Philosophy of the holarchy

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Info.svg Notes about the philosophy of the four quadrant holon design pattern will accumulate here. The purpose of this article is to eventually define a clear logical path from the initial self-referential dichotomy up to "list-space" which is a layer sufficiently complex to support the holon mechanism. This allows us to talk about the system in terms of cellular automata, digital physics, digital philosophy and integrated information theory.

Philosophical research

The idea of "reality" in the holarchy world-view is a subjective experiential affair which applies to every class of holon - every "species" within the whole evolutionary ecosystem that comprises the holarchy. All the variation between classes is in the form of differences in knowledge, information and behaviour patterns.

Thinking about this algorithm in the sense of an "idealistic machine code" leads in the direction of cognitive computation and a computational theory of mind. In these models, external reality itself is not directly defined or existent, only the experiences are directly modelled.

This level of the concept is very speculative, and is not part of the software discussion, but this section is a quick overview of what we're thinking for those interested. For those not interested in philosophical speculation, feel free to skip ahead to the four quadrant model section.

We believe all conscious experience takes the same form as the holarchy, that this universal organisational pattern continues unbroken through all scales of reality.

Holarchy as a system that captures this pattern and is also a good candidate for a digital physics model, due to its simple, well structured and symmetrical form.

We can base this multiplexed two-tree system on an even simpler foundation, by delving more deeply into what constitutes these trees, such as names, paths of names and persistent content.

The binary trie data structure can represent a trie of arbitrarily many keys, each containing arbitrarily complex further key-structure and binary content within (the key's "payload" or "value").

The binary trie data structure inherently supports multiplexing as the keys, being binary, are always countable (iteratable).

The process of extension from the basic binary trie to the general key-trie is where a termination sequence is adopted such that traversal of binary paths can be split into path elements (keys of an arbitrarily large binary namespace). One starts at the global unified root and then navigates the binary-trie by multiplexing over the arbitrarily many keys as paths "withinward".

This path traversing process naturally supports an opposite interpretation too, as discussed in the two trees section above; the bottom-up returning process. But in a binary-trie context, this bottom-up non-local class-trie can form naturally, simply by walking the binary paths backwards, but "resetting" the short-term path memory every time a terminator is read in the bottom-up return path (not just once at the start of the entire path walk as was the case with the top-down path walking).

Continuing to walk backwards up the path without returning to global root after each path element. I.e. allowing the class-trie key path reverse walk to continue for another step brings us to a context in the class-trie which is specific to the condition that brought about this instance of the class. I.e. an inherent ability to map and relevance, in other words the class-tree is naturally weighted by relevance.


The holarchy is, at its heart, a class-instance system, which is essentially a functional implementation of naming. The specific purpose of naming is to permit the local instantiation of what the name collectively represents. The concept of naming is inseparable from the concepts of society, knowledge and evolution.

In John Searle's "cluster theory" of proper names, a name is not defined merely by a direct link between the name and its bearer, but rather through a "cluster" of descriptions and associations related to the individual. This theory suggests that the meaning of a name is determined by a variety of descriptive elements known about the person or object.

In the holarchy, a class functionally implements a proper name concept in Searle's cluster sense, but in a way that does not depend on any particular description and is also a rigid designator. Instances are local uses of a class (name-cluster). Classes are not a definite object but rather abstract abstract concepts formed by a decentralised integration process involving all the instances (representations) of the class. In this way, naming is a fundamentally a social (network, non-local) process involving the whole cluster of uses. The tree of variations (ontology) forms under the name, and corresponds to the variety of descriptions in the cluster (its "senses").

See also