Autopoiesis and Enaction in the Game of Life Event as iCalendar

(Science Event Tags, Computer Science, Seminars)

16 May 2018

4 - 6pm

Venue: Pat Hanan Room, Arts 2 Building, Level 5, Room 501

Location: City Campus, 31 Wynyard St, Auckland, 1010

Host: Academic staff in the Department of Philosophy (Arts) and the Department of Computer Science (Science) in association with Te Ao Mārama.

Professor Randall D. Beer, Seelye Fellow
Professor Randall D. Beer, Seelye Fellow

Speaker: Professor Randall D. Beer, Provost Professor, Cognitive Science, Indiana University.


The Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela proposed autopoiesis as a way to understand living systems and their phenomena, including cognition. This framework was later extended to an enactive approach that places biological autonomy at the foundation of situated and embodied behavior and cognition.

Professor Beer will analyse autopoiesis within the context of a toy model universe, John Conway's Game of Life (GoL) cellular automata. Simple concrete models provide an excellent vehicle for introducing autopoiesis and enaction and explaining how they fit together into a broader whole. In addition, a careful analysis of such toy models can hone our intuitions about these concepts, probe their strengths and weaknesses, and move the entire enterprise in the direction of a more mathematically rigorous theory.

In particular, Professor Beer will identify the primitive processes that can occur in GoL, show how these can be linked together into mutually-supporting networks that underlie persistent bounded entities, map the responses of such entities to environmental perturbations, and investigate the paths of mutual perturbation that these entities and their environments can undergo.

About our speaker

After placements at Case Western Reserve University, the Santa Fe Institute, and as director of an NSF IGERT training programme, Randall D. Beer is currently Provost Professor in the Cognitive Science program at Indiana University. His scientific research concerns how organisms operate as integrated wholes and he has taken a highly multidisciplinary approach to this question, combining work on the evolution and analysis of model brain-body-environment systems, neuromechanical modelling of animal behavior, biologically-inspired robotics and situated, embodied and dynamical approaches to cognition. Beer has published two books and over 120 research papers in these areas.

Randy Beer's visit is generously supported by a Seelye Fellowship. This talk is jointly hosted by academic staff in the Philosophy and Computer Science Departments who are associated with the newly opened Te Ao Mārama: Centre for Fundamental Inquiry at the University of Auckland.