Our latest paper is "Can a robot have Free Will" : a pre-print of it can be found here
In the paper, information theory and concepts such as downward
causation, function and hierarchical autopoiesis are brought together
to analyse the general question of free will.
The book: From Matter to Life: Information and Causality
is now available from book sellers. Chapter 13: Living through downward
causation: from molecules to ecosystems by Keith D. Farnsworth, George
F. R. Ellis and Luc Jaeger, is an extended explanation of our ideas on
downward causation as they apply to living systems.
Our latest statement on Biological Function
Unifying concepts of biological function from molecules to ecosystems.
by Keith Farnworth, Larissa Albantakis and Tancredi Caruso, has
been uploaded onto the bioRxiv (archive prior to publication, intended
for the journal Oikos).
Technical changes on this website have meant that the .net blog site is
not currently available - this will be sorted out as soon as possible.
This month whatlifeis.net moves away from Queen's
University Belfast to a commercial server. I made some minor
changes to pages in preparation for that. More interestingly, we are
planning for a new Theme on 'mind and action' to incorporate enquiry
into the apparent freedom of organisms to act as they will and
ultimately to investigate what information processing can tell us about
consciousness and free-will.
We also congratulate Dr Larissa Albantakis on her winning a Templeton
Foundation Fellowship to work on information and consciousness.
A major update has substantially improved the synthesis page.
We have started the development of a WordPress site at http://whatlifeis.net
There is a new page on Autopoisis which highlights work by Pier Luisi and a new page on the sequence paradox (part of the theme on the origin of life).
We welcome information and network theorist and neurologist Dr Larissa Albantakis to the network (see the Who page).
A bit of time off for Christmas holidays has allowed for an update on
several pages of this website and new material too. Notably a new page
on the language of information terms, which sets out an organised
structure for terms and builds a new draft for terminology in this
area. Final preparations are also underway for the Cambridge University
Press book (see August entry), which brings a new collaboration with
the information philosopher Chris Timpson.
One important update to the site content is that the word
'epiphenomenon' has been replaced with 'transcendent complex' - this
following creative discussion with the cosmologist and philosoper
George Ellis (again see the August entry). I have also added to the
The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in
Leipzig, Germany (of course!) hosted a group of us as a workshop titled
"Functional Information: its potential for quantifying biodiversity and
its relation to ecosystem functioning". We worked very hard all
week! Here is the list of those present:
Dr Keith Farnsworth (coordinator) - UK
Prof Ivo Gross (vice-coordinator, bioinformatics expert, leader and local representative) - Germany
Dr Larissa Albantakis (network theorist and inspiring thinker) - USA / Germany
Prof Arto Annila (provided a deep thermodynamic- based theoretical foundation) - Finland
Dr David Ardell (introduced great new insights from molecular biology) - USA
Dr Keith Baverstock (contributed mind-expanding biological theory) -Finland / UK
Dr Christina Cobbold (mathemtician and biodiversty metric pioneer) - UK
Dr Lars Gamfeldt (crucial ecologist and biodiversity expert) - Sweden
Dr Olga Lyashevska (biodiversity metrics and big data expert -right down to the C-scripts!) - Netherlands / Ukraine
Dr Hyunju Kim (network theorist and mathematical support for all of us) - USA
Dr Thomas Schneider (pioneer of Shannon's information theory in biology) - USA
Dr Axel Rossberg (theoretical community ecologist and inspiring thinker) - UK / Germany.
A report has been posted on this webpage: http://www.whatlifeis.info/pages/Themes/Diversity/sDIV.html.
The book : "From Matter to Life: Information and
Causality" to be
published by Cambridge University Press has been compiled and edited.
The book is edited by Paul Davies, Sara Walker and George Ellis. Keith
Farnsworth wrote the chapter "Living through downward causation:
from molecules to ecosystems" with George Ellis and Luc Jaeger, and
co-wrote with the Oxford philosopher Christopher Timpson, a chapter on
definitions of information. It should be out next year.
Biodiversity: The German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research
(iDiv) has granted us full funding for a workshop to be held in Leipzig
in September this year. More details can be found on the Biodiversity
We have added our first 'tutorial' paper: How much Information does DNA
instantiate? (it is in the 'Molecular' theme).
Following the Arizona workshop, Keith Farnsworth is working with George
Ellis and others to write two chapters for a book ( "Information
and Causality: From Matter to Life") to be published by Cambridge
Keith Farnsworth attended the Arizona State University Beyond Center
Information, Causality & the Origin of Life
This workshop was attended by leading thinkers in our subject area,
including Sarah Walker (see our Origins Page). Topics discussed
included: definitions of information; top-down causation, the
biochemistry of proto-life and synthetic life; the thermodynamics of
the origin of life; emergence and complexity. A book is planned, to be
edited by Paul Davies (the organiser), Sarah Walker and George Ellis
(cosmologist and leader in downward causation thinking).
Website: New webpage on molecular self-assembly and the role of
physical forces in constructing the hierarchy of complexity leading to
life. A few more library entries too.
Website: Various paged get text updates and small errors corrected.
Network Coordinator Dr Keith Farnsworth Invited to Arizona State
University Beyond Centre workshop on the "Physics of Living Matter
Information, Causality and the Origin of Life".
Website officially launched!
IFB Website put online for testing.
IFB Website created: building starts offline.
Throughout 2013, the network of scientists who will take part in the
project is gradually built up.
Publication of Foundation Paper in Acta Biotheoretica