Dealing with the Unexpected

John Collier
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Typically, we think of both artificial and natural computing devices as following rules that allow them to alter their behaviour (output) according to their environment (input). This approach works well when the environment and goals are well defined and regular. However, 1) the search time for appropriate solutions quickly becomes intractable when the input is not fairly regular, and 2) responses may be required that are not computable, either in principle, or given the computational resources available to the system. It may seem that there is no way to deal with these conditions, but if we think of systems as dynamical non-equilibrium autonomous entities, there are ways to deal with the unexpected and irregular by taking advantage of self-organising and self-preserving capacities of such systems. A generalised force acting on a system far from equilibrium will cause the system to reorganise itself in the direction of the generalised force in such a way as to minimise its effects (Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977), but there can be unpredictable effects in different generalised directions in the system’s phase space. In order to preserve system integrity, these effects must be damped or used for further self-reorganisation, possibly starting a cascade effect that leaves the system in a substantially different state in which it can handle further instances of this sort of information. This model is similar to and extends the theoretical model of accommodation and assimilation of Piaget, derived from his observations of the development of intelligence in children
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Real Patterns and Indispensability.Abel Suñé & Manolo Martínez - forthcoming - Synthese 198 (5):4315-4330.

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