InterJournal Complex Systems, 230
Status: Submitted
Manuscript Number: [230]
Submission Date: 981210
Synergy and the Evolution of Complexity: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?
Author(s): Peter Corning

Subject(s): CX.13, CX.14, CX.15, CX.35, CX.43, CX.44

Category: Brief Article


ABSTRACT: Synergy -- here defined broadly as the combined (interdependent) effects produced by two or more parts, elements or individuals -- is a ubiquitous phenomenon in nature and human societies alike. Although it plays a prominent part in most, if not all, of the scientific disciplines, its importance is not widely appreciated because it travels under many different aliases, including emergence, cooperativity, symbiosis, coevolution, symmetry, order, epistasis, mutualism, interdependencies, heterosis, phase transitions, systemic effects, even complexity and "dynamical attractors." At the very least, the term "synergy" could be utilized as a pan-disciplinary lingua franca for the functional effects produced by cooperative phenomena of various kinds; a terminological shift would underscore the fact that the differently-named phenomena studied by various disciplines are in fact variations on a common theme in the natural world. But more important, in The Synergism Hypothesis (Corning 1983), it was proposed that synergistic phenomena of various kinds have played a key causal role in the evolution of cooperation generally and the evolution of complex systems in particular; it was argued that a common functional principle has been associated with the various steps in this important directional trend. The reasoning behind this hypothesis will be briefly summarized in this paper.

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