Surface Sound

featuring the art of James Robert White


My name is Adam Timlett, and I am a researcher and IT professional who blogs, collaborates and gives talks on the science of adaptive systems. I am currently working on the concept of 'natural search' and the more general concept of 'agentless agency'.

Darwin's concept of 'natural selection' was revolutionary partly because, rather than a human agent making complex choices about which animals to breed, as occurs in the breeding of cattle or dogs, Darwin posited how selection can occur in nature without agency.

I have dedicated this website as a resource for developing 'agentless agency' research and highlighting the work of others in this area using the insight that in the face of complex uncertain environments, less agency, rather than more, can be more effective.
One example of research to consider in this respect is the phenomenon of 'Levy Flights' whereby animals adopt a type of random search when they have limited information about where their food is likely to be found. Because the search is simple it doesn't require them to use their complex nervous sytems, memory, or processing of information about the environment.

Less agency-oriented search such as that of Levy Flights is therefore one of the major areas investigated for extending Darwin's ideas of 'agentless agency' to study adaptation both in biology and economics where complexity increases and solutions benefit from less agency.


Another area where this strategy may be successful is innovation for business. AI researchers such as Kenneth Stanley of OpenAI and Joel Lehman are also investigating whether complex problems are best solved with less agency rather than more, and have written a book 'Why Greatness Cannot be Planned: The Myth of the Objective'. A video of Kenneth's talk about this is online. They extend their research from AI into the realm of economics.

About the art

Creativity is a constant theme in my exploration of adaptation and this website features the unique artwork of James Robert White. You can find out more about our collaboration on the 'About the Art' page.

James' own website, features my older blog on complexity and I will continue to blog there about James' art and our collaboration.

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