Principles of Natural Environmental Systems

PF Henshaw  12/27/07 11/23/08

(other lists of related principles)
Key to Methods, Physics Principles, Systems Thinking

Common sense guides to noticing and beginning to explore individual natural systems

These are mostly from a Dec 2007 collection of cuts from email's and transcriptions of odd notes I was making at the time, feeling a need to pull together some useful starting and reference points for exploring the non-deterministic world of individual systems.   There's bound to be lots I learned from others long ago here, as well as lots I use regularly and unintentionally left out, things like Ashby's principle of "requisite variety" that explanations match the whole thing addressed, and not just some seemingly important feature..  

Also mostly missing from this group at present is my thinking since the fall of 07 on how to read development histories as learning curves and development paths as being discovered by evolutionary exploration on all it's leading edges at once.   That's like what happens in an office work group, where each individual explores their own part of the question, following suggestion and discovery, and the combined effect is for the whole project to build along the environmental paths it finds as a whole.





A Common Sense of Natural Systems




alternate accumulating steps

One of the best principles to recognize is that of "alternating accumulation", as in the alternating steps in walking or climbing a ladder, breathing in and out, where coordinating opposite actions is needed to maintain a steady, but periodic flow.    It's often what connects the independent parts of systems, like production and consumption, or invention and application.    One can probably find a necessity for it, the alternation part, as a critical functional requirement for how any system developed and how it maintains itself.   It's also how biological evolution works, with growth and reproduction alternating and the accumulative change that results creating new forms.  

It also turns up in the alternation of exploration and testing, for example, in any learning process, as well as in alternation of learning and understanding.   Those two examples involve more complex and overlapping alternations, each is equally essential and opposite in the role it serves to the other.   That aspect makes it look like a 'corollary' of the religious principle of yin and yang, but a feature of the functional world of natural development.   I think learning the functional meaning of it is likely where the religious principle came from originally, and as with many religious principles, represents ancient scientific discoveries that later developments in science had no way to incorporate.




when energy flow multiplies

the eventfulness of natural events

a 'gust' of wind,
a 'flicker' of a flame

any new set of relationships arising from its own environment

The common explanation is that new natural systems begin when an organizational short-cut for moving energy multiplies as finds more opportunities for it develop more and more easily.   Then as the larger opportunities end in successively smaller ones it either come to an end or stabilizes as an individual . 

It seems to take developing a new systematic process to begin or to end a flow of energy.  

To develop a process needs a 'seed' of events at a smaller scale, and to multiply.   It's part of the local animation of inanimate events and processes.

Phrases referring to systems taking a ‘short-cut’, or 'exploring' or ‘finding' 'opportunity’, or being an ‘individual’ are words meant to be defined by the natural phenomena which display an intelligent design, without a designer.    They're the easiest way to refer to kinds of change that develop independently in relation to local circumstances, needing to be clarified as not referring to our own imaginary explanations.

This provides a way to ask questions about organizational change that can be seen as originating from growth and ending in decay, the things of life that are relatively simple but mysterious, a 'gust' of wind or the ‘flicker’ of a flame, as well as complex things such as economies and organisms.  

Some parts of change are controlled and predetermined by others.   This is about the uncontrolled change,. usually involving diverse and widely distributed behavior, starting as little ‘short-cuts’ that grow and develop as a whole.




systems are things

a transition between before & after

Natural systems are something like machines in that they are physical things with locations,  identified by their internal cell of continuing circular relationships, and the accumulative processes by which they developed, using energy.

1. They have ‘mechanisms’ of various sorts, though frequently their ‘parts’ are not rigidly connected.   There are other continuities to watch for what is connected change energy from one form to another.

2. They’re very different from machines in that their designs develop on their own from a ‘discovered’ opportunity within an environment, and are always fluidly changing.  

3. Sometimes their continual changes are more in relation to themselves, sometimes more in relation to their environments.
machines and equations and fixed rules can’t don’t build themselves or change their designs in relation to their environments.

  4. Change in natural systems takes a process of changing, so when there’s an organizational difference between ‘before’ & ‘after’, it’s likely you’ll be able to find what opportunity for it developed by successively larger and then successively smaller steps.

5. natural systems have many of the same natural limits as machines.  They begin and end, use energy in irreducible amounts, and can be stressed to failure.





a whole system view

A whole system view, a learning process
      -- individual systems as independent centers of environmental learning,
      -- accumulative lasting change that you can take part in more fully by watching and learning about.
      -- an unhidden pattern of whole events of systematically accumulating (developmental) exploratory change from beginning to ending arising from their own environments

Private observation of things observed in common
      -- a world where time is a process of individual things exploring their own paths of change
      -- each observed local 'rule' arising from the system to which it applies at it's scale of application,
      -- each observed general 'rule' as a suggestion to discover a local application.
      --  systems as individual cells of temporary 'rules' and the whole individual life cycle of their development and decay

Seeing that there must be a whole cell of internal relationships to explain development and why the effects of the whole are different in kind from any of the parts
      -- why some effects on the parts are counteracted
      -- why other effects on the parts are  multiplied
      -- why multiplying effects upset their own mechanisms
      -- asking if things maximize their organization or their through-puts
      -- asking if things climax at maximum constraint or maximum freedom

How the developmental path . `. directs your attention to
      -- the places and times of whole system transformation at the 'eventless' inflection points we tend not to notice
      -- how systems behave as a whole as their changes accumulate, through their full life-cycle .
      -- reading the history of developments as learning curves for an individual exploratory organizational process.
      -- reading signals of internal and external environmental response.
      -- how "cause & effect" involves time lags that show local origins of response
      -- how change alternates with adaptation, and the little time lags that limit internal responsiveness to change.

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Physics of Happening