Knowledge is a mechanism that makes systems more efficient in surviving
different circumstances, by short cutting the purely blind variation and
selection they have to do.
A selector is a system capable of selecting variation. (Thus a
selector can be understood as as agent of will. ) Knowledge
functions as an anticipatory or vicarious selector . A vicarious selector carries selection
out in anticipation of something else, e.g. the environment or "Nature"
at large. For example, molecule configurations selectively retained by
a crystal template are intrinsically stable, and would have been selected
even without the presence of a template. The template accelerates, or
catalyses, the selection, and thus can be said to anticipate, or to vicariously
represent, the naturally selected configuration.
One can also imagine anticipatory selectors making different selections
under different circumstances, compensating different perturbations by
different actions. This kind of anticipatory selection has the advantage
that inadequate internal variations will no longer lead to the destruction
of the system, since they will be eliminated before the system as a whole
becomes unstable. Thus anticipatory selectors select possible actions
of the system in function of the system's goal (ultimately survival) and
the situation of the environment. By eliminating dangerous or inadequate
actions before they are executed, the vicarious selector forgoes the selection
by the environment, and thus increases the chances for survival of the
An vicarious selector can be seen as the most basic form of an anticipatory
control system or indeed of any model. A model is necessarily
simpler than the environment it represents, and this enables it to run
faster than, and thus anticipate, the processes in the environment. It
is this anticipation of interactions between the system and its environment,
with their possibly negative effects, that allows the system to compensate
perturbations before they have had the opportunity to damage the system.