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The next MST in functional terms becomes possible due to the structural MST of great importance: integration of more and more cells into big multicellular organisms. Integration is accompanied by specialization. In particular, specialized nerve cells emerge. They make up a complicated nerve net where one cell stimulates (irritates) another, and signals from receptors may pass a long and tortuous way through the network before the effector cells are stimulated and trigger bodily effects in the organism. We call the whole process a (complex) reflex. The development and perfection of biological nerve nets takes place, probably, by a series of metasystem transitions, but thinking in functional terms we can unite all them into one with the formula:

reflex =control of cell irritation

The final stimulation of effectors does not immediately follow irritation of a receptor, but is the result of the work of a complex network which controls irritation of millions of nerve cells. The control becomes hierarchical.

If the preceding stage of evolution can be called the stage of hydra, the new stage can be characterized as the stage of ant. Reflexes and behavioral programs are hierarchical and complicated, but they are defined at birth and do not depend on individual experience.

Copyright© 2003 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

V. Turchin,

Apr 23, 2003 (modified)
Sep 1991 (created)


Metasystem Transition Theory

The History of Evolution

Cognitive Evolution (stages)

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