The nature of distributed computation has often been described in terms of the component operations of universal computation: information storage, transfer and modification. We review the first complete framework that quantifies each of these individual information dynamics on a local scale within a system, and describes the manner in which they interact to create non-trivial computation where "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". We describe the application of the framework to cellular automata, a simple yet powerful model of distributed computation. This is an important application, because the framework is the first to provide quantitative evidence for several important conjectures about distributed computation in cellular automata: that blinkers embody information storage, particles are information transfer agents, and particle collisions are information modification events. The framework is also shown to contrast the computations conducted by several well-known cellular automata, highlighting the importance of information coherence in complex computation. The results reviewed here provide important quantitative insights into the fundamental nature of distributed computation and the dynamics of complex systems, as well as impetus for the framework to be applied to the analysis and design of other systems.
A framework for the local information dynamics of distributed computation in complex systems
Joseph T. Lizier, Mikhail Prokopenko, Albert Y. Zomaya