An Integrated Perspective on the Constitutive and Interactive Dimensions of Autonomy by Beer, R. D. (2020)

Emergence, Life, Cellular automata
(Beer 2020)


Constitution: “How emergent individuals are put together and maintained” Interaction: “How emergent individuals as a whole engage with the environment”

Use Conway’s Game of Life as a toy model where each cell and update rule is like the Physics of the universe and this physics gives rise to a simple chemistry which can in turn support self-sustaining networks of reactions and some form of biology. Finally this biology engages with the environment in a wide range of interactions.

In (Beer 2015) the same author constructed a theory of constitution for simple gliders in GOL. A complete map of interactions was done in (Beer 2014) (mapping all the ways gliders can interact with the environment).

This allows the author to study the two processes in a very concrete way. He extends the glider constitution theory to add “unspecified” environments and have gliders that are not evolving in a vacuum. This allows studying processes where even after interaction with the environment, a glider stays a well defined glider.

Starting from the theory of glider constitution (how glider is constituted in a vacuum) and a theory of gliders interactions with their environment. From a generalization of the glider organization, the author was able to derive the glider interaction graph.


Beer, Randall D. 2014. “The Cognitive Domain of a Glider in the Game of Life.” Artificial Life 20 (2):183–206.

———. 2015. “Characterizing Autopoiesis in the Game of Life.” Artificial Life 21 (1):1–19.

———. 2020. “An Integrated Perspective on the Constitutive and Interactive Dimensions of Autonomy.” Artificial Life Conference Proceedings 32 (July). MIT Press:202–9.

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