10 Conclusion

The idea of autopoiesis, and especially its computational realisation, has proved very fruitful in its development and elaboration over the last thirty years. As we have seen, it represents a core thread in the history of what we now call Artificial Life, linking back directly to von Neumann's founding work in evolutionary automata.

We now have a comparatively clear formulation of several key open problems. One very general challenge is to articulate the relationship between the ``fine-grained'' and ``coarse-grained'' models of computational autopoiesis, and the relationship between both of these and work in ``wet'' artificial life. More specific, concrete challenges revolve around the exhibition of substantive Darwinian evolutionary phenomena among lineages of artificial (computational) autopoietic individuals. Phenomena of particular interest would include the evolution of individuality itself [2], the exhibition of a molecular-agent computational model of the Chemoton [11], and the evolution of von Neumann-style genetic architecture based on a programmable constructor [29].

Francisco Varela was a pivotal figure in the development of our field to this point. His influence and intellectual legacy provides a strong foundation to tackle these difficult and profound problems that we still face in properly understanding the organisation of the living, its origin and its evolution.

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Timestamp: 2004-06-14