Autopoesis is the self-organization of emergent systems. This is an important element of Complexity Theory.

Rather than the evolution or the growth of any system being directed from above or behind, this process can be understood to be organized within itself and by the context of systems in which it arises.

For example, the interactions between quarks gives rise to the emergent system of an atom. The interactions between atoms gives rise to molecules. The interactions between molecules gives rise to chemicals. The interactions between a vast array of quarks/atoms/molecules/chemicals gives rise to single cells which can interact with the chemicals of the environment to eat and execrete. Some single celled organisms feed on the chemicals already collected by other cells. Cells interact to create defenses against being preyed upon. Predators improve their offensive strategies and abilities in co-evolution with the defenses of prey.

An elegant, simple, and effective description of many different kinds of processes which points to a bottom-upwards emergence which is undirected but tending towards greater richness and complexity rather than a top-down structure of teleological implementation.

Defined as "a network pattern in which the function of each component is to participate in the production or transformation of other components" (from 'The Web of Life' by Fritjof Capra).

This includes metabolism - which is a network of chemicals that form, and are formed from each other. It also includes the proteome (protein analogue of the genome) which includes the enzymes that catalyse metabolism, but also the control proteins that switch the cell into different states. This is a true auto-catalytic system, which generates and maintains itself.

To be autopoietic, a system must be:

  • Self bounded.
  • Self generating.
  • Self perpetuating.
The systems boundary is part of the network. All its components are generated by the network and the components are continually replaced with the passage of time. This is life.

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