I’m wondering if the readers of this blog can help me out with a reference request. I’m currently putting together a paper about the relationship between autopoiesis and dissipative structures, which is partly following on from conversations that took place on the pages of this blog several years ago. The point is that structures like hurricanes have many of the properties of an autopoietic system – they consist of a network of processes that maintain the system as a unity distinct from its environment, albeit with a blurry boundary – and that this has both practical and philosophical implications that we should pay attention to, especially if we’re enactivists who are interested in the origin of life.
My question is whether the issue of hurricanes (and/or related dissipative structures such as fire) has been directly addressed in previous literature. I’ve been having these discussions with people for years, and I don’t think the idea was exactly new when I started, so I’m interested in tracing its history. Is there anything in the work of Maturana and Varela or their contemporaries that directly addresses this issue? Or is there anything substantial that has been written about it more recently? If so it would be very valuable to know about it, so that I can cite it in my paper.
I would be particularly happy to find an explicit argument that hurricanes (or other dissipative structures) should not be considered as falling within the framework of autopoiesis, or the enactive paradigm more broadly.
The latest issue of Artificial Life is a special issue based on selected papers from ECAL 2011. A number of Life and Minders have made contributions.
The latest issue of Constructivist Foundations is dedicated to Computational Approaches to Constructivism. It includes contributions from a few regular Life and Minders.
Hey Life and Minders!
John Stewart and I have been trying to clarify the concept of autopoiesis from the perspective of the paradigm of enaction by rejecting the early cybernetics context as inadequate for biology. Our proposal has generated some debate, including a commentary by Maturana himself. We have now published a response to highlight more clearly where we see the essential differences between enaction and biology of cognition.
My hope is that this kind of work will help to clarify for all of us whether the “enactive” approach is just another label for some kind of second-order cybernetics, radical constructivism, biology of cognition, etc., or whether it has something genuinely new to offer (which, of course, I think it does).
I’ve posted a short summary of this debate with links to all the articles here.