Soul and complexity

Cellular automata (CA) are an ideal tool for examining interesting philosophical ideas particularly those relating to the complexity of nature. However not all CA are suitable for this purpose. For instance, although Wolfram’s NKS generates all kind of complexities, they are somewhat inadequate. More precisely NKS can handle only a reductionistic philosophy and fails when confronting phenomenology. In order to be philosophically interesting and even intriguing, CA have to interact.

Take a simple two CA system by the name of proliferon.

You plant two zygotes and they evolve into mature non interacting CA. Already these simple structures illustrate some profound ideas like emergence which drives the system to its first attractor. Now, manipulate their output rates and let them interact. The system evolves toward a new attractor. Is it chaotic, or only bounded chaotic? Sensitivity to initial conditions is the hallmark of chaos. Yet you did not change any initial conditions. You watch a phenomenon or behavior which does not have a name yet. More, has chaos any meaning in a continuous process which by definition lacks initial conditions. ( Like our weather where the butterfly effect was discovered)

Injury of one CA is responded by the entire system which after a while settles at a new attractor. You wonder what is the relationship between injury and the new outcome. Cause and effect? Or might this phenomenon be explained only with Aristotle’s four causes?

As you play with this proliferon you suddenly realize that you are unable to explain its behavior. You cannot foresee how it will react to injury. From your past experiments you know that it will always settle at an attractor, yet how? Or why did it choose this particular attractor?

You might conclude that the proliferon has an Aristotelian soul. Aristotle taught that plants and animals have a soul which controls their operation (metabolism) and is mortal. When the plant dies its soul dies with it. Our proliferon soul is not a separate entity. It is part of the system and emerges with the system’s interacting CA. Check the following experiment

Back to complexity index