Prof. Ilya Prigogine

Christoph J.W. Schmees cjws at
Fri Feb 2 01:02:34 PST 2001

At 16:37 1.2.2001 -0500, Harrison wrote:

>For me, chaos and order are both abstractions and neither exist in a pure
>sense. They are actually "pointers" to a polar (dialectical) framework
>which might look something like the following:   chaos< --- life
>--->order. The suggestion is that life in all its life forms comes into
>being, exists, and passes away some where along a continuum represented by
>chaos on the one side and order on the other. It is a dance, and when it
>stops, (finds equilibrium) life stops. Or as a colleague once said -- when
>you reach and equilibrium in Biology, you are dead.

Yes, yes, yes! I couldn't agree more! That's it. And that applies to
organisations as well. (Any objections? Someone urge me to explain it? :-)

>And by way of definition, chaos is the absence of meaning and lack of
>predictability -- in short it is absolutely nothing.

Well, yes and no.
Actually there are two kinds of chaos: Predictable and non-predictable. The
latter being pure noise, nothing. The mathematical branch of chaos theory
deals with the former: With chaos that can be described, defined, predicted
in some way. With "ordered chaos" so to say.
You may observe those 'strange attractors', a set of states the system can
be in or reach. You cannot predict which state leads to which next, the
transitions are chaotic and non-predictable. The famous butterfly in China
may be the trigger for a tornado in the Caribic - or the trigger for the
absence of that tornado. But what you can predict is that the system's
state will always be one out of this set of allowed states. You will never
find the system in a state outside of this set. This is predictable. And
you may very well be able to make statistical assumptions or observations
leading to predictable probabilities. In the simple example of a system
with two distinct attractors you may be able to predict that chances to
reach each one of them are 50:50, or 20:80, or whatever (my values are
arbitrary). -

Having said that - In discussing this subject it may help to distinguish
between those two kinds of chaos and say which one we are talking about.

I start: Usually I am talking about the 'predictable' chaos, the subject of
chaos theory.

Hope this can improve mutual understaning.


To subscribe, unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at

To subscribe,
1.  Visit:
2.  Sign up -- provide an email address,
    and choose a login ID and password
3.  Click on "Subscribe" and follow the instructions

To unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at
1.  Visit:
2.  Sign in and Proceed

More information about the OSList mailing list