The concept of autonomy is of crucial importance for understanding life and cognition. Whereas cellular and organismic autonomy is based in the self-production of the material infrastructure sustaining the existence of living beings as such, we are interested in how biological autonomy can be expanded into forms of autonomous agency, where autonomy as a form of organization is extended into the behaviour of an agent in interaction with its environment (and not its material self-production) In this thesis, we focus on the development of operational models of sensorimotor agency, exploring the construction of a domain of interactions creating a dynamical interface between agent and environment. We present two main contributions to the study of autonomous agency: First, we contribute to the development of a modelling route for testing, comparing and validating hypotheses about neurocognitive autonomy. Through the design and analysis of specific neurodynamical models embedded in robotic agents, we explore how an agent is constituted in a sensorimotor space as an autonomous entity able to adaptively sustain its own organization. Using two simulation models and different dynamical analysis and measurement of complex patterns in their behaviour, we are able to tackle some theoretical obstacles preventing the understanding of sensorimotor autonomy, and to generate new predictions about the nature of autonomous agency in the neurocognitive domain. Second, we explore the extension of sensorimotor forms of autonomy into the social realm. We analyse two cases from an experimental perspective: the constitution of a collective subject in a sensorimotor social interactive task, and the emergence of an autonomous social identity in a large-scale technologically-mediated social system. Through the analysis of coordination mechanisms and emergent complex patterns, we are able to gather experimental evidence indicating that in some cases social autonomy might emerge based on mechanisms of coordinated sensorimotor activity and interaction, constituting forms of collective autonomous agency.
This paper is inspired by Edgar Morin’s paradigm of complexity and his constructivist and non-dualistic critique of scientific and philosophical forms of reductionism. It aims to challenge the fragmentation and the reduction framing the understanding of the notion of “critique” in educational sciences, and more broadly in the academia. Based on a review of the literature identified in French-speaking and English-speaking critical traditions in education, several factors determining the way the idea of critique is reduced are highlighted. Stressing the tacit character of those variables challenges the limits of traditional conceptions of critique in contemporary education. According to the constructivist, complex and non-dualistic position adopted, this paper illustrates the relevance of an epistemological framework integrating more systematically the conditions of emergence, the limitations, as well as the antagonistic, complementary and contradictory relationships, that connect educational theories of critique to one another. Based on this position, this paper finally suggests that a distinction be made between “hypocritique” and “hypercritique” as a semantic artifact, stressing the importance of challenging educational research and theories according to the level of complexity that one may attribute to them.
Natural systems cannot be closed to the environment. At the same time there is a necessity for closure in order to build the system. It is this quintessential tension between openness and closure that drives systems to unfold into further stages or levels of growth and development. In other words, the emergence of organization in natural systems is a result of cycles of openness and closure. There are two distinct and complementary ways by which a system will carry over closure while involved in a process of expansion across the environment. These two ways need to be expressed in any formal representation: (1) within a level this will be by means of transitive closure, which is additive; and (2) between levels (i.e., from one level to the next higher level) this requires algebraic closure, which is multiplicative. The former expresses space closure, whereas the latter expresses topological or time closure. The conjunction of these two closures generates a hierarchy of levels. Prior to, and outside of, the system lies semantic closure.
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.
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.
The emergence of general system theory is symptomatic of a new movement that has been developing in science during the past decade: Science is at last giving serious attention to systems that are intrinsically complex. This statement may seem somewhat surprising. Are not chemical molecules complex? Is not the living organism complex? And has not science studied them from its earliest days? Let me explain what I mean.
A series of articles has recently appeared in which implications of second-order cybernetics for the practice of family therapy have been discussed. In this article, we attempt to advance the discussion by addressing ideas that we think have not been adequately emphasized thus far. Specifically proposed are ideas about conditions that might facilitate the emergence of consciously pragmatic strategy informed by the kind of systemic wisdom that delicately balances natural systems without the benefit of human planning. It is argued that a shift in the personal habits of knowing and acting that typically organize individual human experience is required. After attempting to specify what this shift might involve, implications of these ideas for the practice of family therapy and for human action in general are discussed.
Context: The integration of data measured in first- and third-person frameworks is a challenge that becomes more prominent as we attempt to refine the ties between the dimensions we assume to be objective and our experience itself. As a result, cognitive science has been a target for criticism from the epistemological and methodological point of view, which has resulted in the emergence of new approaches. Neurophenomenology has been proposed as a means to address these limitations. The methodological application of this discipline, even in its mildest form, enriches the methodology typically used in cognitive sciences. Problem: Nowadays psychological studies are difficult to replicate. As a way to achieve replication of results published in a previous study in order to develop a methodological adaptation suitable for electroencephalographic (EEG) measurements in a subsequent experiment, first-person accounts from the participants in our pilot study were included in the experiment construction. This study’s objective is to show the benefit of including a mild-neurophenomenology-inspired approach in the adaptation from an original paradigm, which requires, foremost, the ability to replicate the original results. Method: Interviews with open and semi-structured questions were carried out at the end of an Approach-Avoidance Task (AAT. The first-person reports, together with the behavioral outcomes of each pilot, were taken into account for the development of the next piloting phase until replication of the original results was achieved, and the final experimental design was elaborated. Results: A sequence of four pilots, where the integration of third- and first-person information derived from subjects’ behavior and reported experiences while carrying them out rendered the behavioral replication we sought to achieve, providing support for a first-person enriched cognitive science paradigm. Implications: Including first-person accounts systematically during the development and performance of classic cognitive paradigms ensures that those paradigms are measuring what they claim to measure. This is the next logical step to improve replication rates, to refine the explanation of the results and avoid confounding third-person data interpretation. Constructivist content: Including first-person experiences and acknowledging the active role that participants’ experiences regarding the paradigm had in the modeling of its final version is in concordance with a constructivist standing.
In this article, we propose some fundamental requirements for the appearance of adaptivity. We argue that a basic metabolic organization, taken in its minimal sense, may provide the conceptual framework for naturalizing the origin of teleology and normative functionality as it appears in living systems. However, adaptivity also requires the emergence of a regulatory subsystem, which implies a certain form of dynamic decoupling within a globally integrated, autonomous system. Thus, we analyze several forms of minimal adaptivity, including the special case of motility. We go on to explain how an open-ended complexity growth of motility-based adaptive agency, namely, behavior, requires the appearance of the nervous system. Finally, we discuss some implications of these ideas for embodied robotics.
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.