Living beings do an extraordinary thing. As long as they are alive, they resist the second law of thermodynamics. This law stipulates that open systems - just like fellow living beings - tend to dissipate. From minimal cognitive organisms like plants to more complex organisms equipped with nervous systems, all living systems adjust and adapt, thereby resisting the second law (Friston, 2013).
While all animals cognitively enact and survive their local environments, more complex systems do so also by actively constructing their local environments. Chimpanzees use sticks to collect and eat ants, dolphins use sponges to gather food on the ocean floor, and some birds use pieces of wood as tools and even alter their shape. In human history, in particular, tools have been major components of adaptation, from stones and sticks to spaceships.
While the second law determines that open systems should tend to dissipation, the the free energy principle explains why living beings resist it. While living beings engage and adjust to their environments, they also enact it by building complex sociocultural niches with more suitable conditions to their idiosyncratic individual and collective condition.
I investigate cognition as unfolding, dynamic interactions and niche constructions underlying adjustment and adaptation by employing a complementary framework of Complexity Theory, Enactive and Embodied Cognition and the Free Energy Principle (CEC&FEP). Complexity highlights the systems perspective that shall not be lost when thinking about any scale of life, the free energy principle explains why living beings are alive, and enactivism how their maintenance of life in a sociocultural setting, in the end, co-directs evolution.
CEC&FEP has significant explanatory power in the investigation of the how cognitive systems become cognitive in a sociocultural setting (ever more technology permeated environments), the various possible ways in which cognitive beings can engage and interact with the world - i.e. how embodied forms of cognition permeate supposed higher forms such as logics, mathematics, reasoning and model-based reasoning - and how these various forms of interaction affect positively and negatively global and local mental health and well-being.