Behind the incredible complexity of life there is seemingly universal hierarchical structure of nested spatial and temporal scales. Multicellular organisms, for instance, are made of individual cells, consciousness emerges from signals within individual neurons, while social norms and collective identities in our societies evolve as integrals over individual beliefs. What all these scales of life have in common is that higher levels of organization emerge from the bottom up, through evolutionary processes and actions at the lower level of organization, but eventually start governing or exerting causal influence over the lower-level entities that built them in the first place. It is not clear why and how new levels in this hierarchy evolve, what keeps collective states stable and what causes them to break down. While domain-specific models and hypotheses are aplenty, an intriguing possibility is that some driving forces in collective-state evolution might be universal across all scales of life. If so, what methods and modelling approaches are most suitable for uncovering these general principles, and are existing conceptual frameworks appropriate for this task?
The “Evolution of Hierarchical Organization in Adaptive Systems” Workshop at the Institute for Advanced Study (WIKO Berlin) will bring together researchers interested in approaches that extend beyond isolated evolutionary transitions, aiming at uncovering universalities in collective-state evolution. Alongside discussions of latest work in the participants’ respective fields, the workshop will serve as a venue promoting cross-disciplinary dialogue, exchange of ideas and introducing novel modelling approaches and conceptual frameworks – including information theoretical tools, causal analyses and aspects of bioenergetics. The workshop discussions will range from causal emergence at the origin of life and major evolutionary transitions, to the evolution of collective identities and norms in modern societies.