For millennia people have wondered what makes the living different from the non-living. Beginning in the mid-1980s, artificial life has studied living systems using a synthetic approach: build life in order to understand it better, be it by means of software, hardware, or wetware. This review provides a summary of the advances that led to the development of artificial life, its current research topics, and open problems and opportunities. We classify artificial life research into 14 themes: origins of life, autonomy, self-organization, adaptation (including evolution, development, and learning), ecology, artificial societies, behavior, computational biology, artificial chemistries, information, living technology, art, and philosophy. Being interdisciplinary, artificial life seems to be losing its boundaries and merging with other fields. Relevance: Artificial life has contributed to philosophy of biology and of cognitive science, thus making it an important field related to constructivism.
Allen M. & Friston K. (2018) From cognitivism to autopoiesis: Towards a computational framework for the embodied mind. Synthese 195(6): 2459–2482. https://cepa.info/4099
Predictive processing (PP) approaches to the mind are increasingly popular in the cognitive sciences. This surge of interest is accompanied by a proliferation of philosophical arguments, which seek to either extend or oppose various aspects of the emerging framework. In particular, the question of how to position predictive processing with respect to enactive and embodied cognition has become a topic of intense debate. While these arguments are certainly of valuable scientific and philosophical merit, they risk underestimating the variety of approaches gathered under the predictive label. Here, we first present a basic review of neuroscientific, cognitive, and philosophical approaches to PP, to illustrate how these range from solidly cognitivist applications – with a firm commitment to modular, internalistic mental representation – to more moderate views emphasizing the importance of ‘body-representations’, and finally to those which fit comfortably with radically enactive, embodied, and dynamic theories of mind. Any nascent predictive processing theory (e.g., of attention or consciousness) must take into account this continuum of views, and associated theoretical commitments. As a final point, we illustrate how the Free Energy Principle (FEP) attempts to dissolve tension between internalist and externalist accounts of cognition, by providing a formal synthetic account of how internal ‘representations’ arise from autopoietic self-organization. The FEP thus furnishes empirically productive process theories (e.g., predictive processing) by which to guide discovery through the formal modelling of the embodied mind.
This paper attempts to establish a systems-semiotic framework explaining creativity in the design process, where the design process is considered to have as its basis the cognitive process. The design process is considered as the interaction between two or more cognitive systems resulting in a purposeful and ongoing transformation of their already complex representational structures and the production of newer ones, in order to ful?ll an ill-defined goal. Creativity is considered as the result of an emergence of organizational complexity in each cognitive system participating in the design process, while it is trying to purposefully incorporate new constraints in its meaning structures. The meanings generated in each system are identi?ed as the contingent and anticipatory content of its representations, and where self-organization is the dominant process in which they are continuously involved. Furthermore, Peircean semiotic processes appear to provide the functionality needed by the emergent representational structures in order to complete the cycle of a creative design process. Creativity originates in the abductive stage of the semiotic process, the fallible nature of which is maintained in the proposed framework by the fact that the respective emergent representations can be mis?ts. The nodal points of the framework are identified and analyzed showing that a cognitive system needs the whole interactive anticipatory cycle in order to engage in a creative design process.
Arnellos A. & Spyrou T. (2008) Emergence and Downward Causation in Contemporary Artificial Agents: Implications for their Autonomy and Some Design Guidelines. Cybernetics & Human Knowing 15(3–4): 15–41. https://cepa.info/3298
Contemporary research in artificial environments has marked the need for autonomy in artificial agents. Autonomy has many interpretations in terms of the field within which it is being used and analyzed, but the majority of the researchers in artificial environments are arguing in favor of a strong and life-like notion of autonomy. Departing from this point the main aim of this paper is to examine the possibility of the emergence of autonomy in contemporary artificial agents. The theoretical findings of research in the areas of living and cognitive systems, suggests that the study of autonomous agents should adopt a systemic and emergent perspective for the analysis of the evolutionary development of the notions/properties of autonomy, functionality, intentionality and meaning, as the fundamental and characteristic properties of a natural agent. An analytic indication of the functional emergence of these concepts and properties is provided, based on the characteristics of the more general systemic framework of second-order cybernetic and of the interactivist framework. The notion of emergence is a key concept in such an analysis which in turn provides the ground for the theoretical evaluation of the autonomy of contemporary artificial agents with respect to the functional emergence of their capacities. The fundamental problems for the emergence of genuine autonomy in artificial agents are critically discussed and some design guidelines are provided.
Compared with traditional theories, systems theory presents a deviation. It replaces causal explanation by functional explanation. This paper shows what scandalon is inherent in this substitution and elucidates some models (self-organization, dance, non-triviality, structural coupling) which put the explanatory principle to work. The paper concludes by showing how systems theory aims at a general concept of communication that not only means a passing on of knowledge but above all the tracing of ignorance. Overall, systems theory is presented as a joker dealing with the paradox that the system is never identical to itself as soon as it is considered as a function of itself and its environment. The system has to withdraw into the function it is a function of in order to enfold this paradox.
Ben-Eli M. U. & Probst G. J. B. (1986) The way you look determines what you see or self-organization in management and society. In: Trappl R. (ed.) Cybernetics and Systems ’86. Reidel, Dordrecht: 277–284. https://cepa.info/6243
The concept of self-organization is reviewed and its implications are explored in relation to management processes and social systems. A world view is taken, emphasizing a descriptive distinction of levels associated with the physical, biological, social, and mental. Self-organization principles, it is argued, are operative in all levels of such a stratified scheme, but they are manifest in different mechanisms and different embodiments. \\Management, planning, design, and other “intervention” type of activities are among the processes through which self-organization is manifest in the social domain. Ultimately they have to do with maintaining, enriching, and amplifying the potential variety of the systems concerned. The operationally critical question involved, it is suggested, is not whether management activities are “man-made” or “natural,” spontaneous” or “planned,” but rather, whether they enhance or supress the potential variety of a system under consideration.
Bich L. (2012) Complex emergence and the living organization: an epistemological framework for biology. Synthese 185(2): 215–232. https://cepa.info/491
In this article a constructivist framework is proposed in order to integrate emergentist thought with systemic studies on biological autonomy – specifically: the autopoietic theory - which are focused on the role of organization. A particular attention is paid to the role of the observer’s activity, especially to the different operations he performs in order to identify the pertinent elements at each descriptive level and to the relationships between the different models he builds from them. An epistemological notion of emergence as non-derivability – that of “complex emergence” – is introduced, that allows a) a distinction between autonomy and self-organization, and b) a reinterpretation of downward causation not as a direct or indirect influence of the whole on its parts, but instead as an epistemological problem of interaction between descriptive domains.
Bich L. & Damiano L. (2007) Question 9: Theoretical and artificial construction of the living: Redefining the approach from an autopoietic point of view. Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 37(4–5): 459–464. https://cepa.info/4560
In this article, we would like to discuss some aspects of a theoretical framework for Artificial Life, focusing on the problem of an explicit definition of living systems useful for an effective artificial construction of them. The limits of a descriptive approach will be critically discussed, and a constructive (synthetic) approach will be proposed on the basis of the autopoietic theory of Maturana and Varela.
After its infant stage, a new science usually starts reflexing on its identity and theoretical roots. Sustainability science is not an exception, and the needs of self-reflection are even more pressing because of its inter- and trans-disciplinary characters, which involve a plenty of different approaches, theories and practices. In fact, such a variety does not provide a consistent ground for its future development. Without a solid grounding on a reliable base, the plethora of different theories that currently crowds its arena could in the near future produce a rejection from disciplinary specialized researchers, thus confining sustainability science to a scientific fad. Convincing theoretical roots can be found in systems science and cybernetics, and in particular second-order cybernetics, once amended from autopoiesis theory and radical constructivism, which raise serious doubts of validity and applicability. If sustainability science acknowledged its systemic and cybernetic nature and adopted second-order cybernetics in its amended version, it would gain a powerful reference paradigm and a theoretical common denominator and language to support its researchers and facilitate their knowledge exchange. From their part, systems science and cybernetics would be better understood and embraced as powerful sources of knowledge for understanding modern challenging problems, and second-order cybernetics, after decades of scarce relevance for other scientific disciplines, would be revitalized and would finally evolve adequately in a promising science and social practice.
Life is defined by Maturana and Varela as a type of self-organization: autopoiesis in the physical space. This resembles the concept of metabolism, which itself is typically included in definitions of life. Three senses of metabolism are distinguished. If life depends on either autopoiesis or metabolism (in the third sense), then strong A-Life is impossible. The theory of autopoiesis challenges concepts familiar in biology and cognitive science. While its use of informational language is too restrictive, its use of cognitive language is too liberal: life does not imply cognition.