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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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Recent Additions: New and Updated Entries in the Past 60 Days
Displaying entries 61 through 75 of 108 found.


Life's Corporeal Evolution Develops, Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis

Quickening Evolution > Recapitulation > Multicellular

Skocelas, Katherine, et al.. The Evolution of Genetic Robustness for Cellular Cooperation in Early Multicellular Organisms. Holler, Silvia, et al, eds.. The 2022 International Conference on Artificial Life. Cambridge: MIT Press., . Six Michigan State University computational biologists from Christoph Adami’s lab including Charles Ofria contribute further quantifications that explain and brace how life’s premier, beneficial transition from cells to creatures so as to achieve a new individuality with even more attributes on the scalar climb, so it seems, to our multi-personal progeny.

The major evolutionary transition to multicellularity shifted the unit of selection from individual cells to whole organisms with new attributes to foster cooperation such as error correction and genetic robustness. We study this occasion under a range of evolutionary conditions and focused on early multicellular entities where cells must control their growth to avoid overwriting each other. Ultimately, we demonstrate a clear selective pressure for distinct genetic repertoires that increases with the total number of cells. (Excerpt)

In nature, multicellular organisms can be huge, despite undergoing vastly more cell divisions. Indeed, the largest (blue whales) coordinate quadrillions of cells. Deciphering how this is possible will allow us to not only better understand our natural world, but also give us insights on how to evolve larger and more complex artificial organisms. (8)

Quickening Evolution > Recapitulation > Societies

Ma, Yin-Jie, et al.. Social norms and cooperation in higher-order networks. arXiv:2401.14905. Complexity theorists with postings in China, Korea, Italy, Slovenia and Austria including Matjaz Perc and Stefano Boccaletti provide a latest review and preview of 21st century studies which have by now quantified and proven that organisms have as much and more of a beneficial tendency to group together and get along then to engage in divisive competition. (While our own human phase is rife with violent conflict, this may be due to its total male patriarchy, with no feminine mediation.) See also Quantitative assessment can stabilize indirect reciprocity under imperfect information by Laura Schmid, et al in Nature Communications. (14/2086, 2023).


Recent research has studied how cooperation is fostered through various mechanisms in cognitive settings, mostly through pairwise interactions. However, the real-world involves multiple cliques with higher-order interactions. We introduce a model that explores collective strategies and social norms within a diverse environment. We show that prosocial norms lead to increased cooperation across an array of social situations. Our research thus offers insights into the evolution of cooperation through the lens of social norm diffusion in higher-order networks.

Cooperation, where individuals bear costs to benefit others, is a common occasion across biological and social spheres. In-depth investigations into ecological factors such as memory, repeated interaction and network structure have shown that cooperation to be more beneficial than selfish behavior. Building on the work of Martin Nowak, kin selection, direct reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, group selection, and network reciprocity have been found as explanations. Recent research efforts have refined these mechanisms such as indirect reciprocity, along with cognitive processes and reciprocal actions within various social norms. (1)

Quickening Evolution > Recapitulation > Ecosystems

Bian, Junhao, et al. Early warning for spatial ecological system: Fractal dimension and deep learning. Physica A. 633/129401, 2024. Into this new year, Kunming University of Science and Technology, China physicists discern a fractal-like scalar coherence as a novel way to quantify when environments show signs of becoming unstable.

Ecological dynamic systems often undergo catastrophic regime tipping points. This paper investigates patterns of vegetation collapse in semiarid grazing systems. We propose the fractal dimension as a spatial early warning signal to detect such transitions. This framework considers the spatial evolution from the perspective of self-similarity between vegetation. We show that the fractal scale decreases to a minimum when the system approaches the critical region. It turns out that the fractal dimension is a reliable indicator and has significant implications for preventing desertification. (Excerpt)

Quickening Evolution > Recapitulation > Homo Sapiens

Mylopotamitaki, Dorothea, et al. Homo sapiens reached the higher latitudes of Europe by 45,000 years ago.. Nature. 626/341, 2024. We cite this article by some thirty paleontologists mainly based at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology as a current example of the latest abilities, as the quote says, to recover and learn about the prehistoric human-like beings who came before us. But in regard, one is led to wonder whom is the planetary worldwise personsphere that is now conducting these retrospectlves. What manner of reality forms and seems requires its own late self-recognition and maybe select affirmation?

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe is associated with the regional disappearance of Neanderthals and the spread of Homo sapiens. Late Neanderthals persisted in western Europe for millennia in eastern Europe. Archaeological evidence also indicates the presence of several technocomplexes, complicating the behavioural adaptations with specific hominin groups. Here we present the morphological and proteomic taxonomic identification, mitochondrial DNA analysis and direct radiocarbon dating of human remains at the site Ilsenhöhle in Ranis (Germany), earliest Upper Palaeolithic H. sapiens in Eurasia. Our results strengthen the notion of a patchwork of distinct human populations and technocomplexes in Europe during this transitional period. (Abstract)

Life’s Cerebral Cognizance Becomes More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware

Earth Life > Brain Anatomy

The Ground Floor of Cognition: From Microbes to Plants and Animals.. Google title, keywords.. The home site for a 2018 Altenberg Workshop in Theoretical Biology organized by Pamela Lyon and Fred Keijzer. As a first survey meeting as this long view becomes evident, its participants included Audrey Dussutour, (Learning in Slime Molds), Frantisek Baluska, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Michael Levin, Argyris Arnellos (Individuality and Cognition: An Organizational Co-Evolution), Detlev Arendt and Eva Jablonka (From Cognition to Consciousness).

Introduction: Our project, then, is to map the general outlines of basal cognition from prokaryotes (bacteria) and unicellular eukaryotes, to plants and early animals without and with nervous systems. This will involve tracing the biological mechanisms needed for behavioral capacities such as sensing, memory, learning, decision making, anticipation, and communication. At this workshop we will concentrate on the multi-faceted cognitive capacity of decision-making Here next is a working definition.

Cognition is the complex of sensory and other information-processing mechanisms an organism has for becoming familiar with, valuing, and interacting with its internal milieu and with features of its environment in order to meet existential needs, the most basic of which are survival/persistence, growth/thriving, and reproduction. (Definition)

Earth Life > Brain Anatomy

Bechtel, William and Leonardo Bich.. Using neurons to maintain autonomy: Learning from C. elegans.. Biosystems. October, 2023. UC San Diego and University of the Basque Country bioscholars provide empirical reasons to qualify the presence of self-serving propensities even in this simplest organism. See also Integrating Multicellular Systems: Physiological Control and Degrees of Biological Individuality by L. Bich in Acta Biotheoretica (72/1, 2024) for more views about cellular organisms.

How biological organisms are autonomous—maintain themselves far from equilibrium through their own activities—requires knowing how they regulate those activities. In multicellular animals, control can be exercised either via endocrine signaling through the vasculature or by sensory neurons. In C. elegans a rudimentary but distributed nervous system relies on chemical and electric signals. to integrate information from multiple sources.. We conclude by considering how a distributed nervous system without a centralized controller is nonetheless adequate for autonomy.

Earth Life > Brain Anatomy

Molnar, Ferenc, et al.. Predictability of cortico-cortical connections in the mammalian brain.. >Network Neuroscience. January, 2024. Into this year, nine neuroscholars with global postings at the University of Notre Dame, USA, Center for Systems Biology Dresden, MPI Cell Biology and Genetics, MPI Physics of Complex Systems, University of Lyon, Transylvanian Institute of Neuroscience, Romania, University of South-Eastern Norway, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai and more can now survey a vast repository of empirical data by which to perceive consistent, homology-like patterns across an array of animals from mice to monkeys.

Despite a five order of magnitude range in size, the brains of mammals share many anatomical and functional characteristics that translate into cortical network commonalities. Here we develop a machine learning approach to quantify the interareal cortical matrix. We show that there is a significant predictability of the interareal cortical networks between a rodent and a primate. These observations reinforce that the cortical network at the mesoscale is, to a large extent, rule based. (Excerpt)

An important implication of these observations is that there are common building blocks/motifs and cortical network similarities between mammals from local to midrange distance scales followed by species and/or individual dependent deviations at longer distances. One could then speculate that major aspects of diverse behavioral traits, including intelligence, are encoded in the long-range connectivity of the connectome. (14)

Earth Life > Brain Anatomy

Zacks, Oryan and Eva Jablonka.. The evolutionary origins of the Global Neuronal Workspace in vertebrates. Neuroscience of Consciousness. Number 1, 2023. . Tel Aviv University neuro-philosophers contribute a latest illustrated survey by joining this popular model (see below) with their own Associative Learning Theory (see EJ). The GWT considers five perception, motor control, memory, value and attention categories, which are seen to be graphically arrayed across the evolution of eels, fish, reptile, avian and mammals. These further insights that can be newly traced back to earliest inklings, serve to define life’s sensory, cognitive, knowledge gaining progression to our worldwide retrospective discovery.

The Global Neuronal Workspace theory offers a functional architecture that relates consciousness to cognitive abilities such as perception, attention, memory, and evaluation. We show that this popular version corresponds to the cognitive-affective model proposed by Unlimited Associative Learning theory. However, when applied to basal vertebrates, they both require modifications due to what has been learned about the evolution of the brain. Comparative studies suggest that the Global Neuronal Workspace is instantiated by the event memory system found in the hippocampal homolog. This proposal has testable predictions for understanding hippocampal and cortical functions, and the relations between memory and consciousness. (Abstract)

In this paper, we have discussed the evolutionary origin of the GNW architecture, which, we suggested, is an essential part ofmthe dynamic frame that underlies minimal consciousness in vertebrates. We believe that a similar evolutionary analysis may be applied to other theories of consciousness that are centered on humans, such as IIT and recurrent processing. Since an origin-focused evolutionary
approach can uncover fundamental principles of minimal consciousness, we expect that such analyses will both suggest better differentiation among different theories and highlight their common ground. (14)

Global workspace theory (GWT) is a framework for thinking about consciousness proposed by cognitive scientists Bernard Baars and Stan Franklin in the late 1980s. It was developed to qualitatively account for a large set of matched pairs of conscious and unconscious processes. GWT has been influential in modeling consciousness and higher-order cognition as emerging from competition and integrated flows of information across widespread, parallel neural processes.

Earth Life > Brain Anatomy > Bicameral Brain

Seoane, Luis. Evolutionary paths to lateralization of complex brain functions. arXiv:2112.00221. A Centro Nacional de Biotecnologıa (CSIC), Madrid and MIT biologist (search) propose novel theoretical reasons why life’s cerebral encephalization arrayed itself with a double faculty where each side contributes vital halves half of the thought process.

At large, most animal brains present two mirror-symmetric sides; but closer views reveal a range of consistent asymmetries. The complexity of a computational task might play a role in breaking bilaterally symmetric circuits into fully lateralized ones; yet a mathematical theory of how this might work is missing. Here we provide an example from basic assumptions and extend it to biologically and computationally scenarios. The implications of these results for evolution, development, and rehabilitation of damaged or aged brains is discussed. (Abstract)

Earth Life > Individuality

Agency in Living Systems: Conceptual Frameworks and Research Approaches. www.kli.ac.at/en/the_kli/news/view/337.. www.kli.ac.at/en/the_kli/news/view/337.. A home site for this June 2022 Altenberg Workshop in Theoretical Biology, (kli.ac.at/content/en/events/kli_workshops), sponsored by the Konrad Lorenz Institute. It was co-organized by Sonia Sultan and Armin Moczek as an outreach of their group (agencyinlivingsystems.com/). A stellar speakership of scientists and philosophers included Eva Jablonka, Richard Watson, Daniel Nicholson and Kevin Laland, all abstracts here. Some papers now appear in a special Evolution and Development issue (26/5, 2023), search above names.

Earth Life > Individuality

Agency in Living Systems: Conceptual Frameworks and Research Approaches.. www.kli.ac.at/en/the_kli/news/view/337.. A home site for this June 2022 Altenberg Workshop in Theoretical Biology, (kli.ac.at/content/en/events/kli_workshops), sponsored by the Konrad Lorenz Institute. It was co-organized by Sonia Sultan and Armin Moczek as an outreach of their group (agencyinlivingsystems.com/). . A stellar speakership of scientists and philosophers included Eva Jablonka, Richard Watson, Daniel Nicholson and Kevin Laland, all abstracts here. Some papers now appear in a special Evolution and Development issue (26/5, 2023), search above names.

Prevailing scientific approaches study organisms largely as passive objects, predetermined in development by their genetic makeup, and in evolution by an external selective environment. Alternatively, organisms may be investigated as potential agents of adaptive phenotypes and evolutionary innovation by virtue of (previously evolved) repertoires of regulatory, developmental and behavioral response. A shift in scientific emphasis to these complex response properties promises a more nuanced and complete understanding of biological systems than prevailing gene-based approaches. An agency focus promises new ways to study ecological resilience in the face of environmental challenges, and to understand human disease phenotypes. Sessions in the meeting were organized into the following themes: "What is Biological Agency?", "Plasticity, Process and Agency", "Agential Mechanisms in Developmental Evolution", "Dimensions of Organismic Agency", and "Agency and evolvability." (Introduction)

Earth Life > Individuality

Friston, Karl, et al. Active Inference and Intentional Behaviour. arXiv:2312.07547. This entry by thirteen neuroscholars with main postings at University College London, VERSES AI Research Lab, Los Angeles, RIKEN Center for Brain Science, Japan and Monash University, Australia as an example of how this popular approach may be gaining actual utility and theoretic veracity. It also uses a “self-evidencing” rationale from Jakob Hohwy (search) to explain. See The anticipating brain is not a scientist: the free-energy principle from an ecological-enactive perspective by Jelle Bruineberg, et al in Synthese (196/6, 2018) for another view



Recent advances in theoretical biology suggest that basal cognition and sentient behavior are emergent properties of cell cultures and neuronal networks as they spontaneously learn structured responses. In this paper, we quantify this kind of self-organisation through the free energy principle as a self-evidencing behavior. We first discuss reactivity and sentience by way of active inference as agents proceed to model the consequences of their actions. Further studies using machine learning benchmarks show how efficiently adaptive behavior emerges under an inductive form of active inference. (Excerpt)

The aim of this paper was to characterise the self-organisation of adaptive behavior through the lens of the free energy principle, i.e., as self-evidencing. We did this by first discussing the definitions of reactive and sentient behavior in active inference, where the latter describes the behaviour of agents that are aware of the consequences of their actions. (27)

In neuroscience, predictive coding is a theory of brain function which postulates that the brain is constantly generating and updating a "mental model" of the environment. With the rising popularity of representation learning, the theory is being actively pursued and applied in machine learning and related fields.

The free energy principle is a theoretical framework suggesting that the brain reduces uncertainty by making predictions based on internal models and updating them by sensory experience. This principle integrates Bayesian inference with active inference, where actions are guided by predictions and sensory feedback refines them.

Earth Life > Individuality

Mitchell, Kevin. Free Agents: How Evolution Gave Us Free Will. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023. The author, a neuro-geneticist at Trinity College Dublin, studies the many relationships between genes, brains, and minds on both individual and evolutionary levels. Into these 2020s he has prepared the first whole book length treatment for the leading edge content of this Life’s Cerebral Cognizance Becomes More Complex, Smarter, Informed, Proactive, Self-Aware chapter. In so doing, the work describes an oriented encephalization from sensory stirrings to scales of ramified neural complexities all the way to our mosaic neocortex. A central track becomes evident as an increasing adaptive behavior with regard to one’s own life, group and environs. In retrospect, life’s cerebral/cognitive evolutionary course can then be seen to assert a liberated agency of personal choice. The vital message (my take) from brains instead of bones could be that we peoples can rise from sinners to winners, avoid nuclear war, and proceed to select ourselves as a unified Earthropocene success.

Scientists are finding how brain activity controls behavior and neural circuits effect actions. But many still conclude that agency—or free will—is an illusion. Free Agents presents a wealth of evidence to the contrary, arguing that we are not mere machines but distinct selves empowered with purpose. Across Earth’s long evolution, Mitchell describes how living beings capable of choice arose from physical origins. As nervous systems came to be, they gave sentient animals the capacity to model, predict, and simulate. These faculties have reached their peak with our human abilities to imagine, introspect, reason and view possible futures. {Publisher)

A purely reductionist, mechanistic approach to life misses the point. On the contrary, basic laws of physics that deal only with energy and matter and forces cannot explain what life is or its defining property – living organisms do things for reasons, as causal agents, in their own right. They are driven by information whose meaning is embedded in the structure of the system itself, based on its history. In short, there are distinct types of causation at play in living organisms by virtue of their organization. (x-xi)

As we will see in later chapters, meaning and value are the internal currency and action selection that emerged as life continued to evolve. From the rocks and sea of our early world, life arose as organisms that maintained theor internal states and sustain a degree of causal autonomy from the world around them. The next step in the evolution of agency is the ability of these autonomous organisms to back upon the world, to become causes in their own right. (43)

In humans, the expansion of our neural resources and recursive architecture of our cognitive systems gave us the ability to think about thoughts. Our minds were set free. We are capable of open-ended truly creative imaginations and hypothetical futures, of creating art, music, science, abstract reasoning that has revealed the deepest laws and principles of the universe. (294)

And we do not do this alone: the true power of human thought comes through collective interactions and cumulative culture. We have as individuals and as a species the power to transcend the immediacies of our own biology. And, though the prospects seem gloomy, we have within our reach the possibility of wisdom, of making optimal decisions for the long-term survival of our planet if we choose to exercise it. (294)

Earth Life > Individuality

Nadolski, Erica and Armin Moczek. Promises and limits of an agency perspective in evolutionary developmental biology. Evolution & Development. 25/6, 2023. The main paper by Indiana University biologists in special issue on Agency in Living Systems mostly composed of presentations from a 2022 Altenberg Workshop (see herein) with this title (Google). See also a lead editorial by AM and Sonia Sultan. Subject entries include Collective behavior in changing environments: Dynamics, modularity, and agency by Deborah Gordon, The agential perspective: Countermapping the modern synthesis by Denis Walsh and Gregory Rupik and Agential autonomy and biological individuality by Fermin Fulda. A working group with this identity can also be accessed with more evidence for this current correction from lumpen machine to free selves in cooperative groups

An agent-based perspective in the study of complex systems is well established in diverse disciplines, yet is only beginning to be applied to evolutionary developmental biology. In this essay, we begin by defining agency and then discuss this view applied to select processes and consider the potential epistemic roles that it might play in evo devo. Throughout, we discuss evidence supportive of agential dynamics in biological systems and explore where agency thinking may enrich the explanatory reach of research efforts in evolutionary developmental biology. (Excerpt)

Earth Life > Individuality

Newman, Stuart. Inherency and agency in the origin and evolution of biological functions. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 139/4, 2023. The senior bioscholar provides more insights about this historic 2020s revision from the later 20th century scheme of random mutation and post selection on passive entities. Rather the actual case which required neuroscience and computational abilities to date seems to be life’s original, insistent course of a relative individual proactivity.


Although discussed by 20th century philosophers in terms drawn from the sciences of non-living systems, in recent times biological phenomena has been considered in regard to organismal capability and purpose. Bringing two aspects neglected in evolutionary theory (i.e. inherency and agency) to bear on questions of function leads to a rejection of the adaptationist ‘selected effects’ notion. I review work showing that organisms such as the placozoans can thrive with just their constituent cells and the physical properties of simple tissues and cellular aggregates which exhibit agential behaviours. I conclude that most essential functions in animal species are inherent to the cells from which they evolved, rather selected than effects. (Abstract)

The theoretical initiative known as the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) contains several issues discussed here: the role of developmental inherency in morphological change and tasks such as niche construction. However, the fuller perspective I advocate is that not only do morphologlies appear without evolutionary precedent, but so do cellular functions ready to be recruited by tissues and organs of multicellular forms. When combined with latent capabilities of cell collectives they actively devise new ways of life, which set aside the old ‘selection-for-fitness’ school.

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