Zipf's Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution

B. Corominas-Murtra, L.F. Seoane, R. Solé, Journal of the Royal Society Interface 15 (2018).


Journal Article | Published | English
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Abstract
A major problem for evolutionary theory is understanding the so-called open-ended nature of evolutionary change, from its definition to its origins. Open-ended evolution (OEE) refers to the unbounded increase in complexity that seems to characterize evolution on multiple scales. This property seems to be a characteristic feature of biological and technological evolution and is strongly tied to the generative potential associated with combinatorics, which allows the system to grow and expand their available state spaces. Interestingly, many complex systems presumably displaying OEE, from language to proteins, share a common statistical property: the presence of Zipf's Law. Given an inventory of basic items (such as words or protein domains) required to build more complex structures (sentences or proteins) Zipf's Law tells us that most of these elements are rare whereas a few of them are extremely common. Using algorithmic information theory, in this paper we provide a fundamental definition for open-endedness, which can be understood as postulates. Its statistical counterpart, based on standard Shannon information theory, has the structure of a variational problem which is shown to lead to Zipf's Law as the expected consequence of an evolutionary process displaying OEE. We further explore the problem of information conservation through an OEE process and we conclude that statistical information (standard Shannon information) is not conserved, resulting in the paradoxical situation in which the increase of information content has the effect of erasing itself. We prove that this paradox is solved if we consider non-statistical forms of information. This last result implies that standard information theory may not be a suitable theoretical framework to explore the persistence and increase of the information content in OEE systems.
Publishing Year
Date Published
2018-12-12
Journal Title
Journal of the Royal Society Interface
Volume
15
Issue
149
Article Number
20180395
ISSN
IST-REx-ID

Cite this

Corominas-Murtra B, Seoane LF, Solé R. Zipf’s Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 2018;15(149). doi:10.1098/rsif.2018.0395
Corominas-Murtra, B., Seoane, L. F., & Solé, R. (2018). Zipf’s Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 15(149). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2018.0395
Corominas-Murtra, Bernat, Luís F. Seoane, and Ricard Solé. “Zipf’s Law, Unbounded Complexity and Open-Ended Evolution.” Journal of the Royal Society Interface 15, no. 149 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsif.2018.0395.
B. Corominas-Murtra, L. F. Seoane, and R. Solé, “Zipf’s Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution,” Journal of the Royal Society Interface, vol. 15, no. 149, 2018.
Corominas-Murtra B, Seoane LF, Solé R. 2018. Zipf’s Law, unbounded complexity and open-ended evolution. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 15(149).
Corominas-Murtra, Bernat, et al. “Zipf’s Law, Unbounded Complexity and Open-Ended Evolution.” Journal of the Royal Society Interface, vol. 15, no. 149, 20180395, Royal Society Publishing, 2018, doi:10.1098/rsif.2018.0395.

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