A Slowly Accumulating Glossary ...on Natural Developmental Learning Systems
PF Henshaw..... 

Some recent Natural Systems terms...11/12/09 12/18:


  • An economy is a physical system organized as an energy conduit developing between energy sources and sinks, identified by having:
    • self-animating and learning parts,
    • connected by markets,
    • exchanging complementary goods and services
    • accumulating organization as the parts learn to exploit their material and organizational resources,
    • acting as a whole in relation to an environment
  • One may identify various temporally useful models of the systematic behavior of economies as they develop along the lines of resource and organizational opportunity it finds


  • Markets are mediums of reliable exchange where resources are found and products cast off, resulting in the exchange of complementary services.
  • Markets may be open or closed, made reliable by being confined and exclusive, as the blood stream is for the cells of an organism, or just circumstantially as in an open environment where compost enriches soil making it a place where nutrients accumulate.


  • a biological economy


  • Subjects referred to by terms or theories beyond the scope of our information about them.


  • Words of a language having dual roles of referring and relating to each other and referring and relating to the context of things in the environment in to which people attach some meaning.
  • Complexity within systems comes with making things simple.  To see how takes effort in closely watching how nature does it, and tracing the way things change as a whole.    

  • Vast assemblies of independently behaving parts self-assemble to work as a whole by a process of accumulatively linking their complementary shapes and functions; wastes to resources, liquids caught by cups, etc., building on the kinds of opposites that connect, like growth.  

  • It's also the term for a branch of mathematics that attempts to describe  natural system behaviors as deterministic processes, despite a disconnection of parts being one of the most common features. 

  • Whether systems operate by the individual exploratory behavior of their parts, as many living systems visibly do, or the deterministic control by their environments, as is also sometimes seems, is not always accepted as a legitimate question to ask by most scientists.  It depends on whether you see environmental influence as imposing control or providing opportunity within constraint.

  • Complex systems often display regular developmental processes, like growth and decay, that work by the opportunistic joining of  complementary parts, "accumulative happenstance", making what determines them inexplicable, needing observers to develop new modes of explanation for the emerging regularities that develop.   

  • Logical explanation needs to resolve into rules for the relationships between categories, relying on the systems behind them for structure.  


  • Constructs of terms and references defined to a point of abstraction, intended to both emulate and raise useful questions about things and relationships.
  • A projection from things to a workable set of dimensions 


  • Developed organization between one or more things, terms or theories.

Physical Continuity
  • Relationships that change over time or space or in relation to each other by steps that do not exceed either the upper or lower limits of the system making them. 
  • Generally, either steady or proportionally regular change as emulated by regular mathematical functions for flowing change within the limits of a system.
  • Specially, referring to the transitions of scale exceeding the limits of systems, and the organizational "handshake" such as the roles of smaller scale events in initiating larger scale systems and the reverse, as needed to satisfy the conservation laws and solve various Zeno's paradoxes.
  • Limitations of change established by the law of continuity
Natural System
  • local organization accumulating around the movement of energy
  • both a unit of organization and the whole process of organizational change over time that such a unit of organization also represents.   Thus, either the accumulated organization or it's developmental learning process by which it developed.
  • a 'circle' of relationships (complex heterarchical network of accumulative events and responses)
    • defining an interior and exterior
    • that develops as an individual/environment pair
    • increasing in complexity to stabilize
    • by a continuity of conserved changes
    • with an internalized stress distribution (ESP = equal stress principle) serving to coordinate its behavior as a whole.
  • Systems are perhaps most identifiable by
    • their cycle of organizational developmental
    • the 'hole' in an observers information about what determines events in an environment due to the interior of systems being largely invisible.
Open System
  • the coupling of a system with an environment, and as a point of view the consideration of both.
  • As used by Boulding the term referred to throughput systems capable of self-maintenance, having an active role in their own survival, such as a cell or a community.  
  • Other kinds of systems exist, and persist or not, by emerging from their environments too.  They may not have throughputs, though, and how they develop may use processes are either internal or external to the system, etc.
Learning system
  • either
    • the the system by which a system learns, like the way a system directs surplus resources for experimental use or how path following occurs by exploring along avenues of discovery.
    • the system considered for what it is learning, like growth systems discovering diminishing returns for some direction of growth, or means of sensing and reacting to environmental reactions.
    • the methods people use for learning
  • some new system of relationships developing, like the notion to write down one definition as a margin note triggering a flurry of related definitions forming the basis of a glossary.
  • A happening that is the combination of one system that pumps up the pressure and another system designed to regulate or contain it.   "Bubble" generally refers to a condition in which the pumps are unresponsive to the regulation or containment.  
  • It’s invariably the pumps that actually pop bubbles, not the weak spots or pin pricks that instigate the breach of the containment.   They would have no effect on the containment without the systematically increasing pressure.  
  • Systematically increasing pressures, and the pumps driving them, tend to be visible to people looking for them a long way off.   If failing to see bubbles developing ends with tragic consequences, people not having the good sense to identify and turn off (or turn down) the pumps that inflate them is the cause.   
Whole System
  • The processes within the boundary of the network of developing relationships that respond to each other as a whole
  • Often identified by being part of the same accumulative energy transfer system and process.


Whole System Measure
  • Measures reflecting strategies for inclusive assessments  what takes place with the boundary or between the boundary and its environment.  
Whole System Boundary
  • Physical boundaries are always thresholds.   Complex systems have various identifiable thresholds surrounding them to use for demarking their inside and outside.   They also, then, have a likelihood of relationships that cross any boundary one might be able to define.  So as useful as some boundaries are, a whole system is not likely to be found within any identifiable whole system boundary.
    • An animal has its skin, but it's gut is open to its environment... and it certainly can't exist without its population or its environment.   Still, the metabolic network of an organism is most usefully located inside its skin.
    • a system and its environmental niche, say a bird and its nesting or a culture and its technologies and habitations, so for different purposes you may draw different boundaries.
  • Locating a boundary at a threshold of change offers three basic choices, at the beginning of the transition, in the middle of the transition, and the end of the transition.
Boundary Spanning
  • Bridging between systems and their circles of relationships, across boundaries
    • Inventing ways to connect their languages
  • An individual who has connections in more than one system of relationships
  • A process of discovering the boundaries of a system and its circle of relationships and making bridges to others
  • For example:
    • bridging between cultural circles or schools of thought, between  levels of an organization, etc.,
    • between human languages and their physical counterparts for which there is no human language,  or between the human world and the wilderness of natural systems outside human cultural awareness and meaning sharing our physical environment
Spanning between nested worlds within an encompassing world, and looking out into the local environment and its wilderness of other little worlds


Spanning between a nested world and the wilderness of its environment of others, looking out into the wilderness of other worlds not part of the observer's

Systems Calculus
  • the basic subjects of mathematical calculus, but for measures of undefined complex natural systems that exhibit similar properties temporarily, and for which there is no formula -
    • continuity,
    • scales of continuity,
    • emerging continuity,
    • proportional walks,
    • derivative reconstruction
    • derived rates, integrals and exponents,
    • inflection and transformation points,
    • norms, asymptotes and limits.
Tabula Rasa evidence
  • Evidence good enough of the independent behavior of other things for an observer to "take a break" from their own habitual interpretations to allow something else to tell its own story to them unimpeded by perception.  
  • Simple evidence over which you have no influence letting you discover, or rediscover, the original meanings.  

Some Strategies & Roles

Honey Bee
  • A person who relies on "proof by profitability", and like real honey bees, responding to any dance that leads to sugar.   That search strategy optimized for profit and minimizes the search for problems with it, and so maximize blinders to further costs you'd only see if looking for them.
  • How the great majority of research is designed for profitability would be fine, if, the avenues of inquiry into unprofitability were given equal time and interest.    "Honey bees" only "think positive" and only explore what is needed for gain.
  • Related to MEP, the "maximum energy principle" and the variety of other search strategies that lead to different kinds of results in evolution.
  • Honey bees consider exploratory self-criticism socially offensive.   Just asking about it assures you a rejection.   Power centers and philanthropies attract major concentrations of "honey bees".  
  • You can see their work in how our strategies to slow resource depletion brings profit to those using less, but partly by having others use more... (Jevons paradox for efficiency and productivity).   You wouldn't know the direct accumulative effect is to physically accelerate resource depletion, unless you were looking for wider effects.   Honey bees, don't, but are committed to not looking for problems unless it'll add to their profit, and dismayed when you suggest doing so.    Similar consequences can be expected other places.

Some older Systems Terms...6/9/2005:

Natural Time
  • The physical subject, the continual apparently simultaneous accumulation of change wherever nature is present. 
  •  ..see natural dimension
Numeric Time
  • A linear measure, an accounting system for relating recorded or expected events in a table or equation, a constructed image of the relationships between preceding and following things. 
  •  ..see numerical dimension


Open System 
  • Relying on indirect exchange through an independent medium, such as air or water, a marketplace or other environment
  • Organizational wholes composed of independent parts linked by reservoirs of factors which are byproducts for some and resources for others.
  • The model of 'unwitting' collaboration, characterized by free exchange, evolving behavior and resilience.
  • Closed System
  • Relying on direct exchange from one dependent part to another, a machine
  • Organizational wholes with directly connected dependent parts, linked by exchange without intermediary
  • The model of exclusive connection, characterized by linear chains of direct effect, efficiency and inflexibility
  • Levels of Organization
    • Hierarchy of systems:  ecology, population, organism, organ, cell,  membrane, organelle and DNA;  material, molecule, atom, particle; lightening, current, charge.
    • Levels distinguished by behavior on one level being unrelated (random) with respect to behavior on another.
    • The separation that connects.  Links between systems on different levels mediated by intimate separation; organisms-ecology, nerves-synapse, organisms-sex, cells-blood,  molecular bonds, orbitals
    Positive feedback
    • excitation of locally autonomous process. 
    • An observed, a direct reference to the central mechanism of physical causation, i.e. a primary referential meaning, not a metaphor or modifier 
    • also the pathways for same
    • modeled with positive exponents 
    • modeled with open learning systems
    Negative feedback
    • calming of locally autonomous process.
    • An observed, a direct reference to the central mechanism of physical causation, i.e. a primary referential meaning, not a metaphor or modifier 
    • also the pathways for same
    • modeled with negative exponent
    • modeled with open learning systems
    • A projection of a thing, a corollary, a representation
    • a shadow of the original not including the animating context which enabled the original to develop.
    • An observed, as differentiated from a represented subject. 
    • The physical existence of images is less the concern than the difference between the subject referred to, beyond imagination, and the image through which we refer to it.
    whole event
    • an observed whole with associated identifiable parts
    • a complete locally independent occurrence from beginning to end including the organizational development phases of growth, climax, disordering and decay
    Natural dimension
    • The profiles of behavior observable as useful profiles of description or prediction, any uses arise in the local nucleation of events
    • The underlying physical property which numerical dimensions exploit, which may or may not have properties such as apparent orthogonality and sufficiency, i.e. volume as 3 spatial dimensions is one natural dimension
    Numeric dimension
    • Any useful linear sequence projection, profile or perspective, including those of geometries and the mappings between systems of equations or classes of theory.  A plane of useful description kept separate from others.