Epistemological Constraints When Evaluating Ontological Emergence with Computational Complex Adaptive Systems

  • Andreas TolkEmail author
  • Matthew T. K. Koehler
  • Michael D. Norman
Conference paper
Part of the Springer Proceedings in Complexity book series (SPCOM)


Natural complex adaptive systems are of particular scientific interest in many domains, as they may produce something new, like structures, patterns, or properties, that arise from the rules of self-organization. These novelties are emergent if they cannot be understood as any property of the components, but as a new property of the system. One of the leading methods to better understand complex adaptive systems is the use of their computational representation. In this paper, we make the case that emergence in computational complex adaptive systems can only be epistemological, as the constraints of computer functions do not allow for the creation of something new, as required for ontological emergence. As such, computer representations of complex adaptive systems are limited in producing emergence, but nonetheless useful to better understand the relationship between emergence and complex adaptive systems.


Complexity Epistemological emergence Ontological emergence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Tolk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew T. K. Koehler
    • 1
  • Michael D. Norman
    • 1
  1. 1.The MITRE CorporationHamptonUSA

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