CH12 network environ autonomy

One of the richer consequences of system openness is the extension of "selves" into the broader surroundings that environ theory allows. Input and output environs extend outward from their defining entities, and in a sense reflect and project, respectively, the unique individuality of the latter in and into the world at large. Ownership of this "projection" is never released, however; the defining entities and their paired environs retain a unity that cannot be disassembled, only decomposed, for example by mathematical analysis. Moreover, as the entities themselves, particularly living ones, are unique, so also are the environs they project. A careful reading of the consequences of organisms as open systems having environments that uniquely attach to them is that not only are the organisms autonomous, but so are their environs, although of necessity more diffusely so. Estonian physiologist Jacob von Uexkull (1926) first put forward a view of the organism-environment relationship that is not very far from the one environ theory affords. Uexkull's organisms had an incoming "world-as-sensed" and an outgoing "world-of-action", corresponding to input and output environs, respectively. He held that the world-of-action wrapped around to the world-as-sensed via "function-circles" of the organisms to produce an organism-environment complex that was a continuous whole, the true functional unit of nature in principle, not the organism by itself. However, Uexkull acknowledged the impossibility of tracing pathways of influence through the general environment from outputs back to inputs, and to that extent the theoretical autonomy of his organism-environment complexes was compromised. In environ theory, however, it is possible to keep track of substances within system boundaries because the systems involved are always models. In this case it can be demonstrated that each input and output environ within a system has its own set of unique characteristics, and these have an integrity and are maintained within the flow-storage stream of the model. The picture that emerges is that environs—partition elements of larger networks—have integrity as consi-tuted though diffuse units, and are indeed autonomous within the systems they occupy. All measures of them that environ theory allows have never revealed two environs the same in any of their characteristics. A given compartment in one environ will have, for a fixed unit of boundary input or output, different flow, throughflow, storage, turnover and output characteristics from the same compartment in other environs. Uexkull may have been more correct than he realized when he wrapped his world-of-action around to his world-as-sensed via his "functions circles" of the organism, and said that the entire existence of the organism is imperilled should these function circles be interrupted.

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