Castoriadis’s encounter with autopoiesis was a decisive factor for his philosophical trajectory. Its influence can be seen on four interconnected levels of his thought: his reconsideration of Greek sources for his later interpretation of trans-regional being as self-creating; his rethinking of objective knowledge; his ventures into philosophical cosmology; and his re-evaluation of the living being, especially in light of his dialogue with Varela. In brief, Castoriadis’s engagement with autopoiesis was significant for his shift towards an ontology of radical physis. His shift to radical physis does not point so much to a rejection of the project of autonomy, however, as, paradoxically, its simultaneous radicalization and relativization.
In this paper two swarm intelligence algorithms are used, the first leading the “attention” of the swarm and the latter responsible for the tracing mechanism. The attention mechanism is coordinated by agents of Stochastic Diffusion Search where they selectively attend to areas of a digital canvas (with line drawings) which contains (sharper) corners. Once the swarm’s attention is drawn to the line of interest with a sharp corner, the corresponding line segment is fed into the tracing algorithm, Dispersive Flies Optimisation which “consumes” the input in order to generate a “swarmic sketch” of the input line. The sketching process is the result of the “flies” leaving traces of their movements on the digital canvas which are then revisited repeatedly in an attempt to re-sketch the traces they left. This cyclic process is then introduced in the context of autopoiesis, where the philosophical aspects of the autopoietic artist are discussed. The autopoetic artist is described in two modalities: gluttonous and contented. In the Gluttonous Autopoietic Artist mode, by iteratively focussing on areas-of-rich-complexity, as the decoding process of the input sketch unfolds, it leads to a less complex structure which ultimately results in an empty canvas; therein reifying the artwork’s “death”. In the Contented Autopoietic Artist mode, by refocussing the autopoietic artist’s reflections on “meaning” onto different constitutive elements, and modifying her reconstitution, different behaviours of autopoietic creativity can be induced and therefore, the autopoietic processes become less likely to fade away and more open-ended in their creative endeavour.
Context: Society is faced with “wicked” problems of environmental sustainability, which are inherently multiperspectival, and there is a need for explicitly constructivist and perspectivist theories to address them. Problem: However, different constructivist theories construe the environment in different ways. The aim of this paper is to clarify the conceptions of environment in constructivist approaches, and thereby to assist the sciences of complex systems and complex environmental problems. Method: We describe the terms used for “the environment” in von Uexküll, Maturana & Varela, and Luhmann, and analyse how their conceptions of environment are connected to differences of perspective and observation. Results: We show the need to distinguish between inside and outside perspectives on the environment, and identify two very different and complementary logics of observation, the logic of distinction and the logic of representation, in the three constructivist theories. Implications: Luhmann’s theory of social systems can be a helpful perspective on the wicked environmental problems of society if we consider carefully the theory’s own blind spots: that it confines itself to systems of communication, and that it is based fully on the conception of observation as indication by means of distinction.
Open peer commentary on the article “Social Autopoiesis?” by Hugo Urrestarazu. Upshot: We agree on the need to explore a concept of social autopoiesis that goes beyond a strictly human-centered concept of social systems as autopoietic communicative systems. But both Hugo Urrestarazu and Niklas Luhmann neglect the importance of semiosis in understanding communication, and this has important implications for the question of a more general approach to social systems.
Consideration is given to the relevance of recent discussions of auto¬poiesis to the study of self-organizing systems. Mechanisms that could underly the physical realization of an autopoietic system are discussed. It is concluded that autopoiesis does not, by itself, provide the essential ingredient whose omission has prevented SOS studies from being more productive. Two other important missing ingredients are discussed.
In this paper we argue for the possibilities of applying the concept of autopoiesis to the information systems of modern organizations. Modern organizations in today’s rapidly changing, turbulent and complex environment are virtual, open, heterarchic and autopoietic. The main question we try to address in this paper is how to support these organizations with an adequate information system. We show that it is possible to develop autopoietic information systems that should be able to respond to the challenges of modern organizations.
The concept of “autonomy,” once at the core of the original enactivist proposal in The Embodied Mind (Varela et al. in The embodied mind: cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1991), is nowadays ignored or neglected by some of the most prominent contemporary enactivists approaches. Theories of autonomy, however, come to fill a theoretical gap that sensorimotor accounts of cognition cannot ignore: they provide a naturalized account of normativity and the resources to ground the identity of a cognitive subject in its specific mode of organization. There are, however, good reasons for the contemporary neglect of autonomy as a relevant concept for enactivism. On the one hand, the concept of autonomy has too often been assimilated into autopoiesis (or basic autonomy in the molecular or biological realm) and the implications are not always clear for a dynamical sensorimotor approach to cognitive science. On the other hand, the foundational enactivist proposal displays a metaphysical tension between the concept of operational closure (autonomy), deployed as constitutive, and that of structural coupling (sensorimotor dynamics); making it hard to reconcile with the claim that experience is sensorimotorly constituted. This tension is particularly apparent when Varela et al. propose Bittorio (a 1D cellular automata) as a model of the operational closure of the nervous system as it fails to satisfy the required conditions for a sensorimotor constitution of experience. It is, however, possible to solve these problems by re-considering autonomy at the level of sensorimotor neurodynamics. Two recent robotic simulation models are used for this task, illustrating the notion of strong sensorimotor dependency of neurodynamic patterns, and their networked intertwinement. The concept of habit is proposed as an enactivist building block for cognitive theorizing, re-conceptualizing mental life as a habit ecology, tied within an agent’s behaviour generating mechanism in coordination with its environment. Norms can be naturalized in terms of dynamic, interactively self-sustaining, coherentism. This conception of autonomous sensorimotor agency is put in contrast with those enactive approaches that reject autonomy or neglect the theoretical resources it has to offer for the project of naturalizing minds.
Connections among Varela’s theory of enactive cognition, his evolutionary theory of natural drift, and his concept of autopoiesis are made clear. Two questions are posed in relation to Varela’s conception of perception, and the tension that exists in his thought between the formal level of organization and the Jonasian notion of the organism.
This paper describes a transdisciplinary theoretical-practical research, which address on the discussion about the possible applications of Multi-agent Systems, underlying the Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic concept considering the achievement of emergent results as heuristics to creativity. Autopoiesis (from the Greek “auto” which means “itself” and “poiesis” which means “creation”) describes the autonomous systems, able to self-reproduce and self-regulate, while iterating with the environment. In order to explore those concepts, we present Zer0, a game that invites the player to drift in a universe ruled by geometric shapes. Through interactions with other shapes, the player is able to evolve from a single line shape to more complex ones. Zer0 is a multi-agent system able to compose emergent music in real time. As interactions occur, chain reactions create the game soundtrack. There are two main agents involved: the player and the other shapes. While the player enjoys the ride, the other shapes are trying to interact with each other in order to expand their lifespan. The communication between agents is made through generated pulses, which are emitted by them and also serves as sonar, in order to perceive the environment.
Social Systems Theory has a long and distinguished history. It has progressed from a mechanical model of social processes, to a biological model, to a process model, to models that encompass chaos, complexity, evolution and autopoiesis. Social systems design methodology is ready for the twenty-first century. From General Systems Theory’s early days of glory and hubris, through its days of decline and disparagement, through its diaspora into different disciplines, systems theory is today living up to its early expectations.