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Aaron
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PostSubject: Autopoiesis   Sat Dec 08, 2007 3:05 pm

Here's another mouth full of a term. It's related to systems and complexity theory. Here's a quick introduction to it.

Quote :
Autopoiesis is based on the way living systems address and engage with the domains in which they operate. This biologically based theory, introduced here, (originated by Maturana and Varela) defines life as the ability to self-produce, rather than as (conventionally) the ability to reproduce. Like complexity theory it is a systems perspective, and is applicable to brains and societies as well as to biology and artificial life. In its original form it was applied to cognition, and replaces an external objective view of this subject with an internal relativistic understanding, in terms of an embedded observer.

Structural Determinism

Only two types of structural change are possible in living organisms, changes of state that preserve identity, or disintegration (death). External perturbations trigger the changes to the organism but do not themselves determine them. The available states of the organism determine which environmental triggers can be recognised and which will disintegrate it, but the available states occur by a process of self-organization. This is the concept of 'structural closure' or 'structural determinism' that forms a main theme in autopoietic thinking. Note that this means that we do not 'map' our environment but just respond to a subset of it - a simplification required by the cybernetic Law of Requisite Variety.

Instructive interactions (traditional imposed learning) are said by Maturana to be incapable of being subjected to scientific procedures. Like moulding clay, they leave no trace of the original structure. Thus the standard neo-Darwinist idea that the environment imposes order on organisms is at best metaphorical. For example, the light entering our eye does not 'cause' the photochemical release that occurs, that mechanism must already exist, light just triggers it. This ties in with the complexity view that selection acts on systems whose structure has already self-organized...

http://www.calresco.org/lucas/auto.htm

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/jair/pub/volume6/agre97a-html/node26.html

http://www.oikos.org/mariotti.htm

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Aaron
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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Wed Jan 02, 2008 6:42 pm

I just wanted to bring up the concept of Structural Determinism again within the paradigm of an autopoietic system. It seems that Structural Determinism offers a third option between "free-will" and pre-determinism.

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Structural Determinism And Structural Coupling

Key concepts in Maturana and Varela's writings are structural determination and structural coupling - they are essential for understanding autopoiesis as a completely different paradigm in the understanding of life and cognition.

According to the principle of structural determinism, the actual course of change in any living entity is controlled by its structure rather than direct influence of its environment. While a given perturbation may 'trigger' a change of system state, the particular change triggered is a function of the system's own organization and structure. Thus the external world becomes a manifestation or projection of the process of autopoiesis.

In other words, "the outside world" isn't completely and directly responsible for our thoughts or actions. Our thoughts and/or actions are a co-creation of the "outside world" and our "internal world" of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. In this way we have neither free-will, nor is our will pre-determined.

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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:12 pm

Aaron wrote:

In other words, "the outside world" isn't completely and directly responsible for our thoughts or actions. Our thoughts and/or actions are a co-creation of the "outside world" and our "internal world" of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. In this way we have neither free-will, nor is our will pre-determined.
This is a different way of looking at the Freewill question that we have been discussing on another thread. Most physical "systems" in the universe respond mechanically (garbage-in, garbage-out) to perturbations in the outside world. But humans have developed a metaphysical (mental) "structure" that reacts unpredictably to outside forces. Instead of a simple input-output relationship, the human mind possesses a system of input-reflection-output pathways.

In other words, we don't just swallow our food-for-thought whole, we chew on it first, and maybe combine unrelated foods. Our unique, but limited, creative ability is the ticket to the free exercise of the individual will. Sadly our freewill expressions must negotiate the dialectical jungle of everybody else's metaphysical expressions, and then re-join the cosmic physical flow of Fate. That's why I call it a drop of freedom within the ocean of determinism.

BTW I read The Tree of Knowledge by Maturana and Varela. I was interested in the philosophical implications of the Autopoesis concept. But at the end of the book "I still didn't find what I was looking for", to paraphrase Bono.
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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Thu Jan 03, 2008 10:18 am

Yes, it's an interesting idea that the created world of man (i.e. houses, roads, buildings, cities, clothing, computers, etc...) is nothing but an extension of the phenomenal mind of man and these phenomenal structures play as much of a role in the processing of knowledge and our actions as our mental phenomenal structures do.

I think that the analogy of brain to computer hardware and mind to the software doesn't hold up when looked at considering Autopoiesis because computers and software aren't alive or self-producing. They are simply machines and all of their actions and processes are pre-determined. There isn't any room for novelty or self reflection in machines.

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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Sun Jan 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Aaron wrote:

I think that the analogy of brain to computer hardware and mind to the software doesn't hold up when looked at considering Autopoiesis because computers and software aren't alive or self-producing. They are simply machines and all of their actions and processes are pre-determined. There isn't any room for novelty or self reflection in machines.
Although I agree with your first statement, I'd like to pick a few nits on the second.

Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life researchers are aware of the mechanical limitations of computers. That's why they are beginning to program non-mechanical fuzzy-logic procedures into the software. Various labs have added self-reflective feedback-loops, and Lamarkian evolution processes to their simplistic if-then, cause-effect routines. They are taking advantage of random variation and selection filters to reproduce current entities with novel, emergent properties. By mimicking the creative procedures of Nature, they hope to eventually evolve "living" and "sentient" software and hardware creatures.

Such towering human hubris caused the bible-god to throw a monkey-wrench into the works of ancient Babel-builders. Will the distant deity of Deism likewise interfere with the arrogant schemes of 21st century Frankensteins? (" . . . and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.") Suspect

Obviously AL and AI are not "there" yet. But their artificial creations seem to be making incremental progress at the organization and complexification of information (just as natural evolution did over eons). In any case, I find the hardware/software analogies useful in my own philosophical research into the whys and wherefores of the Cosmos.


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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Mon Jan 07, 2008 12:41 pm

I don't really know enough about the most recent advances in A.I. to have a meaningful discussion on the subject but it looks like what they are creating is virtual intelligence out of virtual energy/information. The question is, what is (if there is any) the value to this type of virtual intelligence and is it something that we should even be tinkering around with?

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PostSubject: Re: Autopoiesis   Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:20 pm

Aaron wrote:
I don't really know enough about the most recent advances in A.I. to have a meaningful discussion on the subject but it looks like what they are creating is virtual intelligence out of virtual energy/information. The question is, what is (if there is any) the value to this type of virtual intelligence and is it something that we should even be tinkering around with?
That is the same question skeptics ask about the space program: In view of the obvious and potential dangers, what's the pragmatic payoff for trying to go to Mars? And the initial, but non-pragmatic, answer is usually the same: "because that's what we human animals do: explore the frontiers of possibility---we can't help it, it's our nature".

On a more practical level, the space travel quest gave us TANG and satellite TV; and AI research gave us industrial robotics, among many other technological benefits. Yet some humans are not driven by specific mundane concerns, they are motivated by the general philosophical urge to know and understand. Perhaps the more we learn about virtual intelligence, the more we will understand actual street smarts.

I don't know if humans will ever create a non-human, living, conscious, intelligent being. But unless G*D stops us, I don't see any physical or metaphysical barrier to progress in that direction. (" . . . and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.")
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