New Paper (2022): R. Beer, E. Di Paolo, The theoretical foundations of enaction: Precariousness

Published in Biosystems

Abstract: Enaction is an increasingly influential approach to cognition that grew out of Maturana and Varela’s earlier work on autopoiesis and the biology of cognition. As with any relatively new scientific discipline, the enactive approach would benefit greatly from a careful analysis of its theoretical foundations. Here we initiate such an analysis for one of the core concepts of enaction, precariousness. Specifically, we propose a decomposition of precariousness into three types of fragility: systemic, processual and thermodynamic. Using a glider in the Game of Life as a toy model, we illustrate each of these fragilities and examine the relationships between them. We also argue that each type of fragility is characterized by which aspects of a system are hardwired into its definition from the outset and which aspects are emergent and hence vulnerable to disintegration without ongoing maintenance.