Challenges, Agents and Coordination: how an action ontology can help us tackle both practical and foundational problems

Challenges, Agents and Coordination:
how an action ontology can help us tackle both practical and foundational problems
 
(ECCO, VUB)
 
Abstract:
 
The classical scientific worldview is founded on a materialist ontology: it reduces reality to the movement of particles in space and time. This static, reductionist view cannot explain emergent phenomena such as life, mind, society, purpose, meaning, consciousness, or cognition. Therefore, I propose a radically new ontology based on actions as constituents (Heylighen, 2011a0.
 
An action is an elementary process, transforming a state A into a state B: A -> B. Examples are chemical or physical reactions, but also actions performed by organisms or individuals. While actions are formulated as transformation of states, states can be defined as collections of potential actions (Turchin, 1991). Therefore, the actions are truly fundamental.
 
Starting from this simple notion of action, I will sketch how higher order physical concepts may be derived, including time, space, and causality. I will go into more detail about "mental" and "social" concepts by deriving the notions of agent (a stable catalyst of actions), challenge (a condition that elicits an action from an agent), and coordination (the synergetic combination of actions). This gives us a basis to tackle all major metaphysical questions about the nature of reality, intentionality and consciousness, epistemological questions about the nature of knowledge, and ethical questions about values, conflict and cooperation.
 
Finally, these basic concepts suggest a number of methods and tools for tackling real-world problems. These methods include stigmergy, connectionist networks, and mobilization systems. The general idea is to promote the self-organization of coordinated action via the propagation of challenges.
 

More info:

Heylighen F. (2011) Self-organization of complex, intelligent systems:  an action ontology for transdisciplinary integration, Integral Review (in press)
 
Heylighen F. (2011) Self-organization in Communicating Groups: the emergence of coordination, shared references and collective intelligence,  in: Language and Complexity (Barcelona University Press)
 
 
Turchin, V. (1993). The Cybernetic Ontology of Action. Kybernetes 22, p. 10-30.