The adaptation of a system to its environment is reflected in its structure, including its nonmaterial, cognitive structure. This system structure determines its behavior, and hence the adaptive response to its particular environment. System structures of material systems are dissipative; they require exergy and material flows for their construction, maintenance, renewal, and reproduction.
The dissipative structures of the global ecosystem are constructed and maintained by a finite rate of exergy input (mostly solar energy) and a finite stock of materials. The global ecosystem is therefore forced to recycle all of its essential material resources. The development of local ecosystems is constrained by the local rate of exergy flux (solar radiation input) and by the local rate of material recycling (weathering rate, absorption rate, decomposition rate, etc.) that it produces.
Evolution favors those species or (biotic) subsystems of the ecosystem that have learned to use available resources more efficiently and effectively than their competitors. This learning is embedded in their genetic code, and it is manifest in the dissipative structures they construct. Both will increase in complexity as a species evolves. At the ecosystem level, species evolution will cause increasingly better use of (exergy and material) resources. Species as well as ecosystems as a whole therefore tend to progress toward more complex dissipative structure producing more complex behavior.
Interacting species in a common ecosystem coevolve in the direction of increasing fitness of each individual species. Evolution of ecosystems therefore proceeds in the
direction (arrow of time) of specialization, speciation, synergy, complexification, diversity, maximum through-flow of exergy, and more efficient use of material resources. This development becomes manifest in the corresponding emergent properties: exergy degradation, recycling, minimization of output, efficiency of internal flows, homeostasis and adaptation, diversity, hetero-geneousness, hierarchy and selectivity, organization, minimization of maintenance costs, storage of available resources. These properties can be viewed as orientors, propensities, or attractors guiding system evolution and development. They are not limited to ecosystems; they are a general feature of living systems, including human organizations. When quantified and used in models, we refer to them as goal functions.
In particular, ecosystems will therefore build up in the course of their development as much dissipative structure as can be supported by the available exergy gradient. Available opportunities will eventually be found out by the processes of evolution, and will then be utilized. The ability to respond successfully to environmental challenges can be 'interpreted' as intelligent behavior, although it is strictly the result of nonteleological evolutionary development.
that is not explicit in the reward system (which still rewards only food uptake). Failure to heed this implicit security objective will reduce food uptake and may endanger survival. On the other hand, the pressure to play it safe will occasionally mean giving up relatively certain reward. With other words, efficiency is traded for more security, and both are now prominent normative orientations (goals, values, interests) incorporated in the cognitive structure.
Orientation theory deals in a more general way with the emergence of behavioral objectives (orientors) in self-organizing systems in general environments. The proposition is that if a system is to survive in a given environment - characterized by a specific normal environmental state, sparse resources, variety, unreliability, change, and the presence of other systems - it must be able to physically exist in (be compatible with) this environment, effectively harvest necessary resources, freely respond to environmental variety, protect itself from unpredictable threats, adapt to changes in the environment, and interact productively with other systems. These essential orientations emerge in the course of the system's evolution in its environment.
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