New paper: Can Government Be Self-Organized? A Mathematical Model of the Collective Social Organization of Ancient Teotihuacan, Central Mexico

Teotihuacan was the first urban civilization of Mesoamerica and one of the largest of the ancient world. Following a tradition in archaeology to equate social complexity with centralized hierarchy, it is widely believed that the city’s origin and growth was controlled by a lineage of powerful individuals. However, much data is indicative of a government of co-rulers, and artistic traditions expressed an egalitarian ideology. Yet this alternative keeps being marginalized because the problems of collective action make it difficult to conceive how such a coalition could have functioned in principle. We therefore devised a mathematical model of the city’s hypothetical network of representatives as a formal proof of concept that widespread cooperation was realizable in a fully distributed manner. In the model, decisions become self-organized into globally optimal configurations even though local representatives behave and modify their relations in a rational and selfish manner. This self-optimization crucially depends on occasional communal interruptions of normal activity, and it is impeded when sections of the network are too independent. We relate these insights to theories about community-wide rituals at Teotihuacan and the city’s eventual disintegration.

Froese, T., Gershenson, C., and Manzanilla, L. R. (2014). Can government be self-organized? a mathematical model of the collective social organization of ancient teotihuacan, central mexico. PLoS ONE 9 (10) (10): e109966. http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0109966


Review article published: The past, present, and future of artificial life

For millennia people have wondered what makes the living different from the non-living. Beginning in the mid-1980s, artificial life has studied living systems using a synthetic approach: build life in order to understand it better, be it by means of software, hardware, or wetware. This review provides a summary of the advances that led to the development of artificial life, its current research topics, and open problems and opportunities. We classify artificial life research into 14 themes: origins of life, autonomy, self-organization, adaptation (including evolution, development, and learning), ecology, artificial societies, behavior, computational biology, artificial chemistries, information, living technology, art, and philosophy. Being interdisciplinary, artificial life seems to be losing its boundaries and merging with other fields.

Aguilar W, Santamaría-Bonfil G, Froese T and Gershenson C (2014) The past, present, and future of artificial life. Front. Robot. AI 1:8. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/frobt.2014.00008


Paper published: Entropy Methods in Guided Self-Organisation

Self-organisation occurs in natural phenomena when a spontaneous increase inorder is produced by the interactions of elements of a complex system. Thermodynamically,this increase must be offset by production of entropy which, broadly speaking, can beunderstood as a decrease in order. Ideally, self-organisation can be used to guide the systemtowards a desired regime or state, while “exporting” the entropy to the system’s exterior. Thus, Guided Self-Organisation (GSO) attempts to harness the order-inducing potentialof self-organisation for specific purposes. Not surprisingly, general methods developed tostudy entropy can also be applied to guided self-organisation. This special issue covers a broad diversity of GSO approaches which can be classified in three categories: informationtheory, intelligent agents, and collective behavior. The proposals make another step towardsa unifying theory of GSO which promises to impact numerous research fields.

Entropy Methods in Guided Self-Organisation
Mikhail Prokopenko and Carlos Gershenson
Entropy 2014, 16(10), 5232-5241; doi:10.3390/e16105232



New draft: Requisite Variety, Autopoiesis, and Self-organization

Ashby's law of requisite variety states that a controller must have at least as much variety (complexity) as the controlled. Maturana and Varela proposed autopoiesis (self-production) to define living systems. Living systems also require to fulfill the law of requisite variety. A measure of autopoiesis has been proposed as the ratio between the complexity of a system and the complexity of its environment. Self-organization can be used as a concept to guide the design of systems towards higher values of autopoiesis, with the potential of making technology more "living", i.e. adaptive and robust.

Requisite Variety, Autopoiesis, and Self-organization
Carlos Gershenson
Invited keynote at WOSC 2014


Research Professor Position in Big Data at UNAM

The Computer Science Department of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en Sistemas (IIMAS) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has a open call for a research professor in big data. This position, aimed at young researchers, consists of renewable one-year contracts with the possibility of tenure after three years.

Located in the heart of the UNAM's Ciudad Universitaria, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the IIMAS has been the leader in computer science in Mexico since the first computer in the country was acquired by UNAM. Researchers at UNAM have a privileged position for several reasons. UNAM is the highest ranked spanish speaking higher education institution in the world and produces half of the research in Mexico and is the largest in the continent (300K+ students). Professors in faculties do more teaching than research, while researchers in institutes (such as IIMAS) do more research than teaching (about 48 hours per year, usually to the best graduate students in the country. Groups of more than five students get a teaching assistant). Students in most graduate programs at UNAM receive automatically a scholarship, and there is travel budget for researchers, minimizing the grant writing load. There are several grant calls with high acceptance rates. There are also two postdoctoral fellowship calls per year internal to UNAM. High performing researchers can reach tenure in less than five years.

Requirements for this call are:

  1. To be less than 39 (women) or 37 (men) years old.
  2. To have a PhD degree in computer science or related fields from a renowned institution.
  3. To have published high quality research papers related to big data.
  4. To have teaching skills at undergraduate and graduate levels.
  5. To have abilities to direct undergraduate and graduate theses.
  6. To be able to collaborate in multidisciplinary research projects.
  7. To fulfill the norms described at http://dgapa.unam.mx/html/sija/sija.html
Interested candidates should send the following documentation to Dr. Ricardo Berlanga (berlanga "at" unam.mx), Academic Secretary of IIMAS before October 7th, 2014:
  1. Application request (in Spanish).
  2. Updated Curriculum Vitae, including publication list (in Spanish).
  3. Copy of PhD degree.
  4. Copy of publications.
  5. At least two references with email included.
  6. A work plan which includes research and teaching prospects for the next three years (in Spanish.
Selected candidates will be invited to give an open talk or videoconference at IIMAS. An ad hoc commission will make a final decision.

More information can be requested to:
Dr. Carlos Gershenson
Head of Computer Science Department, IIMAS, UNAM
cgg "at" unam.mx


Postdoctoral Fellowships at UNAM

//Please forward to whom may be interested.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has an open call for postdoctoral fellowships to start in March, 2015. 

Candidates should have obtained a PhD degree within the last three years and be under 36 years, both to the date of the beginning of the fellowship.

The area of interests of candidates should fall within complex systems, artificial life, information, evolution, cognition, robotics, and/or philosophy.

 Interested candidates should send CV and a tentative project (1 paragraph) to cgg-at-unam.mx by Monday, June 30th (if starting in September 2014, otherwise in the coming months). Full application package should be ready by Friday, July 4th at noon, Mexico City time.
 Projects can be inspired from: http://turing.iimas.unam.mx/~cgg/projects.html

 , http://froese.wordpress.com/research/ and/or http://jmsiqueiros.org

Postdoctoral fellowships are between one and two years (after renewal).
 Spanish is not a requisite.
 Accepted candidates would be working at the Self-organizing Systems Lab (http://turing.iimas.unam.mx/sos/ ) of the Computer Science Department (http://turing.iimas.unam.mx ) of the IIMAS (http://www.iimas.unam.mx ), and at the Center for Complexity Sciences (http://c3.unam.mx/ ), both at UNAM's main campus.
To know more about UNAM, please visit http://turing.iimas.unam.mx/~cgg/unam.html


New Essay Published: Harnessing the complexity of education with information technology

Education at all levels is facing several challenges in most countries [1-4], such as low quality, high costs, lack of educators, and unsatisfied student demand. Traditional approaches are becoming unable to deliver the required education. Several causes for this inefficiency can be identified. I argue that beyond specific causes, the lack of effective education is related to complexity [5, 6]. However, information technology is helping us overcome this complexity.
Complexity can be measured with information theory and can be seen as the balance between stability and variability [7-10]: phenomena without change or with constant change cannot exhibit complex behavior. It has been noted that to actively control a complex system, the controller has to be at least as complex as the controlled [11, 12]. For example, a successful healthcare provider has to match the complexity of the patients she attends. Treatment is highly specific for different patients, so a general practitioner must have a high complexity to attend patients with diverse conditions. Concerning most preventive services, these are similar for most patients, and thus, can be delivered efficiently by providers with a lower complexity [13]. A similar approach can be used to study education and its complexity: a successful educational system has to match the complexity of its students.

Gershenson, C. (2014). Harnessing the complexity of education with information technology. Complexity, In Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cplx.21536

Note: If you do not have access to the full text, e-mail me and I'll send the pdf. Also, you can find the preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/1402.2827


Paper published: Measuring the Complexity of Self-Organizing Traffic Lights

We apply measures of complexity, emergence, and self-organization to an urban traffic model for comparing a traditional traffic-light coordination method with a self-organizing method in two scenarios: cyclic boundaries and non-orientable boundaries. We show that the measures are useful to identify and characterize different dynamical phases. It becomes clear that different operation regimes are required for different traffic demands. Thus, not only is traffic a non-stationary problem, requiring controllers to adapt constantly; controllers must also change drastically the complexity of their behavior depending on the demand. Based on our measures and extending Ashby’s law of requisite variety, we can say that the self-organizing method achieves an adaptability level comparable to that of a living system.

Zubillaga, Darío; Cruz, Geovany; Aguilar, Luis D.; Zapotécatl, Jorge; Fernández, Nelson; Aguilar, José; Rosenblueth, David A.; Gershenson, Carlos. 2014. "Measuring the Complexity of Self-Organizing Traffic Lights." Entropy 16, no. 5: 2384-2407.

Full text (open access) at http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/16/5/2384


Latest Aphorisms

Aphorisms collection at http://turing.iimas.unam.mx/~cgg/aforismos.html

“Reality: always one step ahead of my most imaginative sarcasms”

“The more I travel, the more borders become artificial”

*“In science, there are no finished problems, only narrow-minded scientists”

“The fact that it has always been that way does not mean that it cannot change”

“Since I am finite, I tend to be biased towards speaking only about those things which I have experience with.”

“If I say: "I might be wrong", I cannot be wrong”

*“If you do not have the right perspective to see the rainbow, it does not imply that the rainbow is not there.”

*“One can warmonger interpreting a religious or a scientific text.
 One can peacemonger interpreting a religious or a scientific text.
 What is more important: the text or the purpose of the interpretation?”

“It is difficult to gain new knowledge without first questioning current knowledge”

“Remember that you are always setting an example. Do things as you want things to be.”

*“Context is everything”
“New ideas solve old problems and generate new ones.”

“The most comfortable role in life is that of a victim”

“Rules are efficient if they do not need enforcement. That occurs when people clearly benefit from following them.”

“Check what you can, but this does not imply that you should reject what you cannot.”

“There shouldn't be so much discussion about abortion being legal or not, the aim should be to prevent the circumstances that lead to abortions, i.e. undesired pregnancies.”

“Reason is a subset of feeling”

“The only worthwhile competition is against yourself”

*“You are not one more. You are every one.”
“If two computations occur at the same time in different parts of the universe, was information transmitted?”


Paper published: Complexity measurement of natural and artificial languages

We compared entropy for texts written in natural languages (English, Spanish) and artificial languages (computer software) based on a simple expression for the entropy as a function of message length and specific word diversity. Code text written in artificial languages showed higher entropy than text of similar length expressed in natural languages. Spanish texts exhibit more symbolic diversity than English ones. Results showed that algorithms based on complexity measures differentiate artificial from natural languages, and that text analysis based on complexity measures allows the unveiling of important aspects of their nature. We propose specific expressions to examine entropy related aspects of tests and estimate the values of entropy, emergence, self-organization, and complexity based on specific diversity and message length.

Complexity measurement of natural and artificial languages
Gerardo Febres, Klaus Jaffé and Carlos Gershenson
Complexity, Early View