Parallel Minds, 99–102


Back to the Mind


Complexity and the nature of the mind are two problems that overlap at many points. In this chapter I want to highlight how many of the ‘intelligent’ behaviours exhibited by both living and non-living materials, such as the ability to respond to stimuli and spontaneously assemble their own form, derive from their complex structure. A complex system, by definition, cannot be reduced to its individual components: its structure is essentially relational, so that every element that composes it determines the behaviour of all the other elements that make up the system. This relational structure is a decisive factor in the ability of a material system to respond to environmental stimuli, to preserve its own organisation and also, in one sense or another, to preserve some sort of memory of its own identity, which keeps it separate from, but always in communication with, the surrounding environment. In other words, when confronted by the phenomenon of self-assembly in natural and artificial systems, it is legitimate to ask: Who or what is that ‘self’ that is assembled, and where exactly does it reside?…