The Self-organizing Universe (SSWOL) Paperback – 1 Nov 1979
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Top Customer Reviews
Keywords for these systems are far from static balance, open for flowing through of matter and energy in a continuous process, which through feed back organizes itself. Furthermore fluctuations (disturbances) from outside or from inside which via a thrust with high gradient can force the system over an instability-threshold to transcend and recreate itself.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is not a "lite" book; perhaps that is why the copy I have (an inspection copy from a major university) has only been taken out seven times since 1980! Pathetic considering the current hand-waving taking place in AI (particularly the work of Dennett and the Churchlands) and the philosophy of mind. The only other place to find the overview is in Leduc's IEEE paper "Human Knowledge: can the planet survive human rationality?". Perlovsky's work in cybernetics is also an excellent place to see similar results.
It is unfortunate this is out of print; perhaps you can find a copy in a library. Better yet, start bugging the publisher to reprint it.
Reductionism is a useful paradigm, but certainly not a comprehensive one. Jantsch drills this point home.
The strength of this book isn't just the fact that it makes a very strong argument for a self-organizing universe. It's the fact that Jantsch does so with a unique combination of hard facts, experimental evidence, analytical arguments, coherent synthesis, profound humanity and even a bit of poetry. I'm not trying to be dramatic and sappy, it's really true. I can almost feel how much this book meant to Jantsch, and how he knew, deep down, that he was on to something very important. There was something special about Jantsch, and something special about this book. If you read this book, and are still convinced that the universe is purely a meaningless "mechanistic machine" then I feel very sorry for you.
This work, among other things, stands as the final refutation of all "deus ex machina" approaches that seek to explain with various forms of "magic" how we moved across the threshold from "disorder" to "order," and from "inanimate" to "living organisms." It brings together into a resoundingly unifying (and satisfying) synthesis a collection of seemingly disparate but fascinating insights from across the field of science, biology, and culture.
Among those insights are the following select few: (1) that evolution is not just about adaptation and survival in a particular environment (where the only reward is being able to stay in the game) but is a world in which the environment itself is an evolving process; (2) that the interplay of processes alone can lead to the evolution of structures; and thus; (3) that the origin of life is necessarily neither a mere accident, nor a result of "the Gods in the machine; "(4) that since evolution is itself an emergent and dynamic process it transcends human meaningfulness, and finally; (5) that the very existence of a paradigm in which dynamics organize themselves is proof of its own existence.
What Jantsch brings to the table is a new expanded and exciting paradigm that emphasizes process over structure and that is at the same time large enough to encompass the broader emergent properties of his more general vision of Darwinism. In it, the old Darwinian theory is retrofitted with the latest scientific and non-scientific discoveries so as to assume the much larger more general role of interconnecting the natural dynamics of "non-human" as well as "human" systems.
Darwinianism as "pure process" is like "a self-learning apparatus:" It is an "automatic entropy changing machine," that moves progressively from nothingness (or complete disorder), to indistinct process, to full process, to proto-order, to order, to random connections, to non-random learning, to proto-structure, to structure, to loose connections, to interconnectedness. From this stepwise process of synthesis and its interconnectedness, not only does a new paradigm emerge, but also new understandings of what it means to be (or not be) human. That is to say, a whole new "ecology" of, and lexicon of concepts, ideas, and theories emerge along the pathway to Jansch's paradigm.
As a final note, several years ago I gave a talk at Cal State Dominguez Hills, about some of the ideas in this book, but my audience thought that my invocation of Darwin was only in the conventional "Sociobiolgical" "survival of the fittest" sense. Much to my dismay (and embarrassment), they and my colleagues who had hosted the talk, got stuck on this more limited interpretation. I finally gave up on trying to convince them that there was a larger more important interpretation of Darwinism.
To say that this book is a tour de force would be a monument to understatement. One Hundred Stars!