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Living Logic and the Logic of Life: Prospects for Linking Theoretical Computer Science with Ecosystem Research

Baltasar Trancon and Michael Hauhs ( Ecological Modelling, BayCEER, Dr.-Hans-Frisch-Str. 1–3, University of Bayreuth, Germany )

Modern environmental problems, such as deposition of air pollutants or climate change, pose difficult
problems for finding an appropriate division of work in academia. Typically, ecologists import theoretical
concepts from other disciplines, with classical physics and dynamic system theory as by far the dominant
provider. Abstractly these imported concepts are based on algebra and equational logic. Applications
to organisms and ecosystems, however, do not live up to expectations of most modellers, i.e., non-trivial
predictions remain elusive. Here, we propose to complement established ecological modelling concepts
with tools and results from theoretical computer science, especially those of coalgebra and modal logic.
Metaphorically this paradigm shift challenges the view of ecosystems as thermodynamic machines with
that of an operating system. The shift allows looking for the logical features and constraints in the
relationships between ecosystems and their non-living environment, rather than just for the chemical
constraints. From a physical perspective modern environmental problems are due to resources becoming
finite, from a computational perspective they are becoming self-referential. It will be demonstrated how
far this approach has been carried out beyond mere metaphorical analogies and what these results imply
for ecological modellers. We will argue that there is a rich potential for closer cooperation between
computer science and ecology over the joint logics of their foundations.

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