Evolution, Development & Complexity

One Day Satellite Meeting, 8:50am - 6pm, 20 September 2017

at CCS17, 17-22 Sept , Cancun, Mexico

(Image source: ACoL, 2014)

Confirmed Keynote Speakers:

Yaneer Bar-Yam, Complexity and Scale

Hiroki Sayama, Evolution, Development, and Complexity in Morphogenetic Collective Systems

Michael Price, Entropy and Selection: Life as an Adaptation for Universe Replication

Melanie Moses, Disease Surveillance: Design Principles from Immunology

Also Eleven Contributed Talks and Posters (see below)


The Evolution, Development and Complexity (EDC) satellite meeting explores how our understanding of the universe as a complex system might be augmented by insights from information and computation studies, evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) biology, and hypotheses and models of quasi-evolutionary and quasi-developmental processes applied at universal and subsystem scales. It is a topic in the Foundations of Complex Systems track at the Conference on Complex Systems 2017 (CCS17).

The satellite seeks to advance conceptual and mathematical models and empirical applications in three major and potentially foundational research themes:

A. Evolution / diversity / phase space creation / unpredictability

B. Development / constraint / phase space reduction / predictability

C. Complexity / nonlinear dynamics / learning / intelligence / adaptation

These are the major research themes of the Evo Devo Universe academic research and discussion community, an interdisciplinary international group of roughly 100 publishing scholars interested in Bio-Inspired Complexity Science & Philosophy (BICS&P), at all scales of universal dynamics (academic listserve here). Researchers are challenged to consider how concepts and models from each of these three themes in complexity science and philosophy may relate to and inform their work. The satellite seeks to evaluate biologically-inspired approaches to understanding complex adaptive systems at all scales, from the intersecting academic disciplines of complexity science, physical science, information and computer science, biological sciences, theoretical and evo-devo biology, cosmology, astrobiology, and philosophy.


The underlying paradigm for cosmology is theoretical physics. It has helped us understand much about universal space, time, energy, and matter, but does not presently connect strongly to the emergence of information, computation, life and mind. Fortunately, recent developments in physics, cosmology, theoretical biology, evolutionary developmental biology, information and computation theory, and the complexity sciences are providing complementary yet isolated ways to understand our universe within a ‘meta-Darwinian’ framework in which unpredictable, stochastic, and diversity-creating or "evolutionary" and predictable, convergent, and hierarchical, or "developmental" processes work together, via replication and under selection, to generate adapted information, relation, and intelligence in a variety of physical systems at multiple scales. The rigor, relevance, and limits of an evolutionary developmental approach to understanding universal complexity remains an understudied domain of scientific and philosophical inquiry.

An evolutionary developmental framework promises to advance our understanding of both perennially chaotic, contingent, creative, experimental, and unpredictable processes (evolutionary processes, in a dynamical and functional definition) and of constraining, convergent, hierarchical, cyclical, heritable, and predictable processes (developmental processes) in the universe as a system, and of evolutionary and developmental process at all scales, including the human scale. If falsified in any part, this endeavor will improve our thinking about complex systems, and the role and limits of organic analogies in understanding other potentially replicating systems, including our universe as a system.

For one example, evolutionary convergence in macrobiological change can be modeled as the result of networks of biomolecules and other agents, organized by information hierarchies that emerge via top-down causation. In such models, higher levels of emergent informational organization in hierarchies constrain the dynamics of lower levels of organization. The emergence of functional equivalence classes in agent interactions, of modularity, and of convergent forms and functions can be explained via such information hierarchies, in both biological and nonbiological systems, and testing such models is an important area of research. Traditional dynamical models presumed that purely physical effects fully determined both lower and higher levels of organization. But an emerging school of investigators hypothesize that convergent processes, presumably including the transition from non-life to life, require a series of top-down transitions in causation and information flow (e.g. Walker et al. (eds.) (2017), From Matter to Life, Cambridge U. Press.)

Opportunities for domain-specific scholarship and interdisciplinary synthesis in the three meta-themes of this satellite—evolution, development, and complexity—have never been better. Come join us, share your current work, and find opportunities to partner and publish both at our satellite and at CCS2017.


Morning Session - Complexity and Universe (9am - 1pm)

9:00-9:15 | Opening - EDU Directors

9:15-9:45 | Michael Price, Entropy and Selection: Life as an Adaptation for Universe Replication

9:45-10:07 | John Smart, Evolutionary Development: A Universal Perspective

10:07-10:30 | Clément Vidal (et al.), Universal Ethics: Organized Complexity as Intrinsic Value

10:30-11:00 | Coffee Break | 30 min

11:00-11:22 | Georgi Georgiev, Toward a Coupled Oscillator Model of the Mechanisms of Universal Evolution and Development

11:22-11:53 | Yaneer Bar-Yam, Complexity and Scale

11:53-12:15 | Martin Stefanec (et al.), The Primordial Particle System: Life-like Properties From a Simple Motion Law

12:15-12:38 | Ivan Zelinka, On the Relation Between Swarm and Evolutionary Dynamics and Complex Networks

12:38-1:00 | Roundtable Discussion - Morning Speakers

1:00-2:30 | Lunch and Poster Session | 90 min

Afternoon Session - Biology and Society (2:30pm - 6:30pm)

2:30-3:00 | Hiroki Sayama, Morphogenetic Evolution, Development & Complexity in Collective Systems

3:00-3:20 | George Bassel (et al.), A Complex Systems Approach to Modelling Multicellular Self-Org: The Plant Stem Cell Niche

3:20-3:40 | Chico Q. Camargo and Ard A. Lewis, What Darwin Didn’t Know: Bias in Natural Variation

3:40-4:00 | Claudio F. Martinez, Comparative Genomics of Convergent Evolution

4:00-4:30 | Coffee Break

4:30-5:00 | Melanie Moses, Disease Surveillance: Design Principles from Immunology

5:00-5:20 | Valerie Gremillion, Applying Evolutionary Meta-Strategies to Human Problems

5:20-5:40 | Nathalie Mezza-Garcia, A Combinatorial Explosion in Bio-Inspired Political Networks

5:40-6:25 | Roundtable Discussion - Afternoon Speakers

6:25-6:30 | Closing - EDU Director Hosts

Evening Social Event

Presenter Abstracts

(PDF Download).

EDC2017 Speakers and Abstracts.pdf

Academic Disciplines (favored list):

Complexity science, physical science, information and computer science, biological sciences, theoretical and evo-devo biology, cosmology, astrobiology, and philosophy.

Research Themes (meta-list):

  • Evolution / diversity / phase space creation / unpredictability
  • Development / constraint / phase space reduction / predictability
  • Complexity / nonlinear dynamics / learning / intelligence / adaptation

Paper Topics (partial list):

Accelerating Complexity, Adaptive Networks, Agent-Based Models, Artificial Life, Astrobiology, Bio-Inspired Models, Convergent Evolution (in any System), Cosmology, Developmental Models, Evo-Devo Biology, Fine Tuning (Biology and Cosmology), Hierarchy Theory, Information Hierarchies, Intelligence Models, Nonlinear and Adaptive Dynamics, Origin of Life, Performance Curves, Philosophy of Modeling, Reverse Engineering of Biological Complexity, Scaling Laws, Self-Organization, Theoretical Morphology, Top-Down Causation, Universality (Principles)

Questions of Interest (very partial list)

  • What can the interaction of evolutionary stochasticity and developmental determinism in biological systems teach us about these processes in other complex systems?
  • How can bio-inspired complexity science and philosophy inform astrophysics? geophysics? astrobiology? biological sciences? cognitive sciences? social sciences? Engineering and machine learning?
  • What are our best network and collective models for adaptation? For learning and intelligence? For cooperativity and competition?
  • How does cumulative information and relation constrain physical dynamics in complex environments (modularity, hierarchy, top-down causation)?
  • How do scaling laws (scale-invariance) constrain evolutionary process in adaptive systems?
  • Is the fine-tuning of universal parameters in cosmology equivalent to fine-tuning of genetic parameters in biological development?
  • If our universe is a replicator, as in theories of cosmological natural selection, is there a fitness function (adaptive value) for evolved complexity or intelligence?
  • Why do we see temporal deceleration of complexity in the early universe, and acceleration of complexity (eg., Chaisson's energy rate density) once large scale structure exists?
  • What are our best morphological and functional models of convergent evolution? When can we consider evolutionary convergence (eg. eyes, intelligence) an example of universal development (an astrobiological universal)?
  • Are any of Earth's past convergences (eg, organic chemistry, RNA, multicellularity) likely to be developmental bottlenecks (the only path to a significantly greater learning rate for adaptive complexity)?

Papers are to be submitted to EasyChair: https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=edcatccs17 in either single or two column format, and PDF.


● To explore and evaluate biologically-inspired approaches to understanding complex adaptive systems at multiple scales, including the universe as a complex system, from the intersecting disciplines of complexity science, physical science, information and computer science, theoretical and evo-devo biology, cosmology, astrobiology, evolution, development, and philosophy.

● Publish proceedings of the event in Springer Proceedings in Complexity.

Important dates:

Abstract Registration Deadline: 30th June

Notifications of Acceptance: Rolling (to 14th July)

Paper Submission Deadline: 30th November

Fees and Scholarships:

CCS17 Registration fees (Early reg. deadline June 15 ) begin at $325 (Student) and $525 (Academic). Three half-off conference registration scholarships are available for students and academics presenting at our satellite with financial need. Inquire to Clement Vidal evodevocomplex@gmail.com.

Academic Committee:

Milan Circovic, Ph.D. Prof. of Physics, University of Novi Sad, Serbia

James Coffman, Ph.D., Prof. of Biology, MDI Biological Laboratory, ME, USA

Georgi Georgiev, Ph.D., Prof. of Physics, Worcester Polytechnic Inst. & Assumption College, MA, USA

John Leslie, FRSC, Emeritus Prof. of Philosophy, University of Guelph, ON, Canada

Michael Price, Ph.D., Dir., Centre for Culture and Evolution, Brunel University, London, UK

Stan Salthe, Ph.D., Emeritus Prof. of Biology and Ecology, City University of New York, NY, USA

Kelly C. Smith, Ph.D., Prof. Philosophy and Biology, Clemson U. , SC, USA

Eric Steinhart, Ph.D., Prof. Philosophy, William Paterson University, NJ, USA

Robert E. Ulanowicz, Emeritus Prof. of Ecology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA

Clément Vidal, Ph.D., Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium

Organizing Committee:

Georgi Georgiev, Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Inst. & Assumption College, MA, USA

Claudio F. Martinez, M.Sc., University of Heidelberg, Germany

John M. Smart, M.Sc., Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, USA

Clément Vidal, Ph.D., Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium