Goals as Emergent Autopoietic Processes

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While the phenomena of reaching a goal is generally represented in the framework of optimization, the phenomena of becoming of a goal is more similar to a “self-organization and emergent” rather than an “optimization and preexisting” process. In this article we provide a modeling framework for the former alternative by representing goals as emergent autopoietic structures. In order to conceptually situate our approach, we first review some of the most remarkable attempts to formally define emergence, and identify that in most cases such definitions rely on a preexisting system to be observed prior and post emergence, being thus inadequate for a formalization of emergent goals corresponding to the becoming of a systems as such (e.g. emergence of life). Next, we review how an implementation of the reaction networks framework, known as Chemical Organization Theory (COT), can be applied to formalize autopoietic structures, providing a basis to operationalize goals as an emergent process. We next revisit the definitions of emergence under the light of our approach, and demonstrate that recent taxonomies developed to classify different forms of emergence can be naturally deduced from recent work aimed to explain the kinds of changes of the organizational structure of a reaction network.

Original languageEnglish
Article number720652
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 Veloz.


  • autopoiesis
  • chemical organization theory
  • emergence
  • goals
  • process modelling


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