Evolutionary Innovation Viewed as Novel Physical Phenomena and Hierarchical Systems Building

Tim Taylor

In previous work I proposed a framework for thinking about open-ended evolution. The framework characterised the basic processes required for Darwinian evolution as: (1) the generation of a phenotype from a genetic description; (2) the evaluation of that phenotype; and (3) the reproduction with variation of successful genotype-phenotypes. My treatment emphasized the potential influence of the biotic and abiotic environment, and of the laws of physics/chemistry, on each of these processes. I demonstrated the conditions under which these processes can allow for ongoing exploration of a space of possible phenotypes (which I labelled exploratory open-endedness). However, these processes by themselves cannot expand the space of possible phenotypes and therefore cannot account for the more interesting and unexpected kinds of evolutionary innovation (such as those I labelled expansive and transformational open-endedness). In the previous work I looked at ways in which expansive and transformational innovations could arise. I proposed transdomain bridges and non-additive compositional systems as two mechanisms by which these kinds of innovations could arise. In the current paper I wish to generalise and expand upon these two concepts. I do this by adopting the Parameter Space-Organisation Space-Action Space (POA) perspective, as suggested at in my previous work, and proposing that all evolutionary innovations can be viewed as either capturing some novel physical phenomena that had previously been unused, or as the creation of new persistent systems within the environment.

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