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.
This paper defines a theoretical framework aiming to support the actions and reflections of researchers looking for a “method” in order to critically conceive the complexity of a scientific process of research. First, it starts with a brief overview of the core assumptions framing Morin’s “paradigm of complexity” and Le Moigne’s “general system theory.” Distinguishing “methodology” and “method,” the framework is conceived based on three moments, which represent recurring stages of the spiraling development of research. The first moment focuses on the definition of the research process and its sub-systems (author, system of ideas, object of study and method) understood as a complex form of organization finalized in a specific environment. The second moment introduces a matrix aiming to model the research process and nine core methodological issues, according to a programmatic and critical approach. Using the matrix previously modeled, the third moment suggests conceiving of the research process following a strategic mindset that focuses on contingencies, in order to locate, share and communicate the path followed throughout the inquiry. Relevance: This paper provides the readers with a constructivist methodology of research inspired by Morin’s paradigm of complexity and Le Moigne’s general system theory.
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.
Living systems are characterized as self-generating and self-maintaining systems. This type of characterization allows integration of a wide variety of detailed knowledge in biology. The paper clarifies general notions such as processes, systems, and interactions. Basic properties of self-generating systems, i.e. systems which produce their own parts and hence themselves, are discussed and exemplified. This makes possible a clear distinction between living beings and ordinary machines. Stronger conditions are summarized under the concept of self-maintenance as an almost unique character of living systems. Finally, we discuss the far-reaching consequences that the principles of self-generation and self-maintenance have for the organization, structure, function, and evolution of singleand multi-cellular organisms.
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 so-called rigor–relevance gap appears unbridgeable in the classical view of organization science, which is based on the physical sciences’ model. Constructivist scholars have also pointed out a certain inadequacy of this model of science for organization research, but they have not offered an explicit, alternative model of science. Responding to this lack, this paper brings together the two separate paradigmatic perspectives of constructivist epistemologies and of organizational design science, and shows how they could jointly constitute the ingredients of a constructivism-founded scientific paradigm for organization research. Further, the paper highlights that, in this constructivist view of organizational design science, knowledge can be generated and used in ways that are mutually enriching for academia and practice
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.
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.
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.