Cognitive and Neural Systems LO23830

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 01/26/00

Replying to LO23806 --

Dear Organlearners,

Arun-Kumar Tripathi <> asks:

>How Can Technology Emulate Biological Intelligence?

Greetings Arun,

I used to read a lot on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Artificial Life
(AL) and particpated in email lists on these topics. Surprisingly, very
little thought in AI and AL is given to the issue of spontaneity. When I
drew attention to this issue, it was as if I was speaking in San -- nobody
could make out a word of what came form me.

Its almost like the concept of "biodiversity". (It concerns the
essentiality Otherness or "quality-variety".) Before the sixties a few
biologists draw attention to it, but these drawings fell upon deaf ears
and blind eyes. Just forty years later almost every biologist can join in
a discourse on the importance of biodiversity to sustain life.

Should you consult any comprehensive textbook or even a standard
dictionary on biology, you will find little, if anything, on spontaneity.
Perhaps it may say a little on "spontaneous generation" -- the thesis that
life can emerge form any non-life material, independent of any parent.
This thesis is a gross generalisation of one of the vital assumptions of
Darwin's theory on the Origin of Species -- biogenesis begins with
primitive bacteria as the first parents of all species, having themselves
only inorganic materials as "parents". By gross I mean that it even
includes such things as a fermenting piece of fruit or rotting piece of
meat suddenly springing back into full life.

(Do you see me smiling -- sometimes, when very hungry in a desolate place
and no good food to eat, a person has to make use of what appears to be so
vile that it can suddenly spring back into a horrific form of life.)

Obviously, we can immediately perceive why Darwin's theory met so much
resistance from many religious circles, especially Christians. They
maintain that God is the Creator of all life. Hence some developed
extensive dogmatics from it like creationism or predestinism. When asked
"how" did God create life, they refer to the "six days account" in Genesis
one. Some use this account as literal content without trying to figure
what form emerges from this content. The patterns "chaos to order" and
"progress in order" means little to some of them when discerned in

Imagine what commotion it would have caused among ancient people should
Moses have depicted God's Creation by Darwin's natural selection, Smuts'
holism, Maturana's autopoiesis, Prigogine's dissipative self-organisation
or Kauffman's complex adaptation of recent times. Most humans in general
and not merely some Christains have an extraordinary resistance to the
explication of evolution. They rather want to invoke the "super-natural",
even if they have to invoke the very God Creator. Today we have a glimps
of its understanding in the so called "measurement problem" of Quantum
Mechanics -- the advance reduction of information in the wave packet as a
result of explicating it. The more we try to explicate by measurements,
the more we lose that which cannot be measured. Thus we ought to respect
patiently any resistance in formalising the tacit dimension of knowledge.
Our own meagre formalistions are often the main cause for such a

When we follow the course of "entropy production" (and not entropy because
it has no course), we will sooner or later discover that the concept of
spontaneity is central to it. "Free energy" (one thing) is needed to
produce entropy by means of force-flux pairs. When a system's free energy
decreases, the system reacts (behaves) spontaneously. In other words, to
change spontaneously, the system self has to produce entropy. The converse
is true for non-spontaneous processes -- the system's free energy

Living systems exhibit an amazing amount of spontaneous processes. To be
able to change spontaneously, they exhibit TWO most peculiar properties:
DNA (memory) and enzymes (catalyses). This "memory" of DNA is the most
ecomomical way possible to replicate and extend "being" while the
"catalyses" of enzymes is the most economical way possible to replicate
and extend "becoming".

As I see it, one of the key features of "biointelligence" ought to be the
ability to "learn spontaneously". It means that the biosystem has to use
its own free energy for its self-organisation (autopoiesis). This
"spontaneous change" is a key feature of my concept of "authentic
learning" among humans.

At this stage I am convinced that the venture in "biointelligence" without
giving attention to "spontaneity" will remain sterile. Its like getting
into a boat with nobody willing to work on the oars. The winds and
currents may displace the boat at random without any intelligent course to
a specific destination. It lacks "spontaneous changes" as the skipper.
But be forewarned -- expect mutinies because many do not like this skipper
at all.

With caring and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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