The Principle of Autocatalytic Growth
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The Principle of Autocatalytic Growth

Stable configurations that facilitate the appearance of configurations similar to themselves will become more numerous

This self-evident principle is the companion of the principle of selective retention. Whereas the latter expresses the conservative aspect of evolution, maintenance or survival, the former expresses the progressive aspect, growth and development. Autocatalytic growth describes as well biological reproduction, as the positive feedback or non-linearity characterizing most inorganic processes of self-organization, such as crystal growth. The principle simply states that it suffices for a configuration to be stable, and in some respect autocatalytic or self-replicating, in order to undergo a potentially explosive growth.

Such configurations, in biology, are said to have a high fitness and that gives them a selective advantage over configurations with a lower fitness. The fact that growth requires (finite) resources implies that growth must eventually stop, and that two configurations using the same resources will come in competition for these resources. Normally the fitter configuration will outcompete the less fit one, so that no resources are left for the latter (survival of the fittest). Such a generalization of the principle of selective retention may be called the principle of natural selection.

Reference: Heylighen F. (1992): "Principles of Systems and Cybernetics: an evolutionary perspective", in: Cybernetics and Systems '92, R. Trappl (ed.), (World Science, Singapore), p. 3-10.

Copyright© 1991 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Nov 1991


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