Emergence in artificial life

Carlos Gershenson
Concepts similar to emergence have been used since antiquity, but we lack an agreed definition of emergence. Still, emergence has been identified as one of the features of complex systems. Most would agree on the statement “life is complex”. Thus, understanding emergence and complexity should benefit the study of living systems. It can be said that life emerges from the interactions of complex molecules. But how useful is this to understand living systems? Artificial life (ALife) has been developed in recent decades to study life using a synthetic approach: build it to understand it. ALife systems are not so complex, be them soft (simulations), hard (robots), or wet (protocells). Then, we can aim at first understanding emergence in ALife, for then using this knowledge in biology. I argue that to understand emergence and life, it becomes useful to use information as a framework. In a general sense, emergence can be defined as information that is not present at one scale but is present at another scale. This perspective avoids problems of studying emergence from a materialistic framework, and can be useful to study self-organization and complexity.

Read the full article at: arxiv.org