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 Definition The ability of matter to structure itself; a precondition for life. [d] [e]
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Start Self-organization from the lemma article. Anthony.Sebastian 02:23, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Science and mystery

Self-organization is often exemplified using Bénard cells, but it also has a mystical aspect among those searching for a basis for free will in some 'self-organization' of mental states. I think the language in this article is unnecessarily open to this mystical aspect. So, for example, "systems acquire and maintain structure themselves, without external control" is prone to misinterpretation inasmuch as the initiation of a Bénard cell depends upon certain external conditions, although it is not clear that it is 'controlled' by these conditions. It might be said that the external conditions enable formation of Bénard cells, but their exact configuration defies prediction. That defiance might be due to several things: (i) inadequate theory (ii) inadequate computational algorithms (iii) unstable connection to the boundary conditions, maybe other things.

Similarly, in "process whereby structural and behavioral order, or pattern, arises spontaneously at more and more global levels", the word spontaneously may be an exaggeration, as some preconditions are (I suspect) necessary, and those conditions may or may not arise 'spontaneously', and so neither does the incited pattern of behavior.

It seems to me that a more cautious approach to this topic would stress the fact that some aspects of system behavior appear to exercise a freedom of response that defies a complete description using available models, although these models in some cases can characterize the general sort of behavior, but not in every detail. Some mathematical systems seem to show the same kind of thing where there is a sensitivity to starting conditions that leads to different (but grossly similar) patterns for inputs that are so nearly identical that their differences defy our machine's capacity for numerical precision. There might be a connection to complex feedback mechanisms (which exist undetected and unplanned in numerical algorithms too, and not only in nature) that must await a better understanding, or the problem may be 'improperly posed'. In any event, more stress could be placed upon the observation that the system is not exercising some sort of carte blanche autonomy from external input. John R. Brews 18:25, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

I want to add that I think this article is a great beginning, and very interesting. John R. Brews 18:37, 27 November 2013 (UTC)