Self-Organization(Is it an Oxy-Moron?)
What does the phrase "self-organization" mean? If you look at the word conjunction literally, and you haven't encountered the construct before, you should have some difficulty figuring out what it could mean. What are they saying? What is a self? And how does a "self" organize itself?
Of course, words are used to communicate, so one answer to the question: "what is self-organization?", is whatever the current literature uses the phrase for. There are many books that use the phrase, "At Home in the Universe," by Stuart Kauffman is one prominent example.
So what do they mean by "self-organization?" The general notion is the "time evolution" or the development of the object, but it doesn't imply a living thing necessarily. Another word might be the "ontogeny" of an object. "Self-organization" doesn't imply much about the environment, except the object passes energy through itself. In most uses, self-organization assumes that the "self" is part of a dissipative structure, but sometimes what the actual dissipative structure is, is not specified. The important questions are "what is meant by self" and "what are the boundaries of the self," "what is the context of the self".
"Self-organization," if push comes to shove, would be the process of time evolution of the entity "self" *if* the "self" was isolated. (Its like the time evolution the "information" strictly contained within the space/time boundary of "self") Of course, all natural systems are not "isolated," so watch out for the sleight of hand. For many "self-organization" assumes that the flow (whatever that flow is) through the "self" is "constant". That is, the surrounding context is either a "nice" (near linear input) dissipative structure or in equilibrium with the "self".
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