University of Sussex

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Surfing uncertainty: prediction, action, and the embodied mind

posted on 2023-06-09, 16:49 authored by Andrew ClarkAndrew Clark
This book brings together work on embodiment, action, and the predictive mind. At the core of the treatment is the vision of human minds as prediction machines—devices that constantly try to stay one step ahead of the breaking waves of sensory stimulation, by actively predicting the incoming flow. In every situation we encounter, that complex prediction machinery is already buzzing, proactively trying to anticipate the sensory barrage. Surfing Uncertainty shows, in detail and with numerous examples, how this strange but potent strategy of self-anticipation ushers perception, understanding, and imagination simultaneously onto the cognitive stage. Action itself suddenly appears in a new and revealing light. For action is here not so much a ‘response to an input’ as a neat and efficient way of selecting the next ‘input’. As mobile embodied agents we act so as to harvest some of the streams of sensory information that our brains predict. This delivers fast and frugal problem-solving routines, and binds perception and action in a delicate dance: a virtuous circle in which neural circuits animate, and are animated by, the movements of our own bodies. Some of our actions, in turn, structure the physical, social, and technological worlds around us. This moves the goalposts for the predictive brain, by altering many of the things we need to engage and predict. Surfing Uncertainty thus brings work on the predictive brain into full and satisfying contact with work on the embodied and culturally situated mind.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Other


Oxford University Press



Place of publication

New York



Department affiliated with

  • Informatics Publications

Research groups affiliated with

  • Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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