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"Investigations" as Foundation for a Biological-Framing of Software

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  • Mike Beedle
    This paper has been created as part of a larger paper to be submitted to the Feyerabend workshop at the Sante Fe Institute in April of 2002:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 15, 2001
      This paper has been created as part of a larger paper to be
      submitted to the Feyerabend workshop at the Sante Fe Institute
      in April of 2002: http://www.dreamsongs.com/BiologicalFramings.html

      Any feedback will be appreciated,

      - Mike Beedle

      "Investigations" as Foundation for a Biological-Framing of Software

      1. Introduction

      This document encloses a summary of "Investigations: The nature
      of Autonomous Agents and the worlds they mutually create" [1].
      and makes parallel proposals for the study of software agents
      and people developing software (human agents).

      It is proposed here that "Investigations" can serve as an
      excellent foundation for a "biological framing" or even as an
      "agent-based framing" of software and software teams,
      because of its wide applicability and universality.

      The above cited on-going research includes a general setting of
      autonomous agents processes and patterns that include
      the study of:

      - life anywhere and its evolution
      - all processes at the "biosphere" level: ecosystems,
      human organizations, economies, etc.
      - space-time, as a system of autocatalytic Planck-level
      agents coevolving with each other, and even
      - consciousness.

      However, the "laws" explored in this research, are universal,
      and can therefore be used as a foundation to study
      autocatalytic processes of software agents, and people
      developing software (human agents), such as the systems
      suggested in:

      2. Summary and Proposals

      The introduction of "Investigations" discusses the
      possibility of "general laws":

      "The most general aim of "Investigations" is to
      explore whether there might, conceivably, be some
      general laws governing a certain class of
      non-equilibrium systems - namely the class of
      coevolutionary self-constructing communities
      of autonomous agents."

      LECTURE 1 discusses parts I and II from "Origins":

      "The first lecture discusses the general character
      of "fitness landscapes," of coevolutionary processes
      in which the adaptive moves of one "agent" deforms
      the fitness landscapes of its partners, and tries
      to show that an endogenous coevolutionary process
      allows "agents," each adapting for its own selfish
      "fitness," to tune the couplings and ruggedness of
      their fitness landscapes such that the entire
      system achieves a specific self-organized critical
      state. "

      Proposal 1: Study possible epistemic relationships of software
      agents systems human agents developing software, in order to
      describe the fitness landscapes that these systems obey
      given their constraints, for different classes of software
      and people agents. (Here it is assumed that the system
      has already emerged and that it is homeostatic.)

      Proposal 2: Study the deformations of fitness landscapes
      in the agent ecosystems defined by software agents,
      software teams, and organizations hosting these teams,
      as the agents in these systems coevolve.

      LECTURE 2 discusses part III from "Origins":

      "The heart of this view of the emergence of life
      lies in the fact that as the diversity of organic
      molecules in a system increases, the diversity of
      reactions by which they transform to one another
      increases very much faster. In turn, this means
      that for a wide distribution of assumptions about
      which molecules catalyze which reactions, at a
      sufficient diversity so many reactions are
      catalyzed that a collectively autocatalytic
      set of molecules is virtually certain to emerge."

      Proposal 3: Study the diversity of software agents and
      human agents developing software and their "reactions",
      in order to study the emergence of autocatalytic
      processes in these systems for different classes of
      software and people agents. (Here it is assumed that
      the multi-agents are just emerging.)

      and more,

      "The Adjacent Possible. If we consider the species
      of organic molecules now on the earth, we can also
      consider those species of organic molecules that
      do not exist, but that are one reaction step
      away from molecules that currently do exist. "

      Proposal 4: Study the Adjacent Possible in both software
      agents and human agents developing software, in terms
      of the existing agent population, their selection rules
      and their self-organizing properties, for different
      classes of software and people agents.

      LECTURE 3 discusses autonomous agents:

      "(Definition) autonomous agent is a collectively
      autocatalytic system that performs one or more
      thermodynamic work cycles."

      (See Proposal 1.)

      LECTURE 4 discusses agents as Maxwell demons:

      "An autonomous agent, a non-equilibrium Maxwell Demon,
      coevolving in its community has embodied know-how.
      It knows how to make a living in the context in
      which it lives and carries out real construction
      work in doing so. Its self consistent structure and
      dynamical logic constitute the embodied "record"
      of its environment, its reproduction and
      proliferation carries out linked work cycles and
      simultaneously, via mutation and selection,
      updates its record. "

      "This leads me to consider that "organization" is
      fundamentally related to that coordination of matter
      and energy which enables and controls the constrained
      release of energy - work - to be propagated."

      Proposal 5: Study the knowledge acquisition of properties
      of software agents and human agents developing software,
      for different classes of software and people agents.

      LECTURE 5 discusses the three apparently different phase
      transitions that communities of autonomous agents must obey:

      "1) As parallel processing systems, such Agents will
      lie within the ordered regime or at a phase transition
      between dynamical order and chaos. "

      "As the members of the community tune their positions
      on their internal order-chaos axis and their
      couplings to one another, these evolutionary
      adaptations simultaneously tune the ruggedness of
      fitness landscapes the web structure of the ecosystem,
      and the amount any Agent's landscape is deformed
      by the mutational alterations of other agents. "

      "As parallel processing systems, Autonomous Agents
      will tune their internal molecular diversity and
      the species diversity of communities of Agents, such
      that each Agent is subcritical, perhaps near the
      subcritical - supracritical boundary, and such
      that the causally local community is just at
      the subcritical - supracritical boundary. "

      Proposal 6: Study the phase transitions that both
      software agents and human agents developing software
      must obey given their own characteristics and limitations
      for a different classes of agents.

      LECTURE 6 discusses hierarchies of agents:

      "Hierarchical Agents are parts of the furniture of the
      Universe. As they arise, the way the universe behaves

      "Thus, if we pass from a classical to a quantum
      description of Agents, a task not yet even begun,
      then the symmetry breaking within each "box"
      that sets all the internal thresholds leading
      the system to flow in different directions, in
      enhancing the dimensionality of the adjacent
      possible, must hit the Uncertainty Principle limit.

      Proposal 7: Study the hierarchies of software agents and
      human agents developing software that naturally emerge
      given the given their own characteristics and limitations
      for a different classes of agents.

      Proposal 8: Study the symmetry breaking relationships in
      the evolution of software agents and human agents
      developing software given their own characteristics
      and limitations for different classes of agents.

      LECTURE 7 discusses makes some general statements about
      the biosphere to the universe, and then works this
      statements into five themes:

      "They derive from the realization that nothing in
      the definition of an Autonomous Agent demands
      that it be made of organic molecules. The functional
      closure within an autonomous Agent such that it
      can be collectively autocatalytic and carry out
      work cycles yields the new concept that such
      a functionally "whole" agent is the locus of a
      union of matter, energy and information - propagating
      embodied know-how and work task cycles, that can
      do honest construction work."

      "The most radical possibility that I broach, based
      on the work of Lee Smolin with respect to
      quantizing gravity in terms of spinnor networks is
      that such networks can form combinatorially complex
      "knotted" structures. Then, as molecules are
      combinatorially complex objects and at
      sufficient diversity undergo a phase transition
      to collectively autocatalytic systems, the same
      may be true of a knotted ravel of a spinnor-net.
      Thus, space (or space and mass-energy) might
      conceivably be comprised of autocatalytic autonomous
      Plank scale agents coevolving with one another.
      One interpretation of such agents is that they
      are the "crystallization" of seeds of
      classicity and its propagation."

      Theme 1

      "First, I attempt to suggest that we explore a
      thermodynamics in which the observer is an
      endogenous part of the system."

      "The hope is to represent entropy as the
      information one agent can have about each of its
      neighbors or its environment."

      Proposal 9: Study the thermodynamic properties of
      software agents and human agents developing software
      from different points of view: internally, externally,
      for different classes of software and people agents.

      Theme 2

      "Second, I explore the question of whether a
      large quasi-closed thermodynamic system such as an
      isolated spiral galaxy with its giant molecular
      clouds and their complex chemistry forming carbon
      rich dust grains with a power-law distribution of
      sizes can be chemically supracritical and hence
      not reach equilibrium for much longer time scales
      than the lifetime of the universe. "

      "Further, since agents need not be made of
      organic molecules, it is not impossible that a
      galaxy itself might be comprised of a coevolving
      community of autonomous agents."

      Proposal 10: Study the equilibrium conditions of
      software agents and human agents developing software.

      Theme 3

      "Smolin points out that General Relativity seems to
      require that each point in space be different from
      every other point such that the "night sky" looks
      different at each point. And Smolin points out
      that the constants demanded by the Standard Model
      must be very finely tuned to obtain a Universe
      as complex as ours, with stars, carbon, chemistry,
      and life. Either an ultimate theory will derive
      the constants of the standard model, string theory,
      or some other theory - or we will be left with
      adjustable parameters. Smolin argues that some
      process of self-organization may be at work in
      the Universe as a whole that tunes the parameters.
      It may not be entirely foolish to wonder if the
      self-organization of a biosphere of self-constructing,
      coevolving autonomous agents in an expanding
      effective phase space may not be a version of
      the Universal puzzle.

      "Thus, if variety is distance in space, space
      will expand, but ever more slowly. One might hope
      that this feature would relate naturally to the
      apparently critical character of the ever
      slower expansion of the Universe. "

      Theme 4

      "The fourth theme concerns this emergence of
      classicity in quantum mechanics. It is generally
      accepted that interaction of a classical and a
      quantum system causes the quantum system to
      decohere and become classic. This suggests that
      classicity is "autocatalytic."

      Theme 5

      "Thus, in the fifth theme, I raise the question of
      whether the Universe as a whole might self tune
      the constants of the Standard Model, or any other
      fundamental theory with free parameters, such that
      the set of values associated with the fastest
      amplifying complexity universe "wins."

      "A fourth law, writ large, would have at its core
      a law governing the non-ergodic flow of a
      self constructing universe expanding its effective
      dimensionality as rapidly as is sustainably
      possible. Indeed, such maximal expansion and
      symmetry breaking would emerge as the central
      law governing the coevolution of the random
      laws of the spinnor network-law system. Here
      time itself would be nothing but this expansion.

      The Epilogue, discusses a theory of consciousness based on
      molecular autonomous agents:

      " .. I make a tentative suggestion
      concerning the physical basis of consciousness
      in molecular autonomous agents."

      The fundamental ideas derive from the suggestion
      that, in order to expand their capacity to make
      discriminations and refined actions, autonomous agents
      will partition a bounded volume in a 6N classical
      phase space representing the state of an agent or
      collection of agents, into ever finer volumes which
      ultimately encounter the Heisenberg Uncertainty Limit.
      Further partitioning would presumably involve quantum
      effects. This suggests that molecular autonomous agents
      would be expected to span the classical and quantum realms.
      Indeed, cells do. A single photon can cause rhodopsin
      in the retina to respond. A possible image of
      consciousness is linked to the simultaneous propagation
      of quantum coherence in percolating webs within
      living systems, for example, neural tissue, that
      is simultaneously decohering along side channels
      as phase information is lost. This persistent
      propagation of quantum coherent behavior and its
      decoherence into specific fixed states of matter is
      then interpreted as "mind acting on matter". The
      percolation of quantum coherences and persistent
      decoherence is interpreted as consciousness itself
      in the experience of the agent. There are some
      similarities between this hypothesis and Penrose's
      work, but suggested on a different basis. Any such
      theory has the difficulty that quantum coherence seems
      unlikely at body temperature. Conversely, propagating
      work in cells may imply percolating webs of "frozen"
      degrees of freedom constituting the constraints on
      the release of energy that itself constitutes work.
      Thus, such frozen webs might have effectively lower
      local temperatures hence support percolating
      propagating quantum behavior that also persistently
      decoheres. "

      Proposal 11: Study the conditions by which
      software agents and communities of human agents
      developing software become self-aware i.e. consciousness
      in software, and collective consciousness in software

      The proposals included in these document attempt to provide
      an incomplete list of equivalent "Hilbert problems" in
      computing given that an agent paradigm has been applied
      to both software and software development.

      [1] "Investigations: The nature of Autonomous Agents
      and the worlds they mutually create"
      by Stewart Kauffman
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