Investigations (Google eBook)

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Oct 26, 2000 - Science - 302 pages
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"It may be that I have stumbled upon an adequate description of life itself." These modest yet profound words trumpet an imminent paradigm shift in scientific, economic, and technological thinking. In the tradition of Schrodinger's classic What Is Life?, Kauffman's Investigations is a tour-de-force exploration of the very essence of life itself, with conclusions that radically undermine the scientific approaches on which modern science rests--the approaches of Newton, Boltzman, Bohr, and Einstein. Building on his pivotal ideas about order and evolution in complex life systems, Kauffman finds that classical science does not take into account that physical systems--such as people in a biosphere--effect their dynamic environments in addition to being affected by them. These systems act on their own behalf as autonomous agents, but what defines them as such? In other words, what is life? Kauffman supplies a novel answer that goes beyond traditional scientific thinking by defining and explaining autonomous agents and work in the contexts of thermodynamics and of information theory. Much of Investigations unpacks the progressively surprising implications of his definition. Significantly, he sets the stages for a technological revolution in the coming decades. Scientists and engineers may soon seek to create autonomous agents--both organic and mechanical--that can not only construct things and work, but also reproduce themselves! Kauffman also lays out a foundation for a new concept of organization, and explores the requirements for the emergence of a general biology that will transcend terrestrial biology to seek laws governing biospheres anywhere in the cosmos. Moreover, he presents four candidate laws to explain how autonomous agents co-create their biosphere and the startling idea of a "co-creating" cosmos. A showcase of Kauffman's most fundamental and significant ideas, Investigations presents a new way of thinking about the fundamentals of general biology that will change the way we understand life itself--on this planet and anywhere else in the cosmos.
  

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Contents

Prolegomenon to a General Biology
1
The Origins of Life
23
Autonomous Agents
49
Propagating Organization
81
A Physics of Semantics?
109
Emergence and Story Beyond Newton Einstein and Bohr?
119
The Nonergodic Universe The Possibility of New Laws
141
Candidate Laws for the Coconstruction of a Biosphere
159
The Persistently Innovative Econosphere
211
A Coconstructing Cosmos?
243
Epilogue
267
References
271
Index
273
Copyright

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Page v - ... the contrary, we may expect from organised nature. An organised being is then not a mere machine, for that has merely moving power, but it possesses in itself formative power of a self-propagating kind which it communicates to its materials though they have it not of themselves ; it organises them, in fact, and this cannot be explained by the mere mechanical faculty of motion.
Page 2 - ... barely understood ways to yield the magnificence of our teeming biosphere. We must, therefore, expand evolutionary theory. Yet we need something far more important than a broadened evolutionary theory. Despite any valid insights in my own two books, and despite the fine work of many others, including the brilliance manifest in the past three decades of molecular biology, the core of life itself remains shrouded from view. We know chunks of molecular machinery, metabolic pathways, means of membrane...
Page 3 - I suspect that biospheres maximize the average secular construction of the diversity of autonomous agents, and ways those agents can make a living to propagate further. In other words, biospheres persistently increase the diversity of what can happen next. In effect, biospheres may maximize the average sustained growth of their own dimensionality.
Page 2 - ... dinner"; the paramecium, cilia beating like a Roman warship's oars, hot after the bacterium; we humans earning our livings. Call the bacterium, paramecium, and us humans "autonomous agents," able to act on our own behalf in an environment. My second and core question became. What must a physical system be to be an autonomous agent? Make no mistake, we autonomous agents mutually construct our biosphere, even as we coevolve in it. Why and how this is so is a central subject of all that follows....

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