The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation

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Columbia University Press, Jun 18, 2013 - Science - 416 pages
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The concepts of evolution and complexity theory have become part of the intellectual ether permeating the life sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, and more recently, management science and economics. In this new title, John Mayfield elegantly synthesizes core concepts from across disciplines to offer a new approach to understanding how evolution works and how complex organisms, structures, organizations, and social orders can and do arise based on information theory and computational science.

This is a big picture book intended for the intellectually adventuresome. While not deeply technical or mathematical in style, the text challenges readers and rewards them with a nuanced understanding of evolution and complexity that offers consistent, durable, and coherent explanations for major aspects of our life experiences. Numerous examples throughout the book illustrate evolution and complexity formation in action and highlight the core function of computation lying at the heart of the book.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 The Problem
10
2 Computation
39
3 Structure for Free
68
4 Purposeful Structure
91
5 Improbability and the Engine of Complexity
119
6 Algorithmic Evolution
145
7 Evolution Within the Body
170
11 Cultural Evolution
256
12 The Evolution of Complexity
275
13 Past and Present
305
14 The Future
325
Acknowledgments
339
Notes
341
Glossary
357
References
375

8 Taking Control of the Cycle
192
9 Complex Systems
207
10 Human Learning and Creativity
230

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About the author (2013)

John E. Mayfield is professor emeritus of genetics, development, and cell biology at Iowa State University. He has also taught at the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Harvard University Biological Laboratories. His research focuses on the development of a generalized theory of evolution that relates naturally and easily to fundamental mathematical and physical principles.

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