From Wikipedia:

The most robust and unambiguous examples[1] of self-organizing systems are from the physics of non-equilibrium processes. Self-organization is also relevant in chemistry, where it has often been taken as being synonymous with self-assembly. The concept of self-organization is central to the description of biological systems, from the subcellular to the ecosystem level. There are also cited examples of "self-organizing" behaviour found in the literature of many other disciplines, both in the natural sciences and the social sciences such as economics or anthropology. Self-organization has also been observed in mathematical systems such as cellular automata.

the notion of self-organization is conflated with that of the related concept of emergence.[citation needed] Properly defined, however, there may be instances of self-organization without emergence and emergence without self-organization, and it is clear from the literature that the phenomena are not the same. The link between emergence and self-organization remains an active research question

Self-organization usually relies on three basic ingredients [2]:

  1. Strong dynamical non-linearity, often though not necessarily involving positive and negative feedback
  2. Balance of exploitation and exploration
  3. Multiple interactions

If “self-organizing, self-improving systems” is our ideal in “mechanics”, it is also our ideal in social organization, i.e. a society without a leader, organizing itself.

The original "principle of the self-organizing dynamic system" was formulated by the cybernetician Ashby in 1947.[3][4] It states that any deterministic dynamic system will automatically evolve towards a state of equilibrium (or in more modern terminology, an attractor).

The idea that the dynamics of a system can tend by itself to increase the inherent order of a system has a long history

The ancient atomists (among others) believed that a designing intelligence was unnecessary, arguing that given enough time and space and matter, organization was ultimately inevitable” – ultimately, this is the idea against God

Descartes introduced was the idea that the ordinary laws of nature tend to produce organization

Adam Smith's idea of the "invisible hand" can be understood as an attempt to describe the influence of the economy as a spontaneous order on people's actions

The modern understanding is that there are indeed universal laws (arising from fundamental physics and chemistry) that govern growth and form in biological systems

Sadi Carnot and Rudolf Clausius discovered the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the 19th century. It positively states that lower entropy, sometimes understood as order, cannot arise spontaneously from higher entropy, sometimes understood as chaos, in an isolated system.

The term "self-organizing" was introduced to contemporary science in 1947 by the psychiatrist and engineer W. Ross Ashby.[8] It was taken up by the cyberneticians Heinz von Foerster, Gordon Pask, Stafford Beer and Norbert Wiener himself in the second edition of his "Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine" (MIT Press 1961). (Originally, the term “self-organization” was used by Kant)

Self-organization is associated with “general systems theory” and “complex systems” of 1960’s and Ilya Prigogine’s research in thermodynamics in 1970’s


Self-Assembled DNA Nanostructures. (A) DNA “tile” structure consisting of four branched junctions oriented at 90° intervals. These tiles serve as the primary “building block” for the assembly of the DNA nanogrids shown in (B). Each tile consists of nine DNA oligonucleotides as shown. (B) An atomic force microscope image of a self-assembled DNA nanogrid. Individual DNA tiles self-assemble into a highly ordered periodic two-dimensional DNA nanogrid.

Self-organization has been observed in:

1)   1) Physics, physical phenomena

2) Chemistry (e.g. molecular self-assembly)

3) Biology

4) Human society

5) Nanotechnology

Self-organization of birds

a flock of birds is an example of self-organization in biological systems

In biological systems self-organization is a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower-level components of the system. Moreover, the rules specifying interactions among the system's components are executed using only local information, without reference to the global pattern.

In computer science, we have free-ware platforms (programs), written through collaborative effort from people around the world, e.g. Android.

The emergence of language is an example of self-organization.

Experiments of Sugata Mitra , when he installed computers in an Indian village, and let children teach each other about them, is another example of self-organization, this time in education. If children have interest, then education happens. Education is a self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon. Self-organizing system is one where structure appears without an explicit intervention from outside.

Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Ripple patterns in a sand dune created by wind or water is an example of an emergent structure in nature.

4D printing is an example of self-organization of matter which we program. 

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