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Autopoietic Theory. Self-organization. or Exploring the science of wholeness that nurtures the human spirit. Introduction Simplistic version of Maturana and Varela’s (M&V) Autopoietic Theory Description of M&V’s Qualitative Chemistry Example

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autopoietic theory
Autopoietic Theory



Exploring the science of wholeness that nurtures the human spirit.

  • Simplistic version of Maturana and Varela’s (M&V) Autopoietic Theory
  • Description of M&V’s Qualitative Chemistry Example
  • McMullin’s Recent Implementation’s of M&V’s Qualitative Chemistry Example
  • Fields that use Autopoietic Theory
  • Autopoietic Theory
    • Cognition can be described as a biological system containing an observer and observed unities within a medium interacting in the closed system defined by the nervous system.
    • This system is self-organizing and self-rebuilding/self-maintaining.
  • Autopoietic Phenomenon
    • The self-organization/self-rebuilding of any dynamic system with a simple interaction rule set and unities limited to local knowledge.
autopoietic theory1
Autopoietic Theory
  • The Biology of Cognition.
  • Chilean biologists Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varela, 1970’s.
  • Randall Whitaker,
  • Randy McMullin,
cyclic paths in life theory
Cyclic Paths in Life Theory
  • Essential circularity in a living system.
    • Unbroken network of connected components with no start or stop.
  • Essential circularity in unity’s internal operation
    • Move out of one environment into another, given certain conditions we survive.
  • Essential circularity in a unity’s interaction with it’s media (environment).
the biology of cognition
The Biology of Cognition
  • Attempt to develop a theory explaining cognition that avoided the existing cyclic paths.
    • Must use cognitive abilities to describe cognitive abilities.
  • First theory in biology that describes living systems by something other than arbitrary characteristics (e.g. metabolism, growth, reproduction).
  • All previous theories ignore the cyclic nature of life and describe it in a linear fashion.
autopoietic theory basics
Autopoietic Theory Basics
  • Auto – Self.
  • Poiesis – Greek for production.
  • Phenomenological view.
    • The Schrodinger’s Cat of the social sciences
      • Physics: Things exist in all possible states until they are observed at which point they exist in one.
      • Philosophy: Nothing exists until it is observed.
autopoietic theory components 1
Autopoietic Theory Components (1)
  • Observer: The biological system that can pick out specific unities to observe and therefore learn about the system.
    • The observer has its own biases so two observers may not observe the same ‘result’ from the same system.
  • Unity: the most elementary object of perceptual / cognitive reference. Simple or composite.
  • The observer may choose the behavioral view and see the composite unity as a simple unity or the recursive view and see the composite unity as its individual parts.
    • True result from behavioral view: The whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
autopoietic theory components 2
Autopoietic Theory Components (2)
  • Domain:
    • All possible states of relation between the unities in the system (domain of interaction).
    • All relations among observed systems and the unities.
  • Structures: The actual simple unity components and relations within a composite unity.
  • Organization: The set of relations defining a composite unity. Specifies a category called an identity.
structure vs organization
Structure vs Organization

Giuseppe Arcimboldo

cyclic paths embraced
Cyclic Paths Embraced
  • "Everything said is said by an observer to another observer that could be him- or herself"
    • “The qualification of all \'knowledge\' with respect to a given observer is both the epistemological foundation and the explanatory focus of autopoietic theory”
      • epistemological: branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge.
  • "All knowing is doing, and all doing is knowing."
    • “The observer\'s \'cognition\' is a process involving the entirety of her interactivity, not just abstract mentation. As such, cognition cannot be segregated from praxis.”
      • mentation: thinking, mental activity.
      • praxis: practical application of a branch of learning, or an established practice.
m v qualitative chemistry
M&V - Qualitative Chemistry
  • Three particles (Substrate-Catalyst-Link):
    • S: substrate particles.
    • K: catalyst particles.
    • L: link particles.
  • Rules of interaction:
    • S + S = L, in the presence of K.
    • L + L = bonded L, in the presence of K, maximum two bonds per L particle (forms a chain).
    • L = S + S, spontaneous decay (rare occurrence).
mcmullin scl cellular system
McMullin: SCL Cellular System
  • Linked “Link” particles are stationary.
  • Substrate can pass through the “Links”.
  • Link particles and the catalyst cannot. bmcm-ecal97.html

mcmullin implementation
McMullin – Implementation
  • SCL program was implemented with SWARM software from Santa Fe Institute.
  • Implementation of M&V’s originally published rule set resulted in consistent failures.
  • Found same failures for two other independent unpublished groups: Zeleny and Lizana.
  • Original M&V papers were not complete in their description of the algorithm/rule set implemented.
scl original rule set
SCL – Original Rule Set bmcm-ecal97.html

mcmullin implementation with new rule
McMullin – Implementation with New Rule
  • M&V original FORTRAN code listing was found, re-keyed and tested.
  • Different results than in current implementations - resulted in analysis of code.
  • Found a rule in the code that was not present in the M&V publications.
    • Can only bind a link particle to another link particle if
      • it is not part of an existing chain, or
      • the free particle is not adjacent to more than one member of the chain. No spiraling.
scl new rule fail
SCL – New Rule - Fail bmcm-ecal97.html

scl new rule succeed
SCL – New Rule - Succeed bmcm-ecal97.html

autopoiesis in the field
Autopoiesis in the Field
  • Immunology, psychology, management science, human-computer interaction, family therapy, sociology, economics, postmodern philosophy, public administration, software engineering, artificial intelligence, sociology, and psychotherapy.
  • Networks: software agents that rebuild after a catastrophic event without central control.
  • Robot/Nanobots: rebuild themselves within a structure as they are needed. Medicine, auto construction units.
autopoiesis for the commoner
Autopoiesis for the Commoner
  • “Autopoiesis is a concept (from biology) that has extraordinary implications . It describes the spontaneous, self-organising, holistic nature of living systems rather than the simplistic mechanisms we often use to manipulate and control. It\'s a cornerstone of the science of wholeness which provides insights into living together more harmoniously and a link between the scientific and the spiritual.”