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Eshel Ben-Jacob — Someone You Should Know

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Eshel Ben-Jacob, the Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems at Tel Aviv University in Israel, is a critic of conventional evolutionary theory. His endorsement of my book Uncommon Dissent included the following statement: “Darwin, a free thinker who dared make far-reaching conclusions based on observations, would have been dismayed to see the petrified doctrine his brainchild has become. Must we admit that all organisms are nothing but watery Turing machines evolved merely by a sequence of accidents favored by nature? Or do we have the intellectual freedom to rethink this fundamental issue?” What follows is an abstract of an important article my Ben-Jacob.

Bacterial self-organization: co-enhancement of complexification and adaptability in a dynamic environment
By Eshel Ben-Jacob
School of Physics and Astronomy, Tel-Aviv University, 69978 Tel-Aviv, Israel
Published online 7 May 2003

Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. A (2003) 361, 1283-1312

During colonial development, bacteria generate a wealth of patterns, some of which are reminiscent of those occurring in abiotic systems. They can exhibit rich behaviour, reflecting informative communication capabilities that include exchange of genetic materials and the fact that the colony’s building blocks are biotic. Each has internal degrees of freedom, informatic capabilities and freedom to respond by altering itself and others via emission of signals in a self-regulated manner. To unravel the special secrets of bacterial self-organization, we conducted an integrative (experimental and theoretical) study of abiotic and biotic systems. Guided by the notion of general biotic motives and principles, I propose that the informative communication between individuals makes possible the enhancement of the individuals’ regulated freedom, while increasing their cooperation. This process is accomplished via cooperative complexi­ cation of the colony through self-organization of hierarchical spatio-temporal patterning. The colonial higher complexity provides the degree of plasticity and flexibility required for better colonial adaptability and endurability in a dynamic environment. The biotic system can modify the environment and obtain environmental information for further self-improvement. I reflect on the potential applications of the new understanding on ‘engineered self-organization of systems too complex to design’ and other issues.

Keywords: information; communication; regulated freedom; complexification; flexibility-based adaptability; dynamic environment


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