On Bayesian Mechanics: A Physics of and by Beliefs

Maxwell J D Ramstead, Dalton A R Sakthivadivel, Conor Heins, Magnus Koudahl, Beren Millidge, Lancelot Da Costa, Brennan Klein, Karl J Friston
The Royal Society
May 23, 2022


The aim of this paper is to introduce a field of study that has emerged over the last decade, called Bayesian mechanics. Bayesian mechanics is a probabilistic mechanics, comprising tools that enable us to model systems endowed with a particular partition (i.e., into particles), where the internal states (or the trajectories of internal states) of a particular system encode the parameters of beliefs about quantities that characterise the system. These tools allow us to write down mechanical theories for systems that look as if they are estimating posterior probability distributions over the causes of their sensory states, providing a formal language to model the constraints, forces, fields, and potentials that determine how the internal states of such systems move in a space of beliefs (i.e., on a statistical manifold). Here we will review the state of the art in the literature on the free energy principle, distinguishing between three ways in which Bayesian mechanics has been applied to particular systems (i.e., path-tracking, mode-tracking, and mode-matching). We will go on to examine the duality of the free energy principle and the constrained maximum entropy principle, both of which lie at the heart of Bayesian mechanics. We also discuss the implications of this duality for Bayesian mechanics and limitations of current treatments.

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