" tab.

Your submission must include:

  • A title

  • An abstract of about 350 words (2500 characters, spaces included)

  • Full name, affiliation and email address of the author and co-authors.

  • A minimum of 3 keywords

  • The theme relevant to your poster/talk/paper and the discipline(s) studied

Deadline - EXTENDED

The submission deadline is now June 28th, 2021. Notifications of acceptance will be sent to authors by July 16th, 2021 with guidelines.

Get your ticket and get the link to our conference

This conference will be broadcasted online. Get your tickets to receive further information in order to participate. 

  • Fri., Oct. 15
    Online event
    Cognitio is a workshop meant to focus on the possibilities that the active inference and cultural affordances frameworks offer, in terms of addressing outstanding social issues, with a specific emphasis on ethical care and social progress. The event is free and will be broadcasted online.
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