Syntactic Autonomy: Why There is no Autonomy without Symbols and How Self-Organization Might Evolve Them
Two different types of agency are discussed based on dynamically coherent and incoherent couplings with an environment respectively. I propose that until a private syntax (syntactic autonomy) is discovered by dynamically coherent agents, there are no significant or interesting types of closure or autonomy. When syntactic autonomy is established, then, because of a process of description-based selected self-organization, open-ended evolution is enabled. At this stage, agents depend, in addition to dynamics, on localized, symbolic memory, thus adding a level of dynamical incoherence to their interaction with the environment. Furthermore, it is the appearance of syntactic autonomy which enables much more interesting types of closures amongst agents which share the same syntax. To investigate how we can study the emergence of syntax from dynamical systems, experiments with cellular automata leading to emergent computation to solve non-trivial tasks are discussed. RNA editing is also mentioned as a process that may have been used to obtain a primordial biological code necessary open-ended evolution.