Rosen-related papers in Feb-2008 Biosystems

The latest issue (Feb ’08, 91(2)) of the journal Biosystems contains at least a couple of articles relevant to Rosennean Complexity. The theme of the issue is “Modelling Autonomy”.

Two abstracts in particular caught my eye:

Autonomy and hypersets

Anthony Chemero and Michael T. Turvey

This paper has two primary aims. The first is to provide an introductory discussion of hyperset theory and its usefulness for modeling complex systems. The second aim is to provide a hyperset analysis of several perspectives on autonomy: Robert Rosen’s metabolism-repair systems and his claim that living things are closed to efficient cause, Maturana and Varela’s autopoietic systems, and Kauffman’s cataytically closed systems. Consequences of the hyperset models for Rosen’s claim that autonomous systems have non-computable models are discussed.


Simulating autonomous anticipation: The importance of Dubois’ conjecture

John Collier

Anticipation allows a system to adapt to conditions that have not yet come to be, either externally to the system or internally. Autonomous systems actively control their own conditions so as to increase their functionality (they self-regulate). Living systems self-regulate in order to increase their own viability. These increasingly stronger conditions, anticipation, autonomy and viability, can give an insight into progressively stronger classes of models of autonomy. I will argue that stronger forms are the relevant ones for Artificial Life. This has consequences for the design of and accurate simulation of living systems.


I have not yet had a chance to read any of the articles.

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3 Responses to Rosen-related papers in Feb-2008 Biosystems

  1. I suspect the Chemero-Turvey article will be a re-run of their paper entitled “Complexity and ‘Closure to Efficient Cause'” in Proceedings of AlifeX: Workshop on Artificial Autonomy, K. Ruiz-Mirazo and R. Barandiaran (eds.), 2006. That paper had one or two worthwhile things to say, but mixed them in with some illustrations of the almost unbelievable extent of their lack of understanding of catalysis. They claimed to be agreeing with Stuart Kauffman’s statement that “Catalytic ‘closure’ must be achieved and maintained,” but they turned his definition on its head; where he said that catalytic closure required every catalyst to be a product of metabolism, they said that it required every product of metabolism to be a catalyst. Kauffman’s idea is reasonable (and quite consistent withy Rosen’s views), but the inverse is an absurdity.

  2. I found it easier to get hold of the Chemero-Turvey article than I expected, and have now had a (quick) look at it. I’ll read it more carefully in the next few days. There is is indeed quite a lot of overlap with their 2006 paper (which, oddly, they do not reference). My impression is that the same misunderstandings are there, but they are better concealed.

  3. At the risk of monopolizing this discussion, I should like to make some further comments on the Chemero-Turvey, which I have now read from beginning to end.

    Large parts of it are word-for-word identical to their 2006 article, but the part that is of greatest interest to me is different. They now define catalytic closure in a way that is more acceptable (“When every product in a network of chemical reactions has a catalyst that is also a product in the network, the network of reactions is a collectively autocatalytic system”). However, as they don’t make any reference to the earlier paper it is not clear whether this is intended as a correction or not. The reaction system they use to illustrate it is too trivial to be useful: it consists of two steps, from R to B catalysed by A, and from S to A catalysed by B. As both products are catalysts, and both catalysts are products, this fits their original (plainly wrong) definition of closure just as well as their new one, which may be correct if it isn’t just a careless rewording.

    Despite their changed definition of closure, their analysis leads them to exactly the same conclusion as before: “This agrees with the arguments of Chu and Ho (2006), who dispute Rosen’s purported proof that artificial life is impossible.”