System Orientation in a Complex Environment

Basic concepts can be introduced by visualizing a simple animal with limited vision in a simple environment. The animal requires exergy for self-organization, motion, harvesting food, and maintenance. The environment provides food in certain locations, usually associated with obstacles that must be avoided since they have an exergy cost.

In a stable environment where sufficient (regenerating) food is distributed in a completely regular pattern, evolutionary adaptation would eventually lead to optimization of an animal's movements in a regular grazing pattern, with a single objective, optimum exergy uptake and use. The regular grazing pattern reflects the complete certainty of the next step, which the animal learns by accumulating and internalizing experience in a cognitive structure aiding its limited vision.

In more complex and diverse environments the animal, because of its limited vision, may not know for several steps which situation it will encounter next. It will therefore have to develop decision rules that have greater generality and are applicable to (and will be reinforced by) different motion sequences with different outcomes. In addition to the requirement of harvesting and using exergy resources effectively and efficiently, another objective is now implicitly added, to secure food under the constraint of incomplete information, that is, a security objective. Note that this is an emergent property

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