As systems need energy (and) in order to self-organise, there are no fully self-organising systems.
[S]omething that can be described as self-organising on one level (a System) can also be shown to be hetero-organised at a higher level (an element), while also composed of parts that organise one another at a lower level.Nunes (2021), ch. 4
Heinz von Foerster argues that
a system is said to be self-organising because its organisation increases over time, which is also to say that its internal ibid.goes down. In light of the second law of thermodynamics … this can only mean two things. First, that the system is not isolated; second, that its organisation can only come from consuming energy from the Environment – whose entropy, in turn, will increase. … For all finite systems that we encounter in the world, therefore, the phrase ‘self-organising system’ makes sense not in an absolute sense, but only as referring to ‘that part of a system that eats energy and order from its environment’ so as to create its own order internally.
Similarly, W. Ross Ashby points out that
if we understand a self-organising system as one that is capable of changing its internal state according to ibid.received from the environment, by definition such a system is only a subsystem of that environment, and not self-organising in a literal sense. Its self-organisation is a modulation of, and thus dependent on, the hetero-organisation that outside causes impose on it.
This is equivalent to saying that the larger system constrains the subsystem in question.
From both of these arguments it follows that
if to be wholly self-organising entails having no input whatsoever from the environment, only a total system with nothing outside it could fit the description. Speaking in absolute terms, there can be only one self-organising system: the universe in its entirety.ibid.
- Nunes (2021), Neither Vertical nor Horizontal: A Theory of Political Organisation