On emergence, agency, and organization Kaufman & Clayton, 2006 – and more links on work-constraint cycles

On emergence, agency, and organization

Biology and Philosophy volume 21, pages501–521(2006)


Ultimately we will only understand biological agency when we have developed a theory of the organization of biological processes, and science is still a long way from attaining that goal. It may be possible nonetheless to develop a list of necessary conditions for the emergence of minimal biological agency. The authors offer a model of molecular autonomous agents which meets the five minimal physical conditions that are necessary (and, we believe, conjointly sufficient) for applying agential language in biology: autocatalytic reproduction; work cycles; boundaries for reproducing individuals; self-propagating work and constraint construction; and choice and action that have evolved to respond to food or poison. When combined with the arguments from preadaptation and multiple realizability, the existence of these agents is sufficient to establish ontological emergence as against what one might call Weinbergian reductionism. Minimal biological agents are emphatically not conscious agents, and accepting their existence does not commit one to any robust theory of human agency. Nor is there anything mystical, dualistic, or non-empirical about the emergence of agency in the biosphere. Hence the emergence of molecular autonomous agents, and indeed ontological emergence in general, is not a negation of or limitation on careful biological study but simply one of its implications.

source: https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/s10539-005-9003-9

Electric-Monking this as I have a clue this is a nice link between the sort of Christopher Alexander, service systems science, and design based on time horizons (David Ing may remind me of some proper references, it is very late here), and Elliot Jacques’ definition of ‘work’. (Not to mention there are some pretty obvious links to cybernetics, sensemaking, Varela and Maturana etc).

Originally triggered by this tweet from Ryan Singer of Basecamp

…and a link to a good video of his with web design examples (registration required for video)

Constraint – Jon Umerez, Matteo Mossio. Constraint. W. Dubitzky, O. Wolkenhauer, K.-H. Cho, H. Yokota.
Encyclopedia of Systems Biology, Springer, pp.490-493, 2013, 978-1-4419-9863-7. 10.1007/978-1-
4419-9863-7. halshs-00792440

Kauffman’s work-constraint cycles. – Google Search


MARCH 29, 2017, CERN