Humberto Maturana Romesín Instituto Matríztico
“Everything said is said by an observer to another observer
that could be him- or herself”
As human beings we behave in our, scientific, or technician, daily living making distinctions of entities and relationships that we try as if exists by itself or from independence of what we do to distinguish them, and we speak as if such entities and relationships somehow exist already before the operation of distinction with which we make them appear in our to observe. It is more, we act in our to operate biological as living beings, and in our to operate human as reflexive beings, in the implicit trust that we live involved in an medium(environment) of regular, repetitive processes, in the one that we will find all that we require to live and to continue living. Each new organism that arises of a reproductive act emerges from a progenitor that gives it when living as an entity, whose anatomy and physiology implies in fact that, comes as fact and preparation to find the world that needs to live, and usually, it happens in this way. This is what we see as observers in our living, and it is in this in what we lean on to explain our living in the trust that we exist in a world of independent structural coherences of our operate. And everything seems to be well until we realize that there are aspects of the interiority of our living that we cannot explain with that attitude. What appears us as the basic thing when explaining our living, is the fact that all that happens in the world of our to make and to observe happens according to regularities in operating of the entities and processes that we distinguish that they show that the act of observing doesn't specify what happens in that observed although it alters it. To this basic condition of our to understand and to explain our living and the worlds that we live, without which we cannot understand neither to explain thing some, and whose conceptual and operational validity is founded in fact in that arises as abstraction of the operational and experiential coherences of everything that we do in our living, I call it structural determinism. This notion says that in our living and in our explaining all the entities that emerge in our distinctions they arise operating with properties that appear as intrinsic of them, when it is simple entities, or with characteristics that are they are made of how, if it is compound entities. Or, said otherwise, we operate in our living and in our to explain in the trust that when we impact or we act on a system what will happen in this it will be the result of operating of their fashion, this is, of their structural one in that instant. In this conscious or unconscious, explicit or implicit trust, in the structural determinism of their existence and of existing of the means that contains it, is founded in particular all the living of the living beings in general and all our living and to make human: our living daily, our doing science, or technology …o art.
At the same time happens to us that although we live all that we live as valid in the moment to live him, the human beings we know that we don't know in the moment what we live to live if then we will treat him like an illusion or like a perception. The one that this is not this way an incidental condition of the historical moment that we live, it is our condition existence. Although we speak as if the act of knowing consists on observing something that exists with independence of our act of distinguishing it, the fact that in the same experience we don't know if what we live the we will try later like an illusion or a perception, indicate us that in a strict sense we cannot seek that, and it shows us that the act of knowing doesn't consist neither it can consist on a reference to something that exists with independence of that we make when distinguishing it. In the bottom this knows it although frequently we don't take ourselves charge of what implies it. This way, when we want to know if somebody knows or has certain knowledge in a certain medium, we ask him that it shows us their to make in that medium, and if their to make us finds appropriate, we say that that person knows. In fact anything of this constitutes a difficulty for that we make in anyone of the dimensions of our living.
We can investigate the genetic code as a molecular phenomenon, we can travel to the Moon, we can describe the neural cells, but we cannot answer the questions: What is it living?, what is a living being?, or how does it arise and does it conserve the operational harmony in operating of an entirety without a principle computer?
These questions cannot be answered in the form that are formulated as questions for the being of an living being, for how is the itself of the living, because when not knowing in the experience if what we live is an illusion or perception, we cannot know if what we say that it is living it is valid or not in terms of living. If we want to speak of the being or of itself of something, we cannot make it. That that if we can make it is to speak of that we do and of how we do it when we do a distinction. When in fact I realized this in the year 1960 when trying to speak my students of the origin of the life, do change the question, and instead of wondering why the life is? or what is an living being?, I wondered what criteria use I to affirm that I see an living being when I say that I see an living being?, or what do I have to see that it happens in a system so that I say that that system is an living being?
When asking the question, what is life? The observer waits an answer whose validity melts in an external argument to its own one to operate under the form from a reference to the real, to the itself of the living for which wonders. However, for what I have said this answer type above it is not possible. On the other hand, the question for, what criterion I use to affirm that something is what I say that it is?, yes has answer, and does have it under the form of the proposition for the observer of the description of what he or she would have to see that it happens in a system, or with a system, so that he or she accept it the results of that happen (process) is a living being. This answer yes it is possible, and what an observer would have to see is that the system under his consideration operates as a autopoietic molecular system Conceptual changes In 1960 I asked my self what should happen in the manner of constitution of a system so that I see as a result of its operation a living system? This was a strange question in a period in which every scientist knew that to know something about something one should go and look what was already there without interfering with it. I was not making a hypothesis about how the system was. I was proposing that the relation between the internal dynamics of the system and the result of that internal dynamics in the domain in which I observed it, would tell me what the system was. I had to create the system to know it. In 1965 when I was studying colour vision in pigeons I realised that I could not longer pretend that one saw the colours as features of an external world, and that I had to abandon the question, how do I see that colour? and ask instead, what happens in me when I say that I see such a colour? To do this change meant abandoning the notion that there was an external independent world to be known by the observer. And that I had to accept that knowing had to do with the congruent interactions of entities that were structure determined systems in which all that happened with them and to them was determined at every instant by the way they were made (their structure) at that instant. To adopt the epistemological grounding entailed in these changes meant that henceforth I would not ask what is, but I would ask myself what criterion do I use to validate my claim that something is what I say that it is? Furthermore, to do this entailed a fundamental ontological change, namely, fundamental question was not more what is, what is the essence of that which I observe? , but how do I do what I do as observer in observing? All that follows comes from that basic epistemological and ontological change in my thinking. In November 1960, a Chilean first year medical student asked me the question “What began three thousand eight hundred million years ago so that you can say now that living systems began then?” As I realised that at that moment I could not properly answer that question, I said “I cannot answer this question now, but if you come back next year, I shall propose an answer.” Thus, I accepted the question of the student to be answered later, and at the same time I accepted the question for myself. In so doing I realized that to the extent that I did not know the answer because I did not know what made living systems living systems I would have to create a living system, either conceptually or practically in the laboratory. And it was so because I had to be able to say what kind of systems were living systems now, to be able to say what begun when they began some four thousand million years ago.
In the attempt to answer these questions, it became obvious to me that I required to satisfy two conditions: one was that I had to propose a characterisation of the network of processes that constituted living systems as singular entities, network of processes that I did not know; and two, that I had to propose some feature of living systems that I did know now as a reference to decide that the network of processes that I would propose was indeed necessary and sufficient to constitute and realise a particular discrete system as a living system.
Some ten years earlier, in 1949, when I was a medical student but was ill with lung tuberculosis in a sanatorium in the Andes, I realise that what was peculiar to living systems was that they were discrete autonomous entities such that all the processes that they lived they lived them in reference to themselves. Accordingly, I thought then, if a dog bites me, does not bite me, it does something that has to do wit himself. So, I thought that in order to understand living systems and explain what happens to them and with them in their living, I had to take as a fundamental condition of their being living systems that they existed as autonomous entities in the form of self contained closed molecular dynamics of self production, open to the flow of molecules through them. And I realized that following that understanding one could say that a living system arose in the history of the earth in the moment in which some network of molecular productions became closed upon itself constituting a discrete entity in which the molecules produced realized the same network of molecular productions that produced them while realizing at the same time its boundaries as an autonomous totality in a molecular medium with which it was in molecular interchange.
Through this understanding my claim became that a living system was a dynamic molecular entity, realized as a unity as a closed network of molecular productions in which the molecules produced through their interactions, a) recursively constituted the same network of molecular productions that produced them; and b) specified the extension of the network and constituted operational boundaries that separate it as a discrete unity in a molecular space. I said all this in the additional understanding that as a discrete molecular system closed as a network of molecular productions, a living system was a molecular system open to the flow of molecules through it as molecules could enter it and become participants of its closed dynamics of molecular productions, and molecules could stop participating in such molecular dynamics leaving it to become part of the molecular medium in which it existed.
My first full understanding of how living systems were discrete self producing molecular networks closed in the dynamics of molecular productions, but open to the flow of molecules through them, took place suddenly at the end of 1963. In a conversation with my friend Dr. Guillermo Contreras I was highlighting a fact that we of course both knew, namely, that nucleic acids participate with proteins in the synthesis of proteins, and that proteins participate as enzymes with nucleic acids in the synthesis of nucleic acids, all together constituting a discrete circular dynamics supported by the continuous flow of the molecules that we usually call metabolites. As I was drawing a diagram of this circularity, I exclaimed “This is it! This is the minimal expression of the circular closed dynamics of molecular productions that makes living systems discrete autonomous molecular systems”.
After this event I begun to see that the metabolic charts that usually hang on the walls of a biochemistry laboratory showing cases of circular closed molecular dynamics, do not show the molecules involved in the closed cyclic metabolic process participating in the realization of a boundary that would make of that circular molecular network a discrete entity in the molecular space. I think that those metabolic charts did not revealed the notion of autopoiesis or the possibility of conceiving autopoiesis because there was not the conceptual understanding of living systems as closed systems of molecular productions due to the belief that living systems had to be characterized as open systems in terms of the flow of energy through them.
I did not have the word autopoiesis then. Accordingly, at the beginning of the year 1964 I began to say that living systems were constituted as unities or discrete entities as circular closed dynamics of molecular productions open to the flow of molecules through them in which everything could change except their closed circular dynamics of molecular productions. So I spoke of living systems as discrete autonomous entities organized as closed networks of molecular productions open to the flow of matter through them, emphasizing their condition of being discrete singular closed entities in their dynamics of states. It was not until 1970 that I chose the word autopoiesis as the name of the organization of living systems as discrete autonomous entities that existed as closed networks of molecular production, claiming that autopoiesis was the necessary and sufficient condition for the constitution of living systems, and that they existed only as long as their autopoietic organization was conserved. I did not conceived my understanding of living systems as discrete autonomous closed networks of molecular productions in an experiential vacuum in 1963 because I proposed it as an abstraction of my biological understanding aware of the biological knowledge of the times.
We living systems are molecular systems that exist in the molecular domain spontaneously without external processes driving them. As I say this I also claim that autopoiesis occurs only in the molecular domain.
A closed network of molecular productions that recursively produce the same network of molecular productions that produced them and specify its boundaries remaining open to the flow of matter through it, is an autopoietic system, and a molecular autopoietic system is a living system. As such an autopoietic system (a living system) exists only in the molecular medium in which it can operate as a totality in the conservation of its autopoietic dynamics through the continuous change of its molecular architecture through the spontaneous thermal molecular dynamics. Therefore, a living system will arise and be conserved in any part of the cosmos where the molecular conditions that make it possible take place: a living system as a molecular system occurs as a closed dynamic molecular architecture that in its continuous transformation through thermal agitation continuously gives rise to itself.
There is more, however. The molecular domain is the only domain of entities that through their interactions give rise to an open ended diversity of entities (with different dynamic architectures) of the same kind in a dynamic that can give rise to an open ended diversity of recursive process that in their turn give rise to the composition of an open ended diversity of singular dynamics entities: molecules through their interactions give rise to molecules and dynamic systems of molecular productions, in diffuse and localize processes that constitute discrete entities. I think that due to this peculiarity of the molecular domain this is the only domain in which autopoietic systems can take place as discrete singular systems that operate through thermal agitation and dynamic architecture.
Molecular systems exist only in the satisfaction of the structural conditions of molecular existence, thus the satisfaction of all that is required for molecular processes to occur is implicit in the understanding that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems. The fundamental thing that happens in the constitution of a living system as a molecular autopoietic system is its continuous realization as an autonomous entity that has a discrete singular existence that is conserved in the continuous flow of molecules through it. Biological phenomena occur in the actual realization and conservation of living systems as singular unities, not in the particular nature of any of the molecular processes that realize them. Any phenomenon that occurs through the actual realization of the living of at least one living system, is a biological phenomenon.
Biological phenomena take place in a dynamics that occurs in the present without any operational relation to what we call the past or the future. Past and future are explanatory notions introduced by the observer. The recognition that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems has been minimized by some biologists under the claim that the notion of autopoiesis has already been used by Kant as he thought of organisms as totalities in which each part existed both for and by means of the whole, while the whole existed for and by means of the parts (Kant reprinted 1952, Kauffman 1995). Yet, what I say has a precision beyond what Kant could ever have said or imagined. I am speaking of how a living systems is constituted operationally as discrete singular molecular systems that arises as a dynamic architecture as a spontaneous unintended result of the interactions of molecules that operate in relation to their immediate locality, without any reference to the totality that they compose. I am not saying, as Kant and others have said, that the parts exist for the whole and the whole exists for the parts. That is a commentary of an observer in relation to what he or she thinks that does not reveal what happens in the molecular dynamics of a cell or of an organism. Molecules interact with other molecules in a way in which the result of their interactions does not participate at any moment in the genesis of their interactions. The notion of autopoiesis as a characterization of the organization that makes a molecular system a living system, is an abstraction of what an observer sees as a spontaneous continuous result of the spontaneous operation of the molecular dynamics architecture that constitutes the living system through processes that are structurally congruent as well as blind to the consequences to which they give rise. The components of any system exist as local entities only in relations of contiguity with other components, and any relation of the parts to the whole proposed by an observer can only be a metaphor for his or her misunderstanding, and has no operational presence. It is only in the collapsing of domains that we human beings make in our reflexions that the result of a process may appear as participating in its genesis. There is nothing in a molecular system that could be properly thought as an organizing or guiding principle.
Autopoiesis is not something that can be called a property of living systems because it is their actual manner of being as the organization that constitutes them as singular entities in the molecular space. As a molecular autopoietic systems a living system exists in the continuous flow of molecules through it in its realization as closed network of molecular processes that dynamically specify its boundaries as a singular movable entity floating and sliding in a molecular space. Accordingly, and I repeat, living systems are not the molecules that compose and realize them moment by moment, they are closed networks of molecular productions that exist as singularities in a continuous flow of molecules through them. Indeed, it is their condition of being a closed molecular dynamics what constitutes them as separable entities that float in the molecular domain in which they exist. It is this manner of constitution of living systems as molecular systems that which I denote when I say that it is not the molecules that compose a living system (whichever these may be) what makes it a living systems.
Of course living systems are not unique in being dynamic systems that are not the components that realize them at any particular instant. I shall mention two cases in which it is apparent that what constitutes a dynamic system is its manner of dynamic composition, not the elements that compose it. One is a tornado, which is a system that exists as the manner in which the air molecules that realize it as a singular entity flow through it continuously, and not the particular molecules that compose it at any instant. A frozen tornado would not be a tornado. Another is a club, that exists as a discrete network of conversations realized by persons that change in the course of the years, but which remains the same club as long as the network of conversations that defines it is realized and conserved through the interactions of the persons that are its members at any moment. The elements that compose a system are not its components by themselves, they are its components only as they participate in its composition, and only while they do so. So a particular molecule is a component of an autopoietic system only as it participates in the autopoietic molecular dynamics that constitutes it, and stops being a component of it as it stops participating in such dynamics.
My assertion that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems is neither a definition nor an explanatory proposition, it is an abstraction the operational coherences apparent in the actual living of living systems as molecular systems. Therefore, my assertion that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems (and that there can be autopoietic systems only in the molecular space) is a claim about what constitutes living systems, a claim about how they arose, and a claim about how they operate in the pragmatics of their living. Moreover, as I have already said, as I claim that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems I do not make a claim about some particular molecular structure in them, but I make a claim about the kind of molecular network that constitutes them, and the domain in which they exist without any guiding process or centre of control of the processes that constitute them. In this view nucleic acids (DNA molecules) are not controllers of what happens in the cells, but elements that participate in the dynamic molecular architecture that constitutes them. In these circumstances, the claim that living systems exist as singular autonomous molecular autopoietic unities through interactions in a medium with which they are in a continuous molecular interchange, is a claim about how they exist in their internal composition as well as about how they exist as totalities.
Systems as composite entities have a dual existence, namely, they exist as singularities that operate as simple unities in the domain in which they arise as totalities, and at the same time they exist as composite entities in the domain of the operation of their components. The relation between these two domains is not causal; these two domains do not intersect, nor do the phenomena which pertain to one occur in the other. The generative relation that an observer may see between these two domains is a historical relation that the observer makes as he or she correlates the dynamics of the domain of composition of the system with what happens with it as a resulting totality in the domain in which this exists.
Let us consider some of the implications and consequences of the fact that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems:
1) Living systems exist as singular entities that operate as totalities in interactions in the medium where each conserves its individual identity under the form of a unicellular or a multicellular organism. That is, living systems exist as organism in the realisation of their living.
2) A living system as a molecular system is a structure determined system, and everything that happens in it or to it, happens in each moment determined by its structure at that moment. That is, nothing external to a living system can specify what happens in it; all that an observer sees as external to a living system can only trigger in it structural changes determined in it.
3) Each living system as a molecular autopoietic system is constituted as a closed network of molecular productions in which the molecules produced through their recursive interactions constitute the same closed network of molecular productions that produced them, dynamically realising its operational boundaries as a singular entity that operates as a totality in interactions in a molecular domain. That is, the boundaries of a living system are not fixed by the molecules that realise it but arise in the molecular dynamics of participation in the autopoiesis of the organism.
4) Living systems as molecular systems are constitutively open to the flow of molecules in the continuous realisation of the recursive closed self-producing dynamics that constitutes them as singular entities. That is, as molecular systems living systems necessarily exist in the flow of matter and energy.
5) Everything that happens in the history of living systems occurs through their realization as singular entities that exist as organisms while in interactions with the medium in which they operate as totalities. That is, biological phenomena take place in and through the realization of the living of living systems.
6) Living systems exist in two domains: one; the domain in which they exist as totalities or organisms, that is the domain in which they realise and conserve their identity as multicellular or unicellular singular beings; and two, the domain in which they operate as molecular autopoietic systems which is the domain of their realisation as composite molecular entities. This condition entails that the internal dynamics of a living system (its autopoiesis) occurs subordinated to the conservation of its living as an organism, and the conservation of the living of the organism occurs subordinated to the conservation of its autopoiesis.
Frequently the dual existence of living systems in particular, and of systems in general, is obscured by the notion of emergent properties. By treating the features that an observer distinguishes in a system as if they were intrinsic to it, the notion of property obscures the relational nature of these features. All the characteristics that we as observers distinguish in a system pertain to the relational space in which it arises as we distinguish it, and are dimensions of its existence in that space. So, to speak of emergent properties in the constitution of a system is both a mistake and misleading. As a system is constituted as a totality, a new domain arises, the domain in which the system exists as that totality. Therefore, to say that autopoiesis is an emergent property would be a mistake. To say that the constitution of a organism gives rise to emergent behaviour would also be a mistake; the behaviour that an observer sees as appearing in the relational space in which he or she distinguishes it is not a feature of the organism, but a relational dynamics that arises with the participation of the medium as the organism interacts in it as a totality: behaviour as a relational dynamics involves both the organism and the medium in which it exists as a totality.
Not an explanatory principle
One of the basic conceptual difficulties in understanding living systems as autonomous autopoietic systems arises from our cultural attitude that leads us to think in terms of external causes to explain the occurrence of any phenomenon. This attitude blinds us to the spontaneous nature of all processes in the molecular domain in which we exist. All molecular processes occur spontaneously following a path that arises moment after moment according to the structural dynamics of the different molecules involved, and their particular relations of neighbourhood at any moment. That is, nothing occurs in the molecular domain through the action of an agent (cause) external to the structural coherences of the circumstance in which it occurs. Thus, in our culture, we are surprised when we see what we call order appearing spontaneously where we did not expect it, and we do no find an external cause for it. When that happens we find ourselves in a conceptual difficulty that we frequently attempt to avoid or deny by resorting to some explanatory principle that we used without full awareness as if it were the external cause of that unexpected order.
This is, I think, what has happened with the use of the notion of autopoiesis as it has been frequently treated as an explanatory principle. But the notion of autopoiesis as I have indicated above, is not an explanatory principle, it is a generative mechanism that when in operation results in what we distinguish as a living system. Autopoiesis happens spontaneously when the molecular dynamic conditions that can give rise to it occur in a process that takes place without external or internal guidance. Moreover, as I have said above I claim that autopoietic systems exist only in the molecular domain, because the molecular domain is the only domain in which the interactions between the elements that compose it, produce elements of the same kind as a spontaneous result of their structural dynamics. Furthermore, I have claimed since 1971 in my lectures that autopoiesis (molecular, of courses) was both the necessary and sufficient condition for the constitution and realization of living systems. Later, while answering questions about whether there were other autopoietic system in other domains, and whether they were living systems or not, I though that it was perhaps possible that autopoietic systems could exist in other domains different from the molecular one. Yet, as I became more aware of the uniqueness of the molecular domain, I realized that it is only in the molecular domain that systems like living systems can exist because it is only in this domain where autopoiesis can take place. Let me be explicit. The molecular space is peculiar in that:
a) It is constituted by dynamic composite entities (the molecules) that as a result of their interactions produce through composition and decomposition elements of their same kind (that is new molecules).
b) The composition and decomposition of the elements of this space (the molecules) occurs while these elements exist as composite entities under thermal agitation that operationally constitutes the energy for their composition and decomposition.
c) The course of the compositions and decomposition to which the elements of this space give rise in their interactions, is determined at every instant by the dynamic architecture of the composition (the structure) of the interacting elements (molecules).
In these circumstances, the molecular space is a space in which all the composite structures or systems that arise through the interactions of the molecules in it arise in a spontaneous dynamic molecular architecture without the guidance of any organizing force, principle, plan or information. There is no other domain like this in which the interactions of the elements that constitute it generate through their composition other elements of the same kind through thermal agitation and without external support. So, I claim that neither the elements of the sub-molecular nor the elements of the supra-molecular domains can by themselves give rise to autopoietic systems as singular entities constituted as closed networks of productions of components that do not need external support to operate as such.
Accordingly, a living system exists as an autopoietic system in the molecular space. But, at the same time, a living system exists also as an organism in a supra-molecular space where it arises as a totality through its interactions as a whole while it is constituted and conserved as a molecular autopoietic, dynamic supra-molecular singularity through the autopoiesis of its cellular components. That is, an organism is an autopoietic system through its molecular composition, not through its supra-molecular existence. Autopoiesis describes the constitution of living systems as discrete molecular systems.
Domains of existence
Autopoiesis describes the internal dynamics that constitutes a living system as a living system in the molecular domain, but a living system exists as well as a totality in a relational space where it operates as an organism. The constitution of living systems as autopoietic systems entails their constitution as organisms as a result of the constitution of their operational boundaries that separates the molecules that dynamically participate in their autopoiesis from those that do not. So, living systems exist in two non-intersecting domains, the domain of their components as molecular autopoietic systems, and in the domain in which they operate as organisms (totalities) in the medium that makes hem possible. These two domains do not intersect, the processes that take place in one cannot be reduced to the processes that take place in the other. Yet, these two phenomenal domains modulate each other through the structural changes that take place in the autopoietic system through the internal dynamics of the living system and through the structural changes triggered in it through its operation as an organism in the medium that makes it possible.
A living system operates at each moment in a manner determined by its structure at that moment, yet, since the structure of the living system is continuously changing, the operation of a living system in its two domains of existence is also changing continuously around the simultaneous conservation of its autopoiesis and its structural coupling in its changing medium. In this interlaced continuous change of the manner of realization of the molecular autopoiesis of the living system and the manner of relating of the organism as a totality, the conservation of the operational congruence of the organism and the medium in which it exists is what guides the path of changes of the living system as a totally.
The understanding of the simultaneous existence of a living system in these two domains is possible only if one understands that molecular autopoietic systems do not have inputs or outputs in the informational sense, and that these two domains interrelate only through the different structural changes triggered in the single bodyhood of the living systems by their corresponding non-intersecting relational dynamics through one of the fundamental outcomes of the understanding of living systems as molecular autopoietic systems. As a result evolution and ontogeny follow the path of the conservation of the different manners of living that arise in the relational space where the living system lives as an organism.
First and higher order molecular autopoietic systems
With Francisco Varela (see Maturana and Varela, “De Maquinas y Seres Vivos” 1972) were not limiting autopoiesis to cells, but what we said was that although cells were primary molecular autopoietic systems we did not know if we could immediately claim that multicellular system in addition to being composed of autopoietic entities (cells) were also primary molecular autopoietic systems. Indeed, this is why we spoke of cells as first order (or primary) molecular autopoietic systems, and of multicellular organisms and symbiotic systems as second and third order autopoietic systems respectively according to the manner of their cellular composition. Yet we left open a question that could not be answered lightly, namely whether second and third order autopoietic systems were also first order molecular autopoietic systems in their own right. As we were not dealing with a definition of life or living, we could not pretend that a system was a molecular autopoietic system without an adequate fundament. The question was if a multicellular organism such as an elephant that one has no doubt in claiming that it is a living system as a multicellular organism, is or is not also a living system like a cell is as a first order molecular autopoietic system. Thirty years ago there was not enough understanding as there is now of the flow of molecules across cell walls within a multicellular organism to be able to claim, as one can do now, for example, that an elephant is both a second order autopoietic system and a first order molecular autopoietic system. All systems that exist as singular entities through their being first order or second order molecular autopoietic systems, can be considered living systems because their existence as singular autonomous entities depends in the end on the realization of first order autopoiesis. I think that other scientists create unnecessary difficulties for the understanding of the notion of molecular autopoiesis as the condition that makes a living system a living entity, by thinking that autopoiesis is a definition of life. Molecular autopoiesis is not a definition of life, but it is the molecular dynamics whose realization de facto constitutes and makes a living system a discrete autonomous molecular system. Something similar happens with Stuart Kauffman and his notion of autocatalytic networks. He does not seem to realize that it is the concatenation and intercrossing of many circular processes in the realization of a closed network of molecular productions what constitutes the discrete molecular autopoietic system that a living system is, and not any particular kind of molecular dynamics like auto catalysis.
As I have just said, if we examine a living being in their internal dynamics, we see it exists as a autopoietic molecular system that is constituted as a net of productions of molecules that generate in recursive way the same net of processes of molecular productions that produced them producing molecules of the same class of those that produced them, all this in a closed dynamics that makes of that net a discreet unit in a relational space in which operates in their interactions like a totality or organism. Although as a observers when distinguishing a living being we describe it in space and temporary dimensions, the living being exists in a continuous present, in flowing of a changing present that is in itself a-temporal. The living of the living being as living being, our own one living as observes human beings that explain that living, as well as flowing changing of the cosmos in that exist, they happen as a present in continuous transformation. The living of the living being as a living being, our own living as beings human observers that explain that living, as well as flowing changing of the cosmos in that exist, they happen as a present in continuous transformation. It is to solve this apparent conflict among being distinguished living in a continuous present and the distinction of that change in that continuous present that the human beings have invented the notion of time as a dimension in the area of the happens that allows to locate the events in before and later. And when do it we have made of the time departs from the distinctions of flow of ours daily living, and we have learned how to feel our present at the same time as a perennial traffic that goes from a past to a future, that we use the past notions and future as a way of explaining our to happen in a continuous present that doesn't have in itself neither past neither future, but rather it is now a continuous one.
Systemic Coherence: Historical Correlations
When an observer distinguishes a closed system, brings to the hand a whole in which the time that the elements and processes that compose, distinguishes the relations between them that what constituted as a unit discreetly in an area relational particular. In doing this, the observer distinguishes in the system local relationships that show the coherences immediate of interactions between the entities that make it up as a fabric of logic processes. . But while the observer distinguishes in the entire systemic relations that reveal coherences not local, as a fabric of management inherent which gives the entire form and a singularity temporo/space. What distinguishes as an observer systemic relations are not logical relationships, are not causal relationships premises, are not abstractions in the operate interrelatedness of processes that occur a same phenomenic domain, but are operational coherences of historical origin that an observer distinguishes between processes carried out a system as a whole even when they occur in non-intersecting (ambits) phenomenic areas in the moment of his distinction.
When we distinguish a system, it arises in our operation of distinction as an entity that we envisage in our present operational as an interlocking successive processes we cannot but which constitute as a whole in a space as continuous relational present of a historical
This is, we distinguish systems in the flow of our live appearing on our operate as observers as singularities relational operational space with dimensions which enable us to move from one side to another as totalities. In these circumstances, to explain their presence as totalidades in our present changing assign them historic dimension evoking continuum courses of transformations in that would have conserve their presence space.
So, in a narrow sense the eyes of observer, as human beings that distinguishes processes and successions of processes, is never a glance "only" local space, but that is always a look temporo/space. It is more, it appears as such space only when the observer stops all processes in their look, and it project what he see on the plane of present that lives. By stopping the observer the flow of processes which constitute a system, to stop the history of its occur, the elements distinguished as components of the system appear as bodies independent, free to disperse if not arises some operate the connect in the restitution of history or suspended relational course.
In distinguishing the observer a closed system as a whole integrated processes successive you can see that in the succession of these processes can be no previous processes that affect indirectly or not to local processes post as central aspects of the integration of the system as a whole. In an attempt to explain as this happens have invented notions such as those of control and regulation, suggesting operational relations historical grounds that in fact cannot occur in certain systems in its structure: "in an area of structural determinism the result of a process does not operate and cannot operate as an argument for its origin". So, in what relates to operate the systems identified in its structure, the notions of regulation and control although seductive are therefore appear as cheating explanatory attempts that seek to causal connections between processes in their operate in the present are mediums and without direct operational relationship or logic among themselves, although it is processes that are undoubtedly consistent in its participation in the constitution and maintenance of the system in its operate as a whole temporo/space. This is even if the observer trying to do with these notions is not arbitrary, because what moves to make them is their distinction from certain operational correlations that he or she can establish from a historical gaze between the consequences of processes mediums that occur at different times of integrated operate a closed system, and that never are visible in its occur in the present. The notions of regulation and control can help an observer to imagine what happens with the coherences operational that he or she sees between the consequences of the different processes mediums which constitute the operate in a closed system as a whole, but did not describe processes whose operate can explain as arise these coherences operational in the operating systems identified in its structure. What happens is that the systems identified in its structure occur in the background of a present changing continuum of architectural settings in which arise spontaneously as spontaneous dynamic architectures are retained as singularities operational that the observer can distinguish thanks to its own occur and operate in the present as one of them. It is by the above that I think that the molecular systems in both systems identified in its structure exist as unique dynamic molecular architectures in a present changing continuous of molecular changes of architectures. So I think that the same molecular systems closed emerge when in a field of molecular architectures spontaneous dynamic processes are configured architectural interlocking dynamic that kept as totalities in a relational space that appears with his operate. And all this happening in a dynamic spontaneously, without purpose or guidance default, in which each moment is the beginning of a historical that arises in the meeting of independent processes that will be sorted according to the course that follows the flow of relational configurations that are conserved. In the area of structural determinism in which gives our live and operate as observers, everything happens in a flow of dynamic architectures that arise and spontaneous vanish as to retain or ceases to be retained in processes of composition or decomposition that arise from their encounters as independent entities. All of which occurs in a dynamic orderly spontaneously from the structural determinism although not predictable by an observer if it cannot configure what distinguishes in its operates as an architectural fabric that can describe. In this circumstances the observer to explain operational relationships that constitute and retain a system that he or she distinguishes as a whole temporo/space, it has to propose an architecture as a dynamic evolution of structural changes in which the structural changes that he or she sees that in the present in its observe occur on a consistent in its participation in the realization and unitary conservation system as a whole, occur because arising from structural changes happen earlier, whose does not imply the emerging system because they are simply the result of structural changes that arise concatenated in a particular way by the particular form of the architecture momentum the this system is as an entity temporo/space. In other words, the operational coherences occur in a closed system, as much as we appear unexpected and surprising by the absence of causal relationships premises in its occur in the present, are always the result of consistency Historical structural that arise in its architecture dynamics as the result spontaneous the conservation of the continuing realization of closed system in its internal dynamics recursive cyclical, and in its relational operate as a whole dynamic architectural.
The invention of time as imaginary orthogonal dimension to the spatial dimensions we distinguish in our daily life, allows explain as arises the interlocking operational one flow of consistency and local historical coherences systemic if one considers that what is at stake in the formation of a dynamic system closed is the continuous transformation into a present in continuous change of an architecture dynamics in an area of structural determinism. This is the time as a dimension imaginary lets you see that the dynamic systems closed are dynamic architectures spontaneous that before the eyes that serves only to the integration of the dynamics that carried out, are seen as the result of the conservation of processes cyclical in the realization and conservation of operate as a unit whole composed in the historical operate of an relational space that exists as a present changing continuous under the form. An organism is a dynamic system closed that exists as a whole architectural temporo/space that conserve its organization as an organism of a certain class in its historical course its continuous change in interactions with an environment that arises and changes with him in the flow of that course. A organism exists as architectural entity changing dynamics only in the molecular relational space where the realization of their live in their particular form of being a autopoietic system, and exists in the dynamic recursive cyclical the operate from the continued implementation of its Autopoiesis as a historical course. Or in other words, an observer said that sees an organism in the realization of their living when distinguishes a singularity molecular architectural changing that view in its historical operates as a closed network of processes that carried out a molecular autopoietic system.
The living of an organism happens in the realization of their Autopoiesis, and as long as is carried out the Autopoiesis of an organism is carried out their living as such, in an existence as a historical singularity.
The systemic coherences that an observer sees in operating of a closed system, and that it connotes with imaginary relationships as control and regulation, are historical correlations, and they are not causal operational coherences. This is, the systemic coherences correlations are abstractions of one observer makes to link moments DISJUNTS mediums of continued cyclical architectural transformations that occur in the closed system, and that he or she sees as correlated historical processes for the realization and conservation of closed system as a whole. Thus, everything that happens in an organism, either in their internal dynamics or its dynamics relational, occurs in the realization of its Autopoiesis as the flow of recursive changes of an architecture dynamics as entity temporo/space that is a closed system in its course as a historical correlate of non-intersecting operational coherence.
Structure historic: architecture dynamics.
If we look at everything we know of the molecular processes that we distinguish in the realization of a cell as an organism, we must realize that the networking of these processes constitutes a network of productions of molecules that with and in their interactions realize recursively to the same network of molecular productions that produced, and specify at once its expansion as a whole that exists as organism in a relational space. I have called molecular Autopoiesis to this molecular dynamic configuration that constitutes and realizes to a living being as living being: A living being is an autopoietic molecular system, and an autopoietic molecular system is a living being. The notion of Autopoiesis molecular is not a definition of living, not an explanatory notion. What the expression Autopoiesis molecular does is describe in a single word the configuration of molecular processes that constitute a living being as living being. The living beings exist and are living beings in the continued production of themselves: the autopoiesis is the being and the realization of the living. There are more, yet. The formulation of the notion of Autopoiesis emerges as an abstraction that the observer of the operational coherence that distinguishes in the network of molecular processes that constitute moment to moment the continuous flow of the realization of living on a living being, and in fact shows and describes the configuration of molecular processes whose continued realization of living.
The living beings have no autopoiesis; do not use the Autopoiesis to living, and the continued implementation of the molecular autopoiesis is the living on what we distinguish as a living being. A living being exists as a autopoietic molecular system that in its operate as closed system emerges as a whole in the continued realization and conservation of its Autopoiesis in a historic flow of interactions in an medium that makes this possible. We call organism to this autopoietic system that exist as a whole: every living being exists as an organism in its course or in their historical flow. This flow historic, however, not seen in the present of living of an organism, appears in the distinction of observer when trust in a implicitly or explicitly manner in the structural determinism, when proposes the historic flow as a mechanism explanatory of present.
However, the flow history is a generative happen that always is hidden at the time it appears the look that want to find functional purpose, a useful result, or an adaptative advantage, for the happen of the a-temporal present which is seen. With my colleague Ximena Davila at Matriztic Institute we both think that the notions of purpose or adaptative advantage are concepts or principles explanatory that the observer proposes when they do not see that the flow of living in a living being emerge out of time or zero time as the dynamics of a spontaneous architecture changing in a continuous present.
If I not dealing with a functional look that want to find a purpose or purpose in what is happening in the processes that perform living to explain its order or effectiveness, and If taking charge that I distinguish succession from happens I invent time dimension. I can see that everything happens in a living being as an aspect of the continued production of itself in a epigenic flow which is not seen in the present in every moment that occurs without past or future in the now of each moment of happens of the closed systemic that the living is, because this living occurs in time zero. In these circumstances the reflections and relational considerations that describe the succession of the intertwined processes that are operating systems and the systemic relations occur as a temporary, are explicatory evocations in a space of historic flow of the occurring of architectonic changes of realization of the systemic entities in its occur in zero time of a dynamic continuous present.
The explain, the understanding and the understand are conceptual and operational constructs that guided the life of the observer. The explain is the proposal for a dynamic process or generative mechanism whose operate results in what they want to explain. The understanding is what is in the live and the thinking of the observer when it displays the relational matrix in which he says he knows makes sense to him or her.. In order, Understanding is to visualize the recursive dynamics of understand. Therefore, understand Autopoiesis is to see the broad relational space whereon gives itself the intertwining that the observer sees as cyclic recursive of molecular dynamics that realize to a living being as a closed dynamic system, and constitute it as a totality in a relational space.
And the understand all this is to see everything happens in the living being in the continuous epigenic interbreeding of processes that the observer sees as cyclical molecular productions which overall result in its existence as an organism whose operational edge is the conservation of its continuing result as a separable totality of ambits of interactions or medium that make it possible, realizing that vision is complementary when he realizes that what occurs in fact in the molecular space is the flow of spontaneous changes of dynamic architecture. In order, understand and understanding autopoiesis is realize that not seen in the present a-temporal observe of the observer because not happening in the now of this(present), but that is a dynamic architecture that the observer sees as a network of cyclical molecular processes of productions that result continuously in a closed dynamic system that exists in the continuous production of itself.
Finally, understand and understanding the autopoiesis is realize that what one observer sees as a wound healing is not a special process to end a damage tissue, but that is a circumstantial aspect of the continued production of himself that she or he is. The same applies to the regeneration of an organ, with the differentiation tissue, or with the growth. In the biological happens there is no purpose, there is no regulation, there is no control, there is no better or worse, there is no adaptive advantage. Thus, the Autopoiesis is a continuous result in a historical course, whatever the complexity of the organism in the present continuous of its changing architecture.
Example: Insulin does not control the glucose metabolism in humans. The insulin and cells of the pancreas that produce it, are only components of the architecture dynamics that will appear to an observer that looks the flow of his spontaneous transformation continuous from he temporary looks.
The observer will also look at this, that the insulin and cells that produced the involved in the dynamic recursive cyclical metabolic a process that is interlaced with many other metabolic processes in a cyclical recursive occur in molecular and cellular processes intertwined that results in a human being in physiological harmony of its living.
The notion of control arises from the reflection of the observer as the expression a synthetic look that connects non intersecting historical moments of the flow of a dynamic architecture trying to a historic correlation that he or she does as a biological happen that in fact it does not occur. The notion of control has an operational value if what the observer wants is controlling the course of a process because metabolic suggests where act, but does not represent a biological happen
Another example: The cell membrane not emerged in the origin of the first cells to delimit a metabolic space, but when emerged a network of cyclical recursive processes of productions of molecules of the same classes that the molecules that constituted to this network, and emerged closed on itself with an operational edge that separating them from an container area of molecules an autopoietic system emerge and the membrane that delimit it as an aspect of their Autopoiesis. It certainly appears easier to say that the cell membrane arose because it was necessary for the Autopoiesis. But not happen like that.
When we distinguish a set of interconnected elements thus if we act on one, act on all, we distinguish a closed system. Without doubt what is most striking in the operate a closed system is that appears before the observer which distinguishes as if occurs as a whole temporary in its present, or what is the same as if there as a whole in the time in which it beholds.
But this is not so, the looks of the observer is a-temporal, he or she sees the distinguished system at the present plane and adds the time dimension to distinguish processes in it. A "cell" frozen is not a cell because it is not a molecular autopoietic system, is not a dynamic system, but that is a piece of ice.
When this piece of ice is defrosted appears the molecular dynamics in the cellular Autopoiesis, and emerges a cell. And that cell is something new, and any connection with a previous cell is an explanatory historical argument that the observer proposes To justify it irruption of this cell to the present of his living.
In freezing a cell (a-180 degrees Celsius) the observer stops the molecular dynamics that constitutes; the molecules are unaffected, their relative positions remain fixed, only processes, interactions and molecular transformations arising from such interactions, stopped.
The piece of ice that contains the cell that was is not amorphous, the molecules that were fixing her from his quietness conserve the cell architecture of moment of his detention, architecture that is now is not dynamic because there is no more processes.
An observer to distinguish a cell does arise with their distinction an architecture molecular dynamics, an architecture composed of elements, relative positions and processes that constitute its structure and its domain of existence as an area space/temporal bounded in a wider area which is also of temporary space dimensions.
Everything that we bring to the hand in our operate as observers arises in an area of structural coherences not inherently haphazard, whatever the domain in that emerges, but that in an order of spontaneous dynamic architectures. Nothing exists freely in nothing, everything that we distinguish arises participating in a matrix of relations and processes that shape the present dynamic of our live in the cosmos that arises with our living without pre-established orientation or intention.
A closed system emerges when a closed process of structural changes arises spontaneously, or as a result of a design, a closed configuration of processes of recurrent structural changes as a closed area of interconnected recursive structural changes. And what it is in that emerge is the historical course of a dynamic architectural entity, which will follow a course or another according to its initial structural configuration and relational circumstances that arise in the future of this changing in which occurs on emerging system. What is remarkable is that if the initial structure, if the initial dynamic architecture of the emergent system arises in relational area that to appear with him offers the dynamic conditions suitable for that maintain its systemic identity in the course of their continuing structural change, the identity of the system will be maintained without that occurs otherwise that happen in a local changes in the now in its changing present. And all happen without the intervention or participation of any element guideline as intention, purpose computer, or plan. What it generates, guide and conserve, in both are conserve each one of the different and endless configurations of order that arise in the courses of structural spontaneous of the cosmos, are the dynamics of conservation that arise in the variable architecture of its happen. As we say; Ximena Dávila and I, “Whenever in a collection of elements some relationships begin to be conserved, a space opens for everything to change around the relationships that are conserved”
It has happened with the emergence and conservation of the autopoiesis in the origin of the living beings and with the diversification of its realization in the various forms of organism that have emerged in its evolutive history in the configuration of the terrestrial biosphere.
Everything that happens in the live on an organism is the continuing result from the continuous transformation of the architecture dynamics of living being in congruence structural and operational with the continuous transformation of the architecture dynamics of the environment in the conservation of what one observer sees as the conservation of its reciprocal structural coupling. This is, an organism lives in both conservation the reciprocal structural coupling between it and the medium in which exists, and this happens as the continuous transformation consistent the dynamic architectures of both as a spontaneous result of the realization of the Autopoiesis of the organism.
In this continuous result of the realization of the Autopoiesis of a living being does not matter the mode of living that that performs in their living as an organism. For the course of the Autopoiesis no matter how that arises and is conserve in its realization if it conserve. As the living is a continuous epigenesis in the continuous realization of the autopoiesis of a living being in a occur that course as a continued results, each time, every moment of that course is a beginning of a initial dynamic architecture that implies in fact the possibility of many different potential historical courses. The different classes of living beings, lives all its different livings without external or internal guidance toward a purpose or particular operational purpose, but that arise in a continuous prove of continuous change of the dynamics architecture that they are. For this, the flow of these various interconnected internal dynamics can be understood as a network of recursive cyclical processes only in the context of the realization and conservation of the Autopoiesis in the living of an organism, and not in relation to any utility that the observer might imagine occur as a beneficial for the living of him. It is more; everything said for the living beings is in general terms valid for any closed dynamic system, because what is different between different classes of systems in general, is the organization or configuration of relations between components that defines its class of identity.
In order, everything said about the living beings happening in their operate as spontaneous dynamic architectures unique in an area of Singular dynamic molecular architectures in the terms described in the previous section. The notion of dynamic architectures not spontaneous tries evoke an itself transcendent, what does do is refers to the nature of operational space in which arise the observer and the worlds that it brings to the hand, including his own exist.
At this moment is good remembered what I and my colleague Ximena Davila said before: historical descriptions’ of the flow of the processes that constitute the happen systemic, are explanatory propositions that an observer distinguishes as a dynamic architectural that occur in zero time: “Our human living occurs in the field of our historical reflections, that is, in a relational space that exists as a happen in the continuing significance of operate in our occur as spontaneous dynamic architectures in zero time”.
Let's see some daily cases of the inorganic area:
Case 1: When is dropped a handful of sand in a particular point in a horizontal surface a cone of sand is formed spontaneously with a slope defined that depends on the characteristics of friction grains of sand. The formation of the cone of sand involves the dynamics of two non-intersecting domains, the relationship of grains of sand between whether, and the gravitation and the horizontal surface. However the cone is cone in the field of distinctions of the observer that looks from another domain also none intersecting.
Case 2: When form crystals of snow, these arise as a dynamic architectural in which the form of glass oriented emerging arises in a certain way or another, according to the initial conditions in which it occurs aggregation of the molecules of water. Here applies the same general reflection that in the Case 1.
Case 3: When drops a little water on a hydrophobic surface, spontaneously formed spherical droplets that wheels on the surface, and give rise to droplets larger at emerged with each other when clash between if. Here applies the same general reflection that in the Case 1.
Here are some situations in the field Professional.
Situation 1: The tendons of an animal are composed mainly of collagen filaments which in turn are composed of complex molecules called tropo-collagen. The collagen filament can be exposed to saline solution of a particular composition in which is dissolved, and the molecules of tropo-collagen separate. The molecules of tropo-collagen are long macro-molecules which are different in their two extremes. Under certain modifications of the saline solution in which are dissolved, the molecules of tropo-collagen are added spontaneously and In a not directed way they re-constitute the original filaments of collagen.
Situation 2: The transformation of an amphibious egg in an embryo and then in an adult. Everything happens before our view as a continuous transformation of the form of an organism in a spontaneously dynamic without guide external, only according to the local coherences of the different cells that are emerging in the same process.
In short, everything an observer distinguishes as happening in the cosmos, since the formation of stars, black holes, stalactites, stalagmites, Autopoiesis, evolutive dynamic, functional communities, atoms, subatomic…arise in their distinction as a result of the continuing composition and decomposition of compound entities.
And all this in structural dynamic that operate as spontaneous dynamic architectural that give rise to non-intersecting relational and operational domains of fact unexpected, and inseparables that emerge from the nothing for The observer who has not distinguished them already before.
Let us return once again to autopoiesis..
The Autopoiesis while constitution, realization and conservation of the living being as totality (whole, is the basis of possibility and conservation of everything that happens in them as cyclical internal processes in its realization as organism in a relational space that emerges with its living. The conservation of the Autopoiesis of an organism in the conservation of its operational coherence with its niche, constitutes the operational reference which determines that may change without loss the living in the flow of continuous change of its continuous present. In these circumstances, conservation of living on an organism also implies the conservation of the various (different) internal recursive cyclical systems, which are part of the realization of their Autopoiesis. In order, this happens as a structural dynamic spontaneous in which each internal cyclical system of the organism as a variable architecture has a changing flow modulated by its living from the conservation of a particular circular organization. These internal cyclical recursive systems that take part in the realization of operate of the organism as a whole, interbreeding with its Autopoiesis are of various kinds involving in its dynamics, cellular and molecular elements.
The autopoiesis, the organism, the relationship organism/niche, the endocrine system …all of them occur as a result of a continuous course without guidance. Often we talk about them in a propositiv terms, as if what is happens with them would have a purpose, a function or task that to achieve. It is not. What happens is that everything that happens in the organism or happens in a flow that conserve the Autopoiesis and the operate of the organism as a whole, or dies.
All living beings living are the present of a history of conservation of living that has happened and occurs spontaneously without finality or purpose. And this has happened not one to happen as eventful, but as an aspect of determinist happens not predetermined of to course of the spontaneous dynamic architecture of the cosmos, which arises in to distinguish and to explain of the observer from the area of the operational coherences of his living.
What strictly peculiar to the history of the living beings is that begins when, after the spontaneous emergence of the first autopoietic systems as autonomous molecular architectures begins its conservation in the formation of lineages through its reproduction systemic.
All historical process has two crucial moments, the first occurs in the spontaneous constitution a particular organization, and the second occurs when that organization is in a relational space that is spontaneously suitable for its realization and, therefore, for its conservation as a singularity relational. Once you are given these two conditions, begins a history of structural changes around the conservation of the realization of the organization that is conserved. When one looks at the present of that historical course later, it find with a relational space that is dynamic and structurally coherent around the organization conserved, as if the history of structural and relational changes It would have occurred guided in order to obtain those operational and relational coherences. Not so. The history of living beings is a history of this kind.
The living beings are discrete units in the three-dimensional space, are open systems in its dynamics of molecular changes, and are not necessarily bounded in its temporal dimension. They may have a time of initiation, but in its historical entities operate are open to a course in principle eternal, without term or end though they could die.
The historical systems in general are like that.
The only characteristic of living beings is that in addition to being historical systems are autopoieticos molecular systems of variable structure that exist in a flow of continuous change in structural coupling in a niche also variable. Perhaps what most surprised us of autopoietic systems is its operational autonomy and harmony, both in spatial and temporal dimensions, and that surprise leads us to want explain its occur looking for a functional sense for the realization and conservation of living to every aspect of its structure and its operate. But as we have seen, this approach does not work, rather fool us. So we need to understand them in terms of process through which is conserve and realize its autopoietic organization regardless of the functional relationships that an observer can see them to consider its historical course.
We are not accustomed to seeing that what we distinguish in our operate as observers are structural configurations (entities and relational) which in turn up other configurations structural that arise as dynamics architectural frames that are spreading in the space/time without limits from it. We are not accustomed to recognize that all limits that arise in the distinctions of the observer are relational cleavage that does not break architectural connections, but separations set of flows relational spaces that generate operational mediums. And by this, we do not see that although the units composed can intersecting in their structural realization, cannot intersecting in their organization. This is, two or more composed units can have common elements in their realization, and can exist in this structural intersection in both the flow of structural changes in the unit composed larger than integrated into package, is continuously in the conservation simultaneous of their respective individual identities. The realization of a living being as autopoietic molecular system, involves the intersection of many structural cyclical closed systems that arise operationally defined by the conservation of the various relational dynamics that is, and not by the components that they realize.
First and higher order molecular autopoietic systems.
We (Maturana and Varela, 1972) were not limiting autopoiesis to cells, but what we said was that although cells were primary molecular autopoietic systems we did not know if we could immediately claim that multicellular system in addition to being composed of autopoietic entities (cells) were also primary molecular autopoietic systems. Indeed, this is why we spoke of cells as first order (or primary) molecular autopoietic systems, and of multicellular organisms and symbiotic systems as second and third order autopoietic systems respectively according to the manner of their cellular composition. Yet we left open a question that could not be answered lightly, namely whether second and third order autopoietic systems were also first order molecular autopoietic systems in their own right. As we were not dealing with a definition of life or living, we could not pretend that a system was a molecular autopoietic system without an adequate fundament. The question was if a multicellular organism such as an elephant that one has no doubt in claiming that it is a living system as a multicellular organism, is or is not also a living system like a cell is as a first order molecular autopoietic system. Thirty years ago there was not enough understanding as there is now of the flow of molecules across cell walls within a multicellular organism to be able to claim, as one can do now, for example, that an elephant is both a second order autopoietic system and a first order molecular autopoietic system. All systems that exist as singular entities through their being first order or second order molecular autopoietic systems, can be considered living systems because their existence as singular autonomous entities depends in the end on the realization of first order autopoiesis. I think that other scientists create unnecessary difficulties for the understanding of the notion of molecular autopoiesis as the condition that makes a living system a living entity, by thinking that autopoiesis is a definition of life. Molecular autopoiesis is not a definition of life, but it is the molecular dynamics whose realization de facto constitutes and makes a living system a discrete autonomous molecular system. Something similar happens with Stuart Kauffman and his notion of autocatalytic networks. He does not seem to realize that it is the concatenation and intercrossing of many circular processes in the realization of a closed network of molecular productions what constitutes the discrete molecular autopoietic system that a living system is, and not any particular kind of molecular dynamics like auto catalysis.
The boundary of an autopoietic system is not a container of the processes that realize it, but it is part of the autopoietic dynamics. An autopoietic system does not regenerate its components or itself, it exists in continuous self-production. Not to be aware that an autopoietic system exists in continuous self-production, while speaking of it as if it were regenerating its parts or its components, obscures the understanding that that which we see as a process of regeneration is indeed a process of self-production that we describe as observers in relation to the recovery of an image that we have of an autopoietic system as a whole. It is because an autopoietic system exists only in continuous self-production that it exists in the continuous structural change of the continuous molecular changes that constitute it in the flow of molecules through it while it operates in the conservation of its autopoietic organization. At the same time this is why autopoietic systems do not have inputs or outputs: they do not exits as autopoietic systems for an external world even if the observer sees them from the outside. The closed dynamics of an autopoietic system is not a logical closure; nor is an autopoietic system a closed system from an epistemological point of view, it is an actually closed molecular dynamics. The boundary in an autopoietic system is an operational dynamics that results in the separation of the molecules that participate in its autopoietic dynamics and the molecules that do not. In that sense it is like the boundary surface between air and water in a drop of water: the interface that constitute that boundary arises as some water molecules move inwards to the water and remain in the drop of water, and some others move away from the body of water of the droplet and stop belonging to it as they become components of the “air”.
A model of any system is not an attempt to create the system in another domain. A model is only an imitation of the formal features of that which is imitated. So when we did a modeling of autopoiesis in the graphic space of a computer, we were not indulging in artificial life or committing the mistake of forgetting that autopoietic systems are actual discrete molecular entities. I, at least, never forgot that living systems exist as singular discrete dynamic entities in the molecular space, which is the only space where autopoietic systems can occur spontaneously as discrete autonomous dynamic entities that operate as entities closed in their dynamics of states in a continuous flow of molecules and energy through them. As I never forgot this, what I did with the computer was to use the computer as a puppetier to move the graphic elements on the screen as if they were molecules. After all, that understanding was the fundament, or condition of possibility, for me to be able to develop the notion of autopoiesis.
When I started with my reflections in 1960 about what must have begun some four thousand million years ago when living systems begun spontaneously on the earth, I knew that since I did not know the answer I needed an extra criterion to decide whether the answer that I was to propose was the right one. As I reflected on this point I found that I already had that criterion, and that this criterion was autonomy. In 1949, as I was with lung tuberculosis in a sanatorium in the Andes, while reading a book called “Evolution a Modern Synthesis” written by Julian Huxley around 1940, I thought that living systems were systems in which all that happened to them and in them had to do with them in the conservation of their living. I referred to this condition as autonomy, and considered that autonomy was a central feature of the operation of living systems. Julian Huxley did not speak in these terms but I thought that whatever begun on the earth when living systems begun about four thousand million years ago had to be autonomous entities in these terms. In these circumstances, as I remembered this in 1960, in my attempt to answer the question about what molecular processes made living systems living, I began talking in my lectures of living systems as self-referring systems calling not living systems like automobiles or radios, as allo-referring systems because the relevance of what happened with them was external to them in the purpose with which they had been made. Living systems did not have a purpose as they arose spontaneously in the conservation of what constituted them as living systems. Living systems are purposeless discrete autonomous molecular entities that exist in the conservation of their living, what begun when living systems begun was autopoiesis and the conservation of autopoesis.
I want to remark here as well, that autonomy does not mean independency. That a living system operates as a self referring autonomous entity does not mean that it operates with independence from the medium in which it exists; it means that the internal dynamics of a living system as a molecular autopoietic system is not determined by the external agents that it encounters but is determined at every moment by its own organization and structure. The difference between independency and autonomy is easily seen in our daily life in respect to what we expect from our children: we want them to be autonomous, that is, we want them to make their own decisions and not to act under the desires, pressure or expectations of others, even if they are otherwise, for example economically, dependent on our support.
The two systemic laws that I mentioned above are abstractions of two primary relational processes that together constitute the generative dynamics that makes the reproductive history of living systems a history of diversification of lineages through natural organic drift. What is called natural selection is a consequence of the process of evolutio that arises as a result of the constitution of lineages in the course of conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation. Natural selection is the result of evolution, not the mechanism that generates and drives its course, the mechanism that generates and drives the course of evolution is natural drift. That is, the mechanism that generates and drives evolution is a process of organic structural change around the simultaneous conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation in reproductive lineages. In other words, as one sees that adaptation is not a variable, but that it is a constant relation of dynamic structural congruence between the living system and its circumstance of living in the conservation of living, it becomes obvious that the evolution of living systems on earth has to be a history of organic drift that follows a path defined by the simultaneous systemic conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation, in the ontogeny of individual living beings and in their descendents through reproduction. Reproduction is not a feature of the realization of autopoiesis but its occurrance is the relational dynamics that constitutes evolution. Yet evolution arises in the generation of lineages through the simultaneous reproductive conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation, and of variations in the manner in which autopoiesis and adaptation are realized. As the generative mechanism of the historical process that we call evolution in living systems is not natural selection, but it is a process of natural drift constituted and guided by the conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation, evolution follows a course defined by the survival of the fit, not of the fittest. As a natural drift, then, evolution does not occur according to a process like that suggested with the idea of bricolage of Francois Jacob and Francisco Varela. The course that evolution follows is not haphazard and it is not predetermined, it is a course that arises in each lineage defined moment after moment by the conservation of living through the conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation. Furthermore, the collective living of a biosphere occurs (wherever it occurs) as a changing present in a dynamic relational architecture of interacting living systems. What happens is that even though the dynamics of the medium and the dynamics of the autopoiesis of the living systems are autonomous and operationally independent, the natural drift of the different organisms in interaction with each other and the nonliving medium (in a process in which all living systems are part of the medium of the realization of the autopoiesis of other living systems in a continuous flow of conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation through congruent structural changes) spontaneously results in the arising of a biosphere as a dynamic changing architecture of interrelated manners of living. Evolution is not a process of change through bricolage, it is a the result of the reproductive conservation of living and of variations in the manner in which living is realized, through the conjoin reproductive conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation in a dynamic architecture that arises moment after moment in a process of natural structural drift guided by the conservation of autopoiesis and adaptation in the survival of the fit.
Living systems exist in continuous operational congruence with the medium in which they realize their living in a flow of continuous structural change. The notion of structural coupling that I proposed in 1975 to refer to this dynamic relation denotes at the same time both the actual moment after moment operational congruence of the living system and the circumstance in which it realizes its living, and to the course of the dynamic flow of structural changes of the living system in the conservation of that operational congruence. Indeed, this relation of dynamic operational congruence with the medium is what is connoted with the word adaptation. In 1978 in a seminar in the Department of Physics of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Chile, Professor Wolfe of that department said to me, “What makes Biology a soft science is that it does not have laws of conservation as Physics does” I answered immediately: “That is not the case, there are laws of conservation in biology, I call them systemic laws, and I shall now mention the two most fundamental ones, namely, the law of conservation of autopoiesis, and the law of conservation of adaptation or operational congruence between the living system and the circumstance in which it lives”. Autopoiesis as the molecular dynamics that constitutes the process of living, and adaptation (structural coupling) as the dynamic relation of operational congruence between the living system and the medium, must both be conserved continuously at the same time for a living system to stay living. Autopoiesis is the realization of living, and adaptation is the relation of constant structural coupling of the living system with the circumstances in which it conserves its living that occurs while the living system lives. When autopoiesis stops, the living system disintegrates; if the relation of adaptation is lost, the autopoiesis is not conserved and the living system disintegrates. These two systemic laws did not preexist to the moment of my mentioning them, I invented them on the spot, not as definitions but as abstractions of my understanding of how living systems operate. In fact in that moment I did not know of any one prior to me in that that moment in 1978 talked of systemic laws, so I invented the notion of systemic laws as abstractions of the systemic relations that constitute and conserve systems. Later with my colleague Ximena Davila Yáñez in the Matriztic Institute, where we work, we have abstracted several more systemic laws from the dynamics of constitution, operation, conservation and realization of systems, and are about to publish an article about them.
Criterion of autopoiesis:
An autopoietic system is a closed network of molecular productions in which the molecules produced generate through their interactions the same network that produced them and constitute it as a discrete entity by specifying its extension with a dynamic boundary that occurs as an operational cleavage that separates the molecules that participate in it from those that do not participate in it. Those molecules that stop participating in the autopoietic molecular network stop being parts of it, and those that begin to participate in such molecular network become part of it. All this in an obvious dynamics of molecular flow through a molecular autopoietic network which does not exist if this molecular flow is stopped. An autopoietic system exists only in the continuous molecular dynamics that realises it, and this is why the autopoietic system disappears if it is frozen. No doubt one can propose a minimal set of rules to determine whether some particular entity is a molecular autopoietic system or not. Yet, what is basic, is not to lose the awareness that living systems are autonomous singular discrete entities that exist as such as molecular autopoietic systems only in the realization of their autopoiesis. This awareness is obscured when some one says that “the emergence of life was the appearance of a very special novel property”, or tha “with life an autopoietic unit acquires the singular property of becoming a biological autonomous system”, or “that autopoiesis is the mechanism that imparts autonomy to the living.” These kind of statements according to me are fully confusing and conceptually inadequate in relation to the notion that living systems are molecular autopoietic systems. First, life is not something to be added to a molecular autopoietic system because the realization of the molecular autopoiesis is what constitutes living. Second, molecular autopoietic systems as discrete entities are autonomous by themselves, and are by themselves living entities, so it is a mistake to say that autopoiesis is the” mechanism that imparts autonomy to the living system” as if autopoiesis were a removable property of the living. Unless, of course, one were thinking that living and the realization of molecular autopoiesis are not the same but separable processes. In any case, if one wants to talk about what living is, I would say that the realization of molecular autopoiesis is living.
Reproduction is not part of the realization of autopoiesis even though in all living systems on earth, or at least in most of them, the process of reproduction occurs during the realization of their autopoiesis. Reproduction occurs whenever a composite unity undergoes a fracture or division that results in two or more composite unities of the same kind. The emphasis put on nucleic acids as central participants in the processes of reproduction and heredity, blinds us. Yes, reproduction and heredity are central for the constitution of lineages, and, therefore, for evolution, but reproduction and heredity are not the result of the presence of nucleic acids. As reproduction occurs when a system fractures giving rise to two or more systems of the same kind, heredity occurs in the conservation of the original organization of the resulting fragments. No doubt nucleic acids play a fundamental part in the dynamic of conservation of lineages in the molecular autopoietic systems that we know on the earth today, but they are not determinant or necessary for the phenomena of reproduction and heredity to occur. Moreover, what actually occurs in reproduction is that the organization of the reproducing system and the medium in which its offspring will realize their autopoiesis are simultaneously conserved in the process of reproduction: reproduction is a systemic process in which the organization of the reproducing organism and the circumstances in which the manner of living of the reproducing organism can be realized are conserved. As such reproduction is a process that cannot be determined by any component of the organism, it is a systemic process that involves at the same time the organism and the medium in a manner that cannot be predetermined by any genetic constitution.