Visiting Speaker: David Batten

An exciting special seminar hosted by the ARC Centre for Complex Systems:
Afternoon tea now provided BEFORE the seminar.

Date: Monday, 17th October
Afternoon Tea: 3:00pm Tea Room 78-423

Seminar Time: 4:00pm
Location: 78-420, General Purposes south

Speaker: David F. Batten*
Melbourne, Australia

Title:  Agency and the Evolution of Diversity

According to Stuart Kauffman, a striking weakness of current economic theory
is that it has no convincing account of the persistent, secular explosion of
diversity of goods, services and ways of making a living.  Jobs and job
holders jointly coevolve into existence in an ever-expanding web of diverse
complexity. So do products, markets and artefacts.  This persistent novelty
highlights the fact that both the biosphere and the econosphere "are
expressions of the immense creativity of the universe, and in particular, of
autonomous agents that are exapting molecularly, morphologically and
technologically in untold, unforetellable ways persistently into the
adjacent possible." [Kauffman (2000), p.212]

George Basalla (1988), for one, questions whether the explosive variety that
we see in the world is simply a result of wilful, conscious planning by
humans to satisfy their own needs. He pursues the analogy between the
evolution of living organisms and human artefacts in detail. For example, he
compares the number of different species - estimated at 1.5 million - with
the number of different patents (representing artefacts).  About 4.7 million
patents were registered in the USA alone from 1790 to 1980. Is technological
evolution a discrete process of inventions with great names attached to
each, or is it a continuous, collectively social process?  Are all living
and non-living entities subject to the same natural law (meaning that
economics should really be a branch of biology)?  Do we only need Universal
Darwinism to explain this inexorable march towards greater diversity?  Or
can complexity theory (e.g. the theory of self-organization) add something
that evolutionary theory alone still lacks?

In this talk, I shall address the above questions by discussing the issue of
autonomous agents and if/how the evolution of diversity can be modelled.
Special attention will be devoted to the role of evolutionary graph theory,
cellular automata, agent-based simulation and other methods drawn from the
complexity sciences.  This topic will be the subject of a 1-day Symposium at
the University of Melbourne on 16 December 2005, immediately after the
MODSIM Congress.

* The author is currently Coordinator of (1) CSIRO's Agent-Based Modelling
Working Group and (2) COSNet Theme 5 (Cellular Automata, Agent-Based
Modelling and Simulation).

World-class basic and applied inter-disciplinary research on questions fundamental to understanding, designing and managing complex systems
2009 The ARC Centre for Complex Systems, Australia