Natural science approach to studying the emergent organization of systems

Jessie Henshaw
02 maart 2023

The talk will be in two sections, the first on the emerging organization of systems as they grow. The second will be on ways of a) leaving them alone or b) helping them steer. So far, science has given less attention to how nature works by itself, giving much more to how people can make rules for controlling it, and that seems to be a principal reason for our current global crisis.

Part 1. The science. Natural systems emerge from some energizing spark or seed as a pattern to build on in some available pool of resources. That gives them a chance to multiply their designs without competition. Successfully expanding is one hurdle; the next is that growth will push them into unfamiliar contexts. They may exhaust local resources or become unstable. So, many won’t survive, but some do if they have exploratory behaviours and cohesion that amounts to having a survival instinct.

Part 2. The Steering. More complex systems originate in that same way but develop added abilities, like active steering, as all kinds of living things do, extending their reach, waiting for things to come to them, or moving from place to place. Our economy has, too, acted exploratory in the extreme for hundreds of years, finding new resources and uses to double in scale two or three times a human lifetime for some hundreds of years. However, it has not responded to strains of disruptions as a system with a survival instinct would. Something is wrong with its steering, even its profit-making becoming unprofitable. It might lack cohesion, be operated like a robot, or not know what to do. We’ll explore.

Jessie's slides can be accessed at:

Part 1 References -

#1  Photos Chauvet Cave 
   & Mexico city

#6  Natural Systems - Design & Steering

#7  Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Lecture -

Gerald Midgley’s model talk -

Part 2 References -    

#11         Ugolino’s story.

#12         Research: Flowing processes in species change -

#12         Research: Why Nature Starts all New Lives with Compound Growth -

#13         WEF Global Risks Report - Natural 

#14         Top 100 Systemic Crises List -