Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Crystals and Cells

A homeostatic system (ultrastable) cannot evolve unless it is attacked by events coming from the external world. An organization must thus be able to harness these periods of change and use them in its evolution. It is therefore obliged to adopt an operating mode characterized by a renewal of the structures and a great mobility of men and ideas. Indeed, any rigidity, scleroses, perenniality of the structures or of the hierarchy is obviously contrary to a situation allowing evolution.

An organization can be maintained either in the manner of a crystal or of a living cell. The crystal maintains its structure thanks to a balance of forces which are cancelled at each node of the crystal lattice. Thanks also to redundancy, which is to say, repetition of the same motifs. This static state, closed to the external world, does not allow it to resist disturbances to the surroundings: if the temperature increases, the crystal becomes disorganized and melts. The cell, by contrast, is in dynamic balance with its environment. Its organization is not founded on redundancy, but on the variety of its elements. An open system, it is maintained via the continuous renewal of its elements. It is this variety and this mobility which allow adaption to change.

The crystal-organization evolves with difficulty: in the jolts of radical reforms and traumatic changes. The cell-organization seeks to favour occurrences, variety, any opening to the external world. It does not fear a momentary desorganisation, the requirement for a more effective readaption. To admit this transitory risk, it is to accept and desire change. Because there is no real change without risk.

translated from: 'Le Macroscope' by Joël de Rosnay

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