System Boundary

#concept12 mentions

A System boundary is topologically defined as the set of system components which have connections both to other system elements and to its Environment.

This means a system boundary does not need to be “a smooth manifold (line or surface) including all the elements of the system” – it can be “fuzzy”Bunge 1992, 215


It also allows for the fact that “the organizational boundaries of living systems are open and flexible”Kirchhoff et al. (2018), 9

and the interpretation of a system as a processThis aligns a Friston-informed systems view with Stacey’s Complex Responsive Processes of Relating (Stacey 2006).

or “temporally extended whole”Kirchhoff et al. (2018), 9

which lives in a state space .

A system boundary can be described as a Markov Blanket.


Affordances Contribute to Attractors

An attractor defines a stable system (S1).


An attractor is the set of states a System tends to be in given what it is or how it can maintain its boundaries.

Causal Emergence

Causation happens between Systems demarcated by System Boundaries, horizontally as well as vertically.


The context of a System from which it is separated by a System Boundary.

Living System

A living system is a Complex System that actively and autonomously upholds its System Boundary by exchanging energy and information with its Environment, thus “importing” order and staying in a Non-equilibrium Steady State.

Markov Blanket

If we want to Prioritise abstraction over metaphor, the concept of a System Boundary needs to be stripped of its metaphorical content.

Missing System

A missing system is a hypothetical System described by a Model that doesn’t track real System Boundaries – a system that doesn’t exist (in the hypothesised boundaries).

Scale Free Abstraction

Scale-free abstractions are a specific type of Shorthand Abstractions: highly general concepts taken from our best current thinking about evolution, cognition, and the world as a hierarchy of systems.

Self Organisation

Self-organisation is a process where some form of overall order arises from local interactions between parts of an initially disordered System.


A system is a group of regularly interacting or interdependent items forming a coherent whole.

Systems Emerge Due to Constraints

Systems or, more precisely, dissipative and autocatalytic structures that are precursors of autonomous, e.

The World Is a Hierarchy of Systems

When thinking about ontology (put simply, what the world consists of), we can start with the basic fact that there is difference in the world – that “something can be distinguished from everything else”.