Modularity -- the attempt to understand systems as integrations
of partially independent and interacting units -- is today a
dominant theme in the life sciences, cognitive science, and
computer science. The concept goes back at least implicitly to the
Scientific (or Copernican) Revolution, and can be found behind
later theories of phrenology, physiology, and genetics; moreover,
art, engineering, and mathematics rely on modular design
principles. This collection broadens the scientific discussion of
modularity by bringing together experts from a variety of
disciplines, including artificial life, cognitive science,
economics, evolutionary computation, developmental and evolutionary
biology, linguistics, mathematics, morphology, paleontology,
physics, theoretical chemistry, philosophy, and the arts.The
contributors debate and compare the uses of modularity, discussing
the different disciplinary contexts of "modular thinking" in
general (including hierarchical organization, near-decomposability,
quasi-independence, and recursion) or of more specialized concepts
(including character complex, gene family, encapsulation, and
mosaic evolution); what modules are, why and how they develop and
evolve, and the implication for the research agenda in the
disciplines involved; and how to bring about useful
cross-disciplinary knowledge transfer on the topic. The book
includes a foreword by the late Herbert A. Simon addressing the
role of near-decomposability in understanding complex systems.
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