Self-Organization, Emergence, and Constraint in Complex Natural Systems

Contemporary complexity theory has been instrumental in providing novel rigorous definitions for some classic philosophical concepts, including emergence. In an attempt to provide an account of emergence that is consistent with complexity and dynamical systems theory, several authors have turned to the notion of constraints on state transitions. Drawing on complexity theory directly, this paper builds on those accounts, further developing the constraint-based interpretation of emergence and arguing that such accounts recover many of the features of more traditional accounts. We show that the constraint-based account of emergence also leads naturally into a meaningful definition of self-organization, another concept that has received increasing attention recently. Along the way, we distinguish between order and organization, two concepts which are frequently conflated. Finally, we consider possibilities for future research in the philosophy of complex systems, as well as applications of the distinctions made in this paper.

Self-Organization, Emergence, and Constraint in Complex Natural Systems
Jonathan Lawhead


We are naturally constrained by many natural laws in our universe.  Our governments are likewise constrained by physical laws of nature as well as the natural laws behind people, societies, economies, and ecosystems.  Where the constraints came from in nature, I don’t know.  But what I do see, is that like the natural laws of the universe, societies impose other constraints upon our actions, behaviors, perceptions, chosen courses of action, abilities to frame issues and topics, abilities to define conditions within our social systems.  Governments can likewise make and define constraints for behaviors or willingness and ability to behave on the part of the citizenry, either by offering incentives to get people to behave in a particular way or to penalize and possibly limit some actions and chosen patterns of behavior.

It should be noted that the laws and chosen constraints and incentives of the government on this level of existence can only be as good as the people who sit within them and make choices.  They are also limited by the physical laws of the universe and the natural laws, conditions, desires, and motives of the general public that composes the whole of society in aggregate and as that which is greater than the aggregate; the combined whole of human thought, behavior, and sentiment.

These human-made constraints (created by governments and social authority figures) are also imperfect in their ability to contain and constrain the society, since the society and its members have autonomy from the government.  Humans and human societies are more constrained by the natural laws and the limitations of knowledge and perception that are present in our brains and neural systems.  Therefore, it can be said that human-made social constraints are less important than the natural ones that exist amongst ourselves and within the universe that we are apart of.

Therefore, I think that in order to continue to advance humanity and contribute to our potential to survive, endure, and thrive, we should be constantly and safely pushing at the constraints of what we already know and can do as individuals and as a species.  Our government(s) should focus on studying the universal natural laws of societies, economies, human behavior, and environmental functions in addition to the particular laws of their own societies, making laws and legal systems that work better and better with the natural laws of their own societies and amongst all human societies.  We should capitalize on our differences of perspective and opinion, sifting out those that don’t fall into line with discovered reality while using that which is accurate to complete the puzzles of our universe in order to produce something greater than what we’ve presently got and to continue to advance ourselves safely and in accordance with what is actually helpful, healthful, and ethical for all sentient life in the universe.  Study, research, observation, and exploration are what will make tomorrow better than today, even as the natural laws and some conditions remain the same.  Health, well-being, quality of life, sustainability, and the ability to thrive for all are what we need to prioritize and produce as a society over financial profits and short term economic gains for a few.  Some constraints can be pushed, some can’t, and some really shouldn’t from the perspective of health, well-being, quality of life, and the ability to thrive for all.  Welcome to nature.

See on Scoop.itIt Comes Undone-Think About It


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