Reflexing Interfaces: The Complex Coevolution of Information Technology Ecosystems

Reflexing Interfaces: The Complex Coevolution of Information Technology Ecosystems

Franco F. Orsucci (University College London, UK & Institute for Complexity Studies, Italy) and Nicoletta Sala (Università della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland & Università dell’ Insubria, Italy)
Indexed In: SCOPUS View 1 More Indices
Release Date: March, 2008|Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 432
ISBN13: 9781599046273|ISBN10: 159904627X|EISBN13: 9781599046297|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-627-3


Information and communication technologies are increasingly prolific worldwide, exposing the issues and challenges of the assimilation of existing living environments to the shift in technological communication infrastructure.

Reflexing Interfaces: The Complex Coevolution of Information Technology Ecosystems discusses the application of complex theories in information and communication technology, with a focus on the interaction between living systems and information technologies. This innovative view provides researcher, scholars, and IT professionals with a fundamental resource on such compelling topics as virtual reality; fuzzy logic systems; and complexity science in artificial intelligence, evolutionary computation, neural networks, and 3-D modeling.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • 3-D modeling
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Artificial language
  • Artificial Life
  • Bio-inspired computation
  • Bio-inspired machines
  • Biomedicine
  • Cellular Automata
  • Complexity and fractal geometry
  • Complexity science
  • Evolutionary Algorithms
  • Evolutionary Computation
  • Fuzzy Logic Systems
  • Genetic Algorithms
  • Hyper-architectures
  • ICT living complexities
  • Information technology architectures
  • Learning Environments
  • Natural language
  • Neural Networks
  • Robotics
  • Virtual reality applications

Reviews and Testimonials

This book is a multifaceted mirror on how human evolution has had a constant psychobiological link with the development of new tools and environmental changes.

– Franco F. Orsucci, University College London, UK

The topics here cover a range of possibilities.

– Book News Inc. (June 2008)

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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Since the first production of tools at the beginning of human presence on Earth, human evolution is linked to the invention of new tools, usually combined with new environmental adaptations.

The symbiosis of man with tools and environments represents one of the main factors in human evolutionary processes. It is evident how this coupling is based on the biophysics of our bodies and the development of the social memory system called culture.

In recent times, computing devices, molecular biology, and new media (all members in different ways of the information communication technology set) are redesigning the human embodiment and its ecological niche.

The studies on interfaces, forming a common boundary between adjacent regions, bodies, substances, or phases, seem located at the core of these new developments (Jonassen & Land, 2000). It is there at the junction, sometimes originating a projection or an incorporation, that humans’ new embodied identity evolves. New interfaces are actively reflexive and extend in more and more subtle ways the reflexivity naturally embedded in our bodies.

The cognitive neuroscience of the reflexive function can be one of the main keys to understand how the emergence of new interfaces yields new ways of extending and changing the human presence and consciousness in the world.

The embodied mind emerges and grows (bottom-up) on the basic reflexive function as an order parameter in biological processes. Some authors use these terms synonymously but we prefer to use the different terminology to stress the conceptual and factual difference. Reflexivity will be direct and nonconceptual: It implies an immediate capacity of awareness without effort or intellectualization. Reflectivity is a metacognitive process of higher order, implying secondary self-observation, denotation, and conceptualization (Gladwell, 2005; Siegel, 2007).

In reflexivity, the interface is “under your skin” as we are reminded that the embryological origin of skin, brain, and mind is the same. The ectoderm, our primary interface, is the outermost of the three primary germ layers of an embryo and the source of the epidermis, the nervous system, the eyes, and the ears, that is, interfaces. Reflexions happen at a very precognitive stage, before any higher order metacognition might be established. Primary reflexivity is based on massive nonlinear dynamics and it is probably the basic property of living matter, whose ultimate extension is consciousness. Modern advancements in complexity theory from Henry Poincare to Walter J. Freeman and Stuart Kauffman point in this direction and beyond. Fractal mathematics has extended the isomorphism capabilities in space and time for our technocultural niche (Orsucci, 1998, 2006; Orsucci & Sala, 2005; Sala, 2006; Thelen & Smith, 1994).

The current debate on cyborg identity is, by this perspective, relocated to a more familiar (though maybe not less disconcerting) perspective (Gray, 2001; Hayles, 1999; Marcuse, 1962). Our thesis is that man is a cyborg by default as human intelligence and embodied technology are just as in a Möbius strip: You can change the perspective and it might look different, but the surface is the same. Ancient Greek and Hindi tales describing strange half-flesh, half-metal creatures; golems; talking heads; homunculi; and modern cyborgs are just expressions of the same effort by our intellectual egos to understand and adapt to this natural evolutionary line.

Organization of the Book

The book is divided in two sections. The first section, comprising 10 chapters, explores theoretical perspectives. The second section, including the last 9 chapters, presents a series of examples of applications in different fields.

Chapter I: “Reflexing Interfaces.” Franco Orsucci identifies the reflexing interfaces that can redefine different approaches in different disciplines in the new millennium. The chapter sets the scene for discussions presented by various subsequent authors. In particular, it identifies how the cognitive neuroscience of the reflexive function can be a key to understand how the emergence of new interfaces links new ways of projecting human presence and consciousness in the world. In substance, information science and technology are accumulating ground for new possible evolutionary jumps. Computing devices, molecular biology, and new media are redesigning the human embodiment and its environment. An integrated approach, which should include the latest advancements in neuroscience, can draw the map of new possible human evolutions.

Chapter II: “Riddle of the Sphinx: Paradox Revealed and Reveiled.” Terry Marks-Tarlow presents the Oedipus myth in the light of interpersonal neurobiology and second-order cybernetics, where observers are self-referentially implicated within the observed. The riddle of the Sphinx is understood as a paradox of self-reference in apparent contradiction with all known laws of science. The author of this chapter describes Oedipus’ capacity for full self-reference as equated with the operation of the most powerful universal Turing machine with both implicit and explicit memory of its past.

Chapter III: “Theory of Cooperative Coevolution of Genes and Memes.” Vladimir Kvasnicka and Jiri Pospichal propose a simple replicator theory of the coevolution of genes and memes. The presented coevolutionary theory assumes that units of information acquired from parents by imitation (memes) are not independent of genes, but are bounded with genes as composites, which are a subject of Darwinian evolution. A population composed of couples of genes and memes, the so-called m-genes, is postulated as a subject of Darwinian evolution. Three different types of operations over m-genes are introduced: replication (an m-gene is replicated with mutations onto an offspring m-gene), interaction (a memetic transfer from a donor to an acceptor), and extinction (an m-gene is eliminated). Computer simulations of the present model allow us to identify different mechanisms of gene and meme coevolutions.

Chapter IV: “Thinking Animals and Thinking Machines: What Relation? (With Particular Reference to the Psychoanalytical Point of View).” Franco Scalzone and Gemma Zontini describe some interesting similarities between computer science and psychoanalysis. The authors formulate some hypotheses by bringing closer the statute of connectionism to the energetic model of the psychic apparatus, as well as OOP (object-oriented programming) to the object relations theory. They explore the man-machine theme, the way in which men relate to machines, especially thinking machines, describing the fantasies they arouse. In order to do this we will use Tausk’s classic On the Origin of the Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia (1919), as well as some of Freud’s writings. They also review some ethical issues in the security of electronic commerce.

Chapter V: “Machines Paying Attention.” John G. Taylor describes the attention that is analyzed as the superior control system in the brain from an engineering point of view, with support for this from the way attention is presently being understood by brain science. The author remarks that an engineering control framework allows an understanding of how the complex networks observed in the brain during various cognitive tasks can begin to be functionally decomposed. He also presents a machine version of such an attention control system, and he extends it to allow for goals and their reward values also to be encoded in the attention machine. The author briefly discusses the manner in which emotion may then begin to be imbued in the machine and how even some glimpse of consciousness may then arise.

Chapter VI: “Artificial Mind.” Rita Pizzi presents the advances of artificial intelligence that have renewed the interest in the mind-body problem, the ancient philosophical debate on the nature of the mind and its relationship with the brain. The author says the new version of the mind-body problem concerns the relationship between computational complexity and self-aware thought. She also introduces the progresses of micro-, nano-, and biotechnologies that allow creating the first bionic creatures, composed by biological cells connected to electronic devices. Creating an artificial brain with a biological structure could allow verifying if it possesses peculiar properties with respect to an electronic one, comparing them at the same level of complexity.

Chapter VII: “Neurofeedback.” David Vernon introduces neurofeedback as a mechanism for altering human brain functioning and in turn influencing behavior. The author argues that neurofeedback provides a plausible mechanism by which the individual can learn to alter and control aspects of his electrocortical activity. He highlights some of the findings from both clinical and optimal performance research, showing the benefits of neurofeedback training, and outlines some of the important issues that remain to be addressed.

Chapter VIII: “Biological Traits in Artificial Self-Reproducing Systems.” Eleonora Bilotta and Pietro Pantano present an artificial taxonomy of 2-D, self-replicating cellular automata (CA) that can be considered as proto-organisms for structure replication. The authors highlight that the process of selfreproduction is an important mechanism, and they discuss almost 10 methods of self-replication. These systems produce structures that are very similar to those found in biological systems. After examining self-replicating structures and the way they reproduce, the authors consider this behavior in relation to the patterns they realize and to the function they manifest in realizing an artificial organism.

Chapter IX: “Evolutionary Algorithms in Problem Solving and Machine Learning.” Marco Tomassini and Leonardo Vanneschi describe the evolutionary algorithms, a family of powerful optimization heuristics based on the metaphor of biological evolution, especially genetic algorithms and genetic programming. The authors focus their attention on two specific applications. The first is about an important financial problem: the portfolio allocation problem. The second one deals with a biochemical problem related to drug design and efficacy.

Chapter X: “The Future Quantum Computer: Biotic Complexity.” Hector Sabelli and Gerald H. Thomas present the notion of quantum computing and how it forces a reexamination of logics. The authors examine its historical roots in logos, the logic of nature, and the laws of physics. They also describe the logical design of computers according to the logic of quantum physics that will allow the full use of quantum processes for computation, providing explicit realizations of these ideas. The second section is composed of nine chapters.

Chapter XI: “Networks: Uses and Misuses of an Emergent Paradigm.” Alessandro Giuliani presents the notion of network, which is more and more widespread in all the fields of human investigation, from physics to sociology. It evokes a systemic approach to problems able to overcome the limitations of reductionist approaches as evidenced for some decades. The author describes some applications of network-based modeling to both introduce the basic terminology of the emergent network paradigm and highlight strengths and limitations of the method.

Chapter XII: “Theory and Practice of Ant-Based Routing in Dynamic Telecommunication Networks.” Gianni A. Di Caro, Frederick Ducatelle, and Luca M. Gambardella introduce ant colony optimization (ACO), an optimization metaheuristic inspired by the foraging behavior of ant colonies. The authors describe the characteristics of ACO and they derive from it ant colony routing (ACR), a novel framework for the development of adaptive algorithms for network routing. They also state, through the concrete application of ACR’s ideas to the design of an algorithm for mobile ad hoc networks, that the ACR framework allows the construction of new routing algorithms.

Chapter XIII: “Cryptography, Delayed Dynamical Systems, and Secure Communication.” Santo Banerjee and Asesh Roy Chowdhury present nonlinear systems with time-delayed feedback, whose dynamics are governed by delay-differential equations. The authors describe a new method for the transmitting and receiving of signals using those delayed dynamical systems. The change of the delay parameter at the intermediate state gives extra security to the system. They also propose a method of communication using the synchronization between two coupled, delayed chaotic systems by adaptive coupling-enhancement algorithms.

Chapter XIV: “Portfolio Organization Using Evolutionary Algorithms.” Lean Yu, Shouyang Wang, and Kin Keung Lai present a double-stage evolutionary algorithm for portfolio optimization. In the first stage, a genetic algorithm is used to identify good-quality assets in terms of asset ranking. In the second stage, investment allocation in the selected good-quality assets is optimized using another genetic algorithm based on Markowitz’s theory. The authors discuss the experimental results that highlight that their double-stage evolutionary algorithm for portfolio optimization provides a useful tool to assist investors in planning their investment strategy and constructing their portfolio.

Chapter XV: “Automatic Financial Trading Systems: Is Recurrent Reinforcement Learning the Way?” Francesco Bertoluzzo and Marco Corazza propose a financial trading system whose trading strategy is developed by means of an artificial neural network approach based on a learning algorithm of recurrent reinforcement type. This approach consists of two parts: first, directly specifying a trading policy based on some predetermined investor’s measure of profitability, and second, directly setting the financial trading system while using it. The authors take into account as a measure of profitability the reciprocal of the returns weighted direction symmetry index instead of the widespread Sharpe ratio. They propose a simple procedure for the management of drawdown-like phenomena and apply their financial trading approach to some of the most prominent assets of the Italian stock market.

Chapter XVI: “About the Use of the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in the Framework of Physical Limnological Studies on a Great Lake.” Leonardo Castellano, Walter Ambrosetti, and Nicoletta Sala describe a mathematical model able to simulate the limnological physics of a complex natural body of water: computational fluid dynamics (CFD). The authors present an experience in progress at the CNR-ISE (Italian National Research Council, Italian Institute of Ecosystems Study) of Pallanza, Italy. The main features of the current state of the art in this field of application of mathematical modeling techniques are summarized and the characteristics of the computer code now in use for their studies on Lake Maggiore (Northern Italy and Switzerland) are described in detail.

Chapter XVII: “Urban and Architectural 3-D Fast Processing.” Renato Saleri Lunazzi presents a research task that consists of applying automatic generative methods in design processes. The initial approach briefly explores early theoretical conjectures, starting with form and function balance within former conceptual investigations. The author, following experiments, describes original techniques introducing integrated 2-D and 3-D generators for the enhancement of recent 3-D Earth browsers (Virtual Terrain©, MSN Virtual Earth©, or Google Earth©), and cellular automata processes for architectural programmatic optimization.

Chapter XVIII: “Reflections of Spiral Complexity on Art.” Ljubiša M. Kocic and Liljana R. Stefanovska consider a relationship between spirals as protocomplex shapes and human intelligence organized in an information system. The authors distinguish between old (precomputer age) and new (computer age) IS. It seems that actual intelligent machines, connected in an efficient network, inherit a much older structure: a collective consciousness being formed by an international group of artists that exchange their ideas of beauty with amazing speed and persistence. The authors proposed some methods for extracting spiral forms from pieces of visual arts using modern technologies of IS. Sometimes, these forms are a consequence of a conscious and sometimes of an unconscious action of the artist. The results support the thesis that there is a constant need of systematic recording of this important shape through history.

Chapter XIX: “Fractal Geometry and Computer Science.” Nicoletta Sala presents fractal geometry that can help us describe shapes in nature (e.g., ferns, trees, seashells, rivers, mountains). It is applied in various fields now, from biology to economy, using two different points of view: spatial fractals and temporal fractals. Spatial fractals refer to the presence of self-similarity observed in various enlargements. Temporal fractals are present in some dynamic processes that evidence a wide range of time scales with scale-invariant power-law characteristics. The author describes some applications of fractal geometry and its properties (e.g., self-similarity) in computer science, particularly for image compression and landscape modeling. Fractional Brownian motion has been observed for controlling traffic in computer networks (local area networks, metropolitan area networks, wireless area networks, and the Internet). The chapter highlights that self-similarity, which characterizes some fractal objects, is a unifying concept. In fact, it is an attribute of many laws of nature and is present in different fields of computer science.


In the Kubrick and Clarke’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), a savannah-dwelling ape has a eureka- like flash of inspiration in realizing the awesome power of the bone tool in his hands. He tosses it skyward, where it morphs into a space station at the dawn of this millennium (Ambrose, 2001).

This book is a multifaceted mirror on how human evolution has had a constant psychobiological link with the development of new tools and environmental changes. Discoveries and technological innovations in information and communication science and technology (ICST) are paving the ground for new evolutionary steps. Computer devices could play a central role in this evolution as Giovanni Degli Antoni (1988) affirms: “Computers become mirrors in which the real lives his new reality beyond space and the time.”

In the book Through the Looking-Glass (1872), the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1871), Lewis Carroll described many mirror experiences lived by Alice. Alice’s adventures beyond the mirror could be considered a metaphor for ICST realities. If Alice were a modern child, certainly her mirror could be a computer screen. She would be used to experiencing how actions in a real world are transformed in other actions in the virtual world, and vice versa. These transformations follow interesting mathematical and physical processes that Lewis Carroll would certainly be interested in; Degli Antoni named these new processes bi-causality (Pizzi, 1989).

The isomorphism between biocognitive structures and the ICST niche we inhabit is progressively blurring boundaries between res cogitans and res extensa. Our new insights in neurocognition and the multiple reflexions implied in our sensory-perceptive processes are leading to new interfaces and new media. Reflexing interfaces are extensions of human embodiment just as the bone tool tossed skyward by a savannah-dwelling ape. Time flows, always different yet similar.

As Varela, Thompson, and Rosch stated aphoristically, “Readiness-for-action is a micro-identity and its corresponding level a micro-world: we embody streams of recurrent micro-world transitions” (1991).

We are the flow of micro and macro worlds, nested and intermingled. The stream of time flows here and there, generating multiple cascades, reflexing in billions of infinitesimal mirrors, and radiating in what we used to call consciousness.

Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

Franco Orsucci received his first degree in Medicine and second degree in Psychiatry at La Sapienza University in Rome (Italy). He has been a researcher at the Italian National Research Council. Now he is professor of clinical psychology and psychiatry at the Catholic University and Gemelli University Hospital in Rome. He is also a research fellow at the London University College, and founder and editor in chief of Chaos and Complexity Letters International Journal of Dynamical System Research (Nova Science, New York). His last published books are Changing Mind, Transitions in Natural and Artificial Environments (World Scientific, Singapore, 2002) and Bioethics in Complexity (Imperial College Press, London, 2004). He has also published more than 80 scientific articles on neuroscience and cognitive science.
Nicoletta Sala received a laurea in physics and applied cybernetics at the University of Milan (Italy); a PhD in communication science at Università della Svizzera Italiana of Lugano (USI, Lugano, Switzerland); and postgraduate degrees (2 years for each) in didactics of the communication and multimedia technologies, and journalism and mass media. She is professor of information technology and electronics and teaches at the University of Lugano (Mendrisio, Switzerland) and the University of Insubria (Varese, Italy). She is founder and coeditor of Chaos and Complexity Letters: International Journal of Dynamical System Research (Nova Science, New York). Her research interests concern various scientific topics from an interdisciplinary point of view and comprise the following areas: fractal geometry and complexity; mathematics in arts, architecture, and industrial design; new media and IT in the learning environments; and virtual reality in education. She has authored 20 mathematics and information technology books, and edited four others. She has written 280 scientific papers.