Information, complexity and generative replication

Biology and Philosophy 23 (1):47-65 (2008)
Abstract
The established definition of replication in terms of the conditions of causality, similarity and information transfer is very broad. We draw inspiration from the literature on self-reproducing automata to strengthen the notion of information transfer in replication processes. To the triple conditions of causality, similarity and information transfer, we add a fourth condition that defines a “generative replicator” as a conditional generative mechanism, which can turn input signals from an environment into developmental instructions. Generative replication must have the potential to enhance complexity, which in turn requires that developmental instructions are part of the information that is transmitted in replication. Demonstrating the usefulness of the generative replicator concept in the social domain, we identify social generative replicators that satisfy all of the four proposed conditions.
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