The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation by John Mayfield

The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation

byJohn Mayfield

Kobo ebook | June 18, 2013

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The concepts of evolution and complexity theory have become part of the intellectual ether permeating the life sciences, the social and behavioral sciences, and more recently, management science and economics. In this new title, John Mayfield elegantly synthesizes core concepts from across disciplines to offer a new approach to understanding how evolution works and how complex organisms, structures, organizations, and social orders can and do arise based on information theory and computational science.

This is a big picture book intended for the intellectually adventuresome. While not deeply technical or mathematical in style, the text challenges readers and rewards them with a nuanced understanding of evolution and complexity that offers consistent, durable, and coherent explanations for major aspects of our life experiences. Numerous examples throughout the book illustrate evolution and complexity formation in action and highlight the core function of computation lying at the heart of the book.

About The Author

John E. Mayfield is professor emeritus of genetics, development, and cell biology at Iowa State University. He has also taught at the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Harvard University Biological Laboratories. His research focuses on the development of a generalized theory of evolution that relates ...
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Details & Specs

Title:The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as ComputationFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:June 18, 2013Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231535287

ISBN - 13:9780231535281

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Customer Reviews of The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation


Extra Content

Table of Contents

1. The Problem
How is the Earth different?
What is information?
What is an evolutionary system?
What constitutes scientific understanding?
How does computer science fit in?
How is purposeful complexity explained by science?
2. Computation
What is a computation?
What does it mean to manipulate information?
How is information defined and measured in computer science?
Can great complexity be created by short (i.e.
Can physical structure be computed?
Why have long programs?
3. Structure for Free
"If physical processes compute
How do we explain a grain of salt?
How does a solar system form?
How do nonequilibrium structures form?
Must structures have permanent parts?
Is behavior a form of structure?
Can avalanches be simulated in a computer?
Whence structure for free?
4. Purposeful Structure
What can you get by using instructions that you can't get for free?
Can you get a watch without a watchmaker?
How do instructions encoded in DNA specify structures more complicated than single proteins?
Can instructions dictate activity?
What about ongoing activity?
5. Improbability and the Engine of Complexity
How do order and disorder relate to each other?
How do we reconcile great improbability with existence?
Where do instructions come from?
How do instructions change our view of object probability?
Is life the outcome of a computation?
6. Algorithmic Evolution
Can computers learn?
What are evolutionary algorithms?
Can the rules evolve?
How can we visualize what is happening during an evolutionary computation?
Is randomness necessary for learning?
Chapter 7: Evolution Within the Body
How does the human body form from a single cell?
How is the brain wired?
Why isn't the body destroyed by microorganisms?
What does copying add to selection?
8. Taking Control of the Cycle
Can the engine of complexity accept any form of information?
Can variation be controlled?
Must selection be natural?
Is there any aspect of the cycle that cannot be controlled?
9. Complex Systems
What constitutes a complex system?
How is an electronic device also a network?
What is a biochemical network?
What is a genetic network and what does it do?
What is a proteome?
What is life?
What is a complex adaptive system?
10. Human Learning and Creativity
How are we to understand the human mind?
Where is the information?
How are decisions made?
"Could our world
What are some general principles of brain function?
What is evolutionary epistemology?
What are some current theories?
How do we invent?
What is the evidence that the engine of complexity plays a major role in brain function?
What can we say about the origin of human creativity?
11. Cultural Evolution
What is human culture?
How do cultures change?
How does science work?
Economies change
Do religions evolve?
How does the engine of complexity operate in human society?
12. The Evolution of Complexity
Can complexity be defined?
How is complexity defined by biologists?
How do optimization and coevolution fit in?
Do resources matter?
How does depth figure in?
Is there evidence?
13. Past and Present
How do engines of complexity get started?
What does it mean to be in the middle of a computation?
14. The Future
Where is it all going?
Are we about to participate in a new implementation of the engine of complexity?


Editorial Reviews

John E. Mayfield succeeds beautifully in making computational and biological concepts understandable to the non-expert reader. He suggests we are about to see a sea-change in our thinking with respect to how we view evolution in our society; he may be right, and his book is good reading to ready yourself for this potential change.