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Dissipative Structures Defined (Living Systms)

Factors of Utopian Logic


Getting Started: The Continuous Improvement Model:


Dissipative Structures Defined

Bénard cellsA dissipative structure is an evolving state of matter.  The term was proposed in 1967 by Belgian chemist and thermodynamicist Ilya Prigogine to describe the spontaneous appearance of ordered structures in the non-linear domain. Classic examples of dissipative structures include: Bénard cells (adjacent), the Belousov-Zhabotinskii reaction, Taylor vortices, cyclones, hurricanes, and lasers. The loose spin-off is that all life forms are by definition dissipative structures.  A newer variant of the term is "dissipative system".


The contention alluded to by Prigogine is that dissipative structures not only maintain themselves in a stable state, but may even evolve.  When the flow of energy and matter through them increases, they may go through new instabilities and transform themselves into new structures of increased complexity. Said another way, dissipative structures grow more complex by exporting, or dissipating, entropy into their environment.

My Summary:

Living systems are pliable to the degree they can accept new input: new ideas, new perspectives, new experience, new insights, and also new outputs.  However, despite this flexibility the body BNS encounters inertia like any other system, and this inertia is like a river.  As more and more information flows through the same circuitry those pathways in the BNS become deeper and more fixed causing the living system to become less pliable and more rigid.  Over time living systems can become inflexible and when this happens the living system is finally overwhelmed - commonly referred to as stress.

When people are overwhelmed too often they can experience several results: they can continue closing themselves off even more to the point of becoming unresponsive, they can die, or their BNS can evolve to embrace a larger reality in essence raising their threshold for stress allowing them to handle the previously stressful situation.

It is the process of evolution in which I am most interested.  When the living system evolves it is first overwhelmed, becomes unstable and then suffers collapse followed by a kind of rebirth wherein it lets go of the old fixed ideas (circuitry) and embraces a larger world.  The acceptance of a larger world brings with it a more evolved and more sophisticated BNS, one that is again more pliable because it can accept additional input.

I believe that societies operate in the same way as living systems and can, by using a Continuous Improvement Model, be proactively guided through natural evolutionary stages without bloodshed or suffering.

BNS: brain and nervous system.