Spin glass systems as collective active inference

Conor Heins, Brennan Klein, Daphne Demekas, Miguel Aguilera, Christopher Buckley
Springer Link
WAI 2022:Active Inference pp 75–98
March 22, 2023


An open question in the study of emergent behaviour in multi-agent Bayesian systems is the relationship, if any, between individual and collective inference. In this paper we explore the correspondence between generative models that exist at two distinct scales, using spin glass models as a sandbox system to investigate this question. We show that the collective dynamics of a specific type of active inference agent is equivalent to sampling from the stationary distribution of a spin glass system. A collective of specifically-designed active inference agents can thus be described as implementing a form of sampling-based inference (namely, from a Boltzmann machine) at the higher level. However, this equivalence is very fragile, breaking upon simple modifications to the generative models of the individual agents or the nature of their interactions. We discuss the implications of this correspondence and its fragility for the study of multiscale systems composed of Bayesian agents.

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