Self-Organization in Non-Equilibrium Systems

Richard Holloway learnshops at
Thu Feb 1 15:30:11 PST 2001


Echoing someone else's comment, thanks for kick-starting this thread.  There
have been some very interesting and rich (in learning) responses.  My thanks
to those who are contributing to my learning.

You wrote, "But what I was thinking about was on "normal Organizations" (or
"current organizations"). I mean, human organizations that still live in a
and control way, that never tyied to use OST or to become LOs. I was not
refferring to physical or living systems.)

All human social systems are metasystems, according to M&V in that wonderful
little book you referred to (Tree of Knowledge).  Indeed, they use the Greek
city-state of Sparta as an example of a human metasystem with minimum
individual autonomy (the super-fascist state).  This is certainly an extreme
prototype for some of the kinds of organizations you refer to as "command
and control."  There is, apparently, some disagreement over whether or not
"Sparta" would be considered a living system (which may be true in de Geus'
view, based on the work you cited...though I can't speak for his actual POV
on this).

There are some interesting conversations that point to the arrival of the
"internet" and "intranet" along with all of the other communication and
knowledge management technology which is characteristic of complex
organizations, as the genesis of metasystems actualizing themselves as
living systems.  Their argument is that KM technology, and complex methods
of sharing information, are the basics of cognition (the process of life).

Dr James Miller republished his opus "Living Systems" in paperback recently.
Originally published in 1978, the more recent edition is more than a
thousand pages of fine print that I'm still wading through.  I have examined
the graphs and read a few chapters, and am genuinely impressed by what I've
read so far.

Miller, a medical doctor, offers a "general living systems theory."  In
summary, he believes that complex structures carry out living processes in 7
hierarchical levels (cell, organ, organisms, group, organization, society
and supranational systmes).  His thesis is that "systems at all...levels are
open systems composed of subsystems which process inputs, throughputs, and
outputs of various forms of matter, energy, and information."  He goes on to
list 19 critical subsystems, and looks at each of these 7 levels in terms of
the 19 subsystems.

You may also be interested in some of the articles that appear here...

I'm the site owner, but recently moved these pages, so the heading artwork
is no longer visible.  But, if you don't mind "thumbing" through "old"
texts, you may find some of these articles interesting.  These articles were
submissions to the "Journal of Living Systems" which I used to maintain.

With regards to Chaos Theory, as I recall it originated as a meteoralogical
model (Dr Lorenzo is one of the names I remember) to explain weather
patterns.  The famous line, I believe, was the one about the "butterfly's
flight in the Amazon causing a storm in Japan" or something to that effect.

Chaos Theory, Complexity Science, Complex Adaptive Systems, Living Systems
and all of the so-called "new sciences" popularized in OD circles by Meg
Wheatley's great book (Leadership and the New Science) are quite

Here's a useful website that provides a number of cross-discipline links to
Chaos Theory:

I hope this helps...and I'd encourage you to get a copy of Capra's "Web of
Life."  It provides good historical scientific context for the rich
explorations going on in all sciences right now, many of which will become
part of the models by which we explain ourselves to ourselves.



> Do you know of any writings, or would like to make any comments of your
> own, about the possibility of enlarging the autopoeisis concept one
> step further from humans as living systems to "human organizations"
> as living systems.
> Warm regards
> Artur

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