Francis Heylighen – Tale of Challenge, Adventure and Mystery: towards an agent-based unification of narrative and scientific models of behavior

Heylighen, F. (2012). A Tale of Challenge, Adventure and Mystery: towards an agent-based unification of narrative and scientific models of behavior (ECCO Working Papers No. 2012-06). Brussels, Belgium. Retrieved from http://pcp.vub.ac.be/papers/TaleofAdventure.pdf

Abstract: The scientific worldview is based on laws, which are supposed to be certain, objective, and independent of time and context. The narrative worldview found in literature, myth and religion, is based on stories, which relate the events experienced by a subject in a particular context with an uncertain outcome. This paper argues that the concept of “agent”, supported by the theories of evolution, cybernetics and complex adaptive systems, allows us to reconcile scientific and narrative perspectives. An agent follows a course of action through its environment with the aim of maximizing its fitness. Navigation along that course combines the strategies of regulation, exploitation and exploration, but needs to cope with often-unforeseen challenges. These can be positive (affordances, goals), negative (disturbances, anti- goals) or neutral (diversions). The resulting sequence of challenges and actions can be conceptualized as an adventure. Thus, the agent appears to play the role of the hero in a tale of challenge and mystery that is very similar to the “monomyth”, the basic storyline that underlies all myths and fairy tales according to Joseph Campbell [1949]. This narrative dynamics is driven forward in particular by the alternation between prospect (the ability to foresee challenges) and mystery (the possibility of achieving an as yet absent prospect), two aspects of the environment that are particularly attractive to agents. This dynamics generalizes the scientific notion of a deterministic trajectory by introducing a variable “horizon of knowability”: the agent is never fully certain of its further course, but can navigate depending on its degree of prospect.

 

Paper: http://pcp.vub.ac.be/Papers/TaleofAdventure.pdf