Five characteristics of living systems

Resource / Five characteristics of living systems

By Anna Simpson / 25 Apr 2017

In our Living Grid explorer, we're asking how we might design an energy system that can continuously renew itself. John Atkinson and Myron Rogers shared their exploration of the five 'big' characteristics of living systems:

  1. Complexity
  2. Emergence
  3. Cognition
  4. Networks
  5. Self-organising


As John writes, "These ‘Big Five’ characteristics all interact with each other and impact on each other. They don’t form a nice neat ‘five steps to systems nirvana’. If they did, they’d be wrong, contradicting the very beliefs that are at the core of our understanding of how living systems work. Instead, how they interact matters, the more you explore one, the more you understand it through the others."

What might the implications of this be? What related resources have you seen?

If these are key characteristics or behaviors, what are some essential features and formats that support or evoke them? Ideas: * connectivity - smart, efficient, reliable, accessible, pervasive communication systems * legibility - common, extensible information / signaling protocol and value systems * resilience - adaptability and endurance * iteration / experimentation / innovation * observation / feedback / awareness
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