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What is Autonomy?

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Abstract: A system is autonomous if it uses its own information to modify itself and its environment to enhance its survival, responding to both environmental and internal stimuli to modify its basic functions to increase its viability. Autonomy is the foundation of functionality, intentionality and meaning. Autonomous systems accommodate the unexpected through self-organizing processes, together with some constraints that maintain autonomy. Early versions of autonomy, such as autopoiesis and closure to efficient cause, made autonomous systems dynamically closed to information. This contrasts with recent work on open systems and information dynamics. On our account, autonomy is a matter of degree depending on the relative organization of the system and system environment interactions. A choice between third person openness and first person closure is not required.

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