The Death of a Closed System

What if there was all this underlying complexity but no noise? Systems ready to react, change, adapt and compute – willing to show off their capabilities to self-organize, to create patterns, to make emergence happen – but they lie idle, because their world is in perfect equilibrium and void of any noise.

Imagine the Game of Life without any input. No colored cells that jumpstart the creation of blinkers and gliders.

Imagine a Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical soup without the tiny noisy interference that starts the formation of spiral patterns.

Imagine the perfect sea, water molecules next to water molecules, ready to bounce and collide. But there is no movement of air, no hidden turbulence underneath, no flapping wings, nothing.

What if there are all these systems out there we aren’t able to detect yet because they hide their abilities from us? Idle systems – dead because they are closed off from the necessary perturbations that would cause them to become active and emergent.

What we call idle system in our world are still open systems. Nothing is ever closed off. Entropy has its will, thermodynamics moves everything closer to a lower state of order.

Noise is inevitably present in any dissipative systems, and all living organisms operate in the noisy environment. Understanding the role of noise is crucial both in fundamental research in nonlinear physics, and in many applications in engineering, biology and medicine. Recent developments in statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics have shed light on a new, sometimes counterintuitive role which noise plays in nonlinear systems: in a wide range of systems, random forces may bring a system to a more ordered state.

Constructive Role of Noise in Complex Systems, workshop 2006, Max-Planck Institute

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