The Royal Society

Supplementary material from "From inert matter to the global society Life as multi-level networks of processes"

Posted on 2020-01-22 - 15:40
A few billion years have passed since the first life forms appeared. Since then, life has continued to forge complex associations between the different emergent levels of interconnection it forms. The advances of recent decades in molecular chemistry and theoretical biology, which have embraced complex systems approaches, now make it possible to conceptualize the questions of the origins of life and its increasing complexity from few fundamental principles developed in the wake of the second-order cybernetics: autopoiesis, RAF networks and closure of constraints. Without resorting to strong reductionism, we show how it is possible to go up the physical levels of organization of matter, from physics to biology and society, based on the formalisms of graph theory and complex networks. This approach of living systems, initiated by Maturana & Varela (Maturana & Varela 1980 Autopoiesis and cognition: the realization of the living. Boston studies in the philosophy of science, vol. 42. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel Pub. Co. 00004) and Kauffman (Kauffman 1986 J. Theor. Biol. 119, 1–24. ((doi:10.1016/S0022-5193(86)80047-9))), inevitably leads to a reflection on the nature of cognition; and in the face of the deep changes that affected humanity as complex systems, on the nature of cultural evolution. Faced with the major challenges that humanity will have to address in the decades to come, this new paradigm invites us to change our conception of causality by shifting our attention from state change to process change and to abandon a widespread notion of ‘local’ causality in favour of complex systems thinking. It also highlights the importance of a better understanding of the influence of social networks, recommendation systems and artificial intelligence on our collective dynamics and social cognition processes.This article is part of the theme issue ‘XXX’.


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