Autopoietic Machines and Alopoietic Machines: The Structural Coupling

Autopoietic Machines and Alopoietic Machines: The Structural Coupling

Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6351-0.ch007
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This chapter approaches the issues involving Autopoietic and Alopoietic machines, under the perspective of structural coupling that appears in the interaction and interactivity in Metaverses. The authors present and discuss the subtopic “Autopoietic Machines: The Human Beings.” In the subtopic “Alopoietic Machines: The Nature of the Metaverse,” the authors explore the concept of alopoietic machines in relation to digital technology. In “Structural Coupling,” they define the concept based on the theory of Maturana and Varela (2002). The concept of autopoietic machines is extended through the subtopic “Language: Mode of Speech and Emotion.” In as a brief conclusion, the authors describe three different situations that contribute to the broadening of the concept of structural coupling.
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When we think about a machine, from a simplicist perspective, our thought usually, turns to the icons representing something mechanical, technical, lifeless, meaning a device, tool or instrument capable of carrying out an action or work. With this in mind, thinking in the relation between the human being and the machine is a paradoxical and complex task. Paradoxical because, from a Cartesian perspective, they seem to be contradictory: human (life) and machine (lifeless); and complex because despite being contradictory we can establish an intense relation, which allows us to overcome this dichotomy, enabling the task. Maturana and Varela (1997) established an interesting relation between human being and machine, which we will express in the search of (re)signifying it in the metaverses context.

To establish the relation between the human being and the machine we need to re-think some concepts and comprehensions previously addressed such as: living being, human being, structure and organization, ontogeny and phylogeny, and deepen other concepts that were superficially addressed as in the case of autonomy, autopoiesis and structural coupling. In this sense, such concepts may help us broaden our comprehension in relation to machines, understanding them not only as a device, tool or instrument, but also as a system capable of producing a process that allows different actions and the accomplishment of tasks.

According to Maturana and Varela (1997), machines are considered all units made of components characterized by certain properties that enable the establishment of relation and interaction processes, constituted by an organization (variable because it defines the species) and a structure (variable because is the result of the history of interactions).

... it is a system that can materialize through many different structures, and whose defining organization does not depend on the properties of the components. On the contrary, in order to realize a certain concrete machine it is necessary to take into consideration the properties of the real components that, within their interactions, allow us to sense the defining relations of the machine organization. (pp.69-70)

Based on this concept, we can say that machines are units with an objective, a purpose that defines the domain and the process in which they carry out their actions, through the organization defined by the interactions between the components’ properties and a variable and changing structure. Maturana and Varela in discussing the unit state that, “… (the possibility of differing from a background and therefore from other units) is the only necessary condition for having an existence in any determined domain” (Maturana & Varela 1997, p.90). The unit differs from the other units through a domain of action determining the unit related to the domain in a conceptual way, when we express it or describe it, or in a material way, in the action of its properties. “Consequently different classes of units necessarily differ in the domain they establish and, in having different existing domains they may or may not interact, depending on the domains able to intercept them or not” (p.90).

We can then think of human beings, avatars and metaverses as machines that have an objective in the action carried out by processes in a certain domain. Usually, the objectives are not the machine’s property, but that which to others assign them. We note in the research presented in Chapter 15 - Brazilian experiences in metaverses, that metaverses are machines whose purpose is to construct a 3D virtual digital world, but this goal was outlined, redefined or expanded by the research participants that not only built the 3D digital virtual world through the representation of the avatar, but knowledge, social networks, interaction among others. Nevertheless, when we talk about human beings our objectives are defined by themselves and not by others, but such objectives can be empowered or limited according to the technologized body representing the 3D Digital Virtual Worlds, meaning the avatar.

In the context described, we can perceive that machines do not belong to the same category or classification. Maturana and Varela (1997) distinguish the different types of machines according the characteristics of their structure and organization, in the domain they work, considered autopoietic machines and alopoietic machines.

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