One of the research questions in ALife that could contribute greatly to social sustainability issues is how dynamic metastates of a complex system may be sustained through continual adaptive changes, or suppleness (Bedau, 1998). The idea of sustainability by suppleness is fundamentally different from conventional ideas of sustainability by robustness or resilience, and it is directly linked to open-endedness, a topic that has recently attracted significant attention in the ALife community (Taylor et al., 2016). Understanding and implementing mechanisms of suppleness and open-endedness may provide novel perspectives of many of today’s socio-economic, socio-ecological and socio-technological problems that call for new strategies to cope with inevitable environmental/contextual changes. This short essay provides a non-exhaustive list of research questions on this topic and encourages ALife researchers to play a leading role in this interdisciplinary collaboration endeavor.

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Author notes


This work is largely based on the author’s earlier white paper submitted to the US National Science Foundation (, with revisions and addition of discussions on the linkage to open-endedness.