Levels of adaptive organization

Within an adaptive system, any regulation mechanism (or a monitor-and-act unit) deals with two levels of organization—i.e., two different structures that have different hierarchical position in respect to the organization of the system as whole.

In a heating system equipped with a thermostat, the current state of the system (heating or not) represents a higher level of organization than the machinery of the system (the heater, sensor, energy supply, etc.)

In general, if structure A creates structure B (see figure), then B has not only more specific cybernetic knowledge but also creation of B required more organizational effort than creation of A. Namely, creation of B required all the effort made to create A plus the additional effort of engaging A into creation of B. Therefore, B can be considered higher on the organizational hierarchy.

In any given living system, its physical components can be located at different levels of adaptive organization. For example, a developed body of an organism (its phenotype) represents a higher level of organization than the genes that have been employed to create that body (the genotype). Thus, genes and the gene expression mechanisms are at the lowest level of organization of a behaving organism. At the highest level of organization of a behaving organism are its sensory-motor loops involved in the overt behavior of that organism e.g., chasing a pray, driving a car.

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