ORDER COMPLEXITY AND ORGANIZATION vs. CHAOS
As an IDist ponders complexity, generally; order, complexity, and organization are used synonymously. Yet they are really not synonymous.
Order and chaos go hand in hand and work off one another. In fact, chaos, which is disorder, is most necessary for order to arise and the more chaos we have in a system, the better that order likes it.
Physicist Ilya Priogine won a Nobel Prize in 1977 for his work in systems that are far from equilibrium. He discovered that organization needs chaos to form. And this makes sense if we think it through. The word equilibrium could remind us of a placid, tranquil lakeside scene; a state of rest is one of its definitions, but it also entails the idea of balance. Thus the further we get away from equilibrium and the more intensely unstable that a system becomes, the better become our chances that order can form.
Prigogine postulated that systems that are very chaotic are far from equilibrium systems and therefore entropy becomes low enough that structures can form. Total chaos, minimum entropy, is just the opposite of maximum entropy--equilibrium.
All things in nature seek equilibrium where nature is perfectly balanced. But in a system at perfect equilibrium, nothing is happening. Therefore how could anything ever order itself from such a system?
Schrodinger posited that maximum entropy--perfect equilibrium in the organism, is achieved at death. (9) And this makes sense. How could there be anything more at equilibrium with itself than a cold, dead organism that isn‘t functioning at all? Furthermore, how could anything be more disorganized than this same organism? Nothing is organized adequately enough for anything to work. Yet it is ordered because there is no chaos.
In systems that are highly unstable, certain fluctuations can occur that can cause order, and “instead of regressing, may be amplified and invade the entire system, compelling it to evolve toward a new regime that may be qualitatively quite different from the stationary states corresponding to minimum entropy production.” (14)
You wouldn’t enjoy a perfectly ordered universe. A wholly ordered universe would be at perfect equilibrium and would be dead. Yet order is the underpinning communiqué between elements at all levels of organization. This is true regardless of whether we are considering a population of humans, mice, or neurons. But no natural environment can be ordered in its sum total and still function.
Chaos seems to be the moving mechanism by which nature develops constrained and useful randomness; as there can arise no order unless also is present a flow of matter and energy which decreases in intensity as a system moves toward equilibrium. This disordered flow is our source of order. As we grasp a better understanding of this relationship between chaos and order, in the words of Prigogine: “We begin to have a glimpse of the road that leads from being to becoming.”
There seems a propensity, for reasons we still only partially understand, for the systems of nature to balance order and chaos--To keep a delicate balance between structure and uncertainty. The result of this balance serves to increase complexity.
The truth is that no one has ever offered any one definition of these terms, order, complexity and organization, that are scientifically or universally accepted.
Author F. Heylighen puts it well: “Complexity has turned out to be very difficult to define. The dozens of definitions that have been offered all fall short in one respect or another, classifying something as complex which we intuitively would see as simple, or denying an obviously complex phenomenon the label of complexity. Moreover, these definitions are either only applicable to a very restricted domain, such as computer algorithms or genomes, or so vague as to be almost meaningless.” (15)
D. E. Berlyne defines complexity as “a pattern can be considered more complex the larger the number of independently selected elements it contains. (16)
M. H. Emden tackles the issue with a different theory: “complexity is the way in which a whole is different from the composition of its parts.” (17)
Jeffrey S. Wicken, author of The Generation of Complexity in Evolution, writes: “‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content ... Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’”
So we can see, as we ponder this question, that order is not the same as organization and complexity. In fact, it is really perfect equilibrium which is maximum disorganization. Order becomes antithetical to organization and complexity.
(9) Schrodinger, Erwin from his book What is Life? Chapter 6
(14) Prigogine: http://www.magna.com.au/~prfbrown/chaos_02.htm
(16) Berlyne D. E. (1971), Aesthetics and Psychobiology, New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.
(17) Emden M. H. van (1971), "An analysis of complexity", Mathematical Centre Tracts, Amsterdam: Elsevier.
[ 26 February 2002: Message edited by: Moderator ]