Active Inference

Neuroscientists are more deeply learning how we learn, casting new light on what Jean Piaget theorized.

Piaget philosophy of education, called 'constructivism', surmised that learners gradually build an increasing understanding of the world through the experience of learning. This experience either added to their existing model of how the world worked, which he called their Schema, or caused them to restructure that model to create a new understanding.

This theory aligns with new models of learning that is emerging from neuroscience, a theory called 'active inference', pioneered by Karl Friston that is based on the concept of the Free Energy Principle.

In simple terms, learning begins with an assumption. We assume that the world is organized based on our previous experiences. This assumption allows us to act, because we assume that the consequences of that action will be predictable.

The only problem is, that the world is far more complex that the mental model we will ever have of it. As a result, not all actions result in consequences that we have predicted. When we act, then, we are often surprised.

That experience of surprise is essential for our learning as it forces us to update our understanding of the world, something called a Bayesian Belief Update.

With this new understanding, we venture back out into the world. Only to be surprised again. Only to learn again. A life-long process of learning that allows us to grow. A process that helps us gain new meaning that gives our life a purpose larger than ourselves.