From autopoiesis to self-optimization: Toward an enactive model of biological regulation

Complexity Digest

Tom Froese, Natalya Weber, Ivan Shpurov, Takashi Ikegami

The theory of autopoiesis has been influential in many areas of theoretical biology, especially in the fields of artificial life and origins of life. However, it has not managed to productively connect with mainstream biology, partly for theoretical reasons, but arguably mainly because deriving specific working hypotheses has been challenging. The theory has recently undergone significant conceptual development in the enactive approach to life and mind. Hidden complexity in the original conception of autopoiesis has been explicated in the service of other operationalizable concepts related to self-individuation: precariousness, adaptivity, and agency. Here we advance these developments by highlighting the interplay of these concepts with considerations from thermodynamics: reversibility, irreversibility, and path-dependence. We interpret this interplay in terms of the self-optimization model, and present modeling results that illustrate how these minimal conditions enable a system to re-organize itself such that it tends toward…

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