The Creation of Life inside Computers and How it Will Affect us
Headline Book Publishing 2001
The your ideas of self Organisation were not created with social insects in mind, and were they do help to explain a few things. The concept were constructed to explain some strange observations made in the world around us: weird patterns in rocks, highly regular structures of crystal growth, oscillating patterns in chemicals, or structures emerging suddenly at the certain temperature. These things looked as though a single entity was controlling them, designing them, but in reality they were organising themselves.
How do they do it? Well, there are quite a few different answers to this question. One common view is that self organising systems should be thought of as energy exchange systems. To use even more frightening terminology, self organising system should also be thermodynamically open. What all this means is that there should be a flow of energy through the system - that is, the system should be exchanging energy or mass with its environment. We can check that an ant nest does this: and sixpence energy as they move themselves and objects in their environment; they gain energy from food sources in their environment.
The trouble with these energy exchange systems is that they tend either to settle into a state of equilibrium ought to fly off into randomness. If the system is to prevented from settling into a stable state, it needs to be dynamic - undergoing continuous change. But if it is also to be prevented from becoming entirely random, that change should not become excessive. Because of this, it is often said that self-organisation lies on the boundary between order and disorder, or "on the edge of chaos".
As an example, consider water. If there is insufficient energy and change in the molecules of water, then it settles into equilibrium - that is, it solidifies into ice. But if there is too much energy and change, the molecules jiggle about randomly and you've got water. For selforganisation to occur - for example, those patterns of frost on the window or the delicate structure of snowflakes - we need something halfway between the two.