An environment conducting a flux of energy and materials between temporally or spatially separated sources and sinks may become more complexly structured due to the emergence of cyclical, dissipative transport systems. Selection favors transport systems able to stabilize themselves against environmental perturbations through feedback. Continuing selection for self-stabilization over long periods of time may eventuate in the emergence of an autopoietic assembly of subsystems (i.e., an autocatalytic set). The stabilizing ‘control information’ inherent in the instantaneous structure of the autopoietic system represents a form of knowledge that enables the stabilized system to continue an existence as a living and evolving entity. Such self-referential knowledge (defined by Karl Popper as “solutions to problems of life”) is integral to the differential survival of nascent autopoietic systems. Maturana and Varela developed the concept of autopoiesis for the autopoietic cybernetics of self-maintenance and self-production. They also equated the cybernetics of autopoiesis with cognition. Concepts of “meaning”, “memory”, “learning” and “heredity” can also be derived from this framework of Popperian autopoiesis. Hall has argued that autopoiesis has emerged at cellular, (multicellular) organismic, and economic organizational levels. Given an acceptance that different orders of autopoiesis exist, it follows that forms of regulatory knowledge (i.e., solutions to problems of life) exist at each organizational level where autopoiesis occurs. Knowledge may be “tacit”, “implicit” or “explicit”.
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