Overview
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The Living Systems Model provides a comprehensive system view of the functional structures that enable living systems to sustain their lives while interacting with their environments. It brings to light the key features of life, and the mechanisms that a living system employs to govern its actions and regulate its internal conditions.


Life Functions
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To exist, a living system must obtain nourishment and energy from its changing external environment, while maintaining the internal conditions necessary for life. This homeostatic balance is achieved through a set of life-functions that are orchestrated by its governance mechanism. Life-functions include such bodily processes as ingesting material and energy from its environment, producing and distributing nourishment to its component entities, extruding waste, and maintaining a membrane to separate internal conditions from its external environment.

Three-Level Framework
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For eukaryotic entities, three distinct structural levels of living system can occur:  Cell, Organism, and Superorganism. These three levels form a hierarchy, where a single organism may contain trillions of cells, and a superorganism may contain millions of organisms. Some kinds of living system exist independently and interact directly with their external world. Others live as dependent components within a higher-level living system.
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 Superorganism 
contains millions of
Organisms
each of which contains trillions of
Cells
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A multi-level living system of two or three levels is a structural hierarchy, with mutual interdependency between levels. The higher-level living system provides a nourishing and protective environment for its lower-level components. In return, the component living systems perform the specialized work that produces the higher-level living system’s life-functions. In their current state of development, human organisms reside in the middle of such a hierarchy, as components of a higher-level nation-state superorganism.
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At each level, a living system’s activities are orchestrated by its governance mechanism. This homeostatic controller embodies an internal model of those aspects of its external environment with which it must interact. The model also includes those internal conditions that it must monitor and regulate to maintain homeostatic equilibrium

Architectural Structure
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Multi-level living systems are recursive, employing the same architectural arrangement at each level. Cells are comprised of a myriad of component biomolecules that are harnessed together within organelles, where they carry out the cell's specialized life-functions. Similarly, organisms are comprised of a myriad of component cells that are harnessed within organs, where they collectively carry out the organism’s specialized life-functions. And superorganisms are comprised of a myriad of component organisms that are harnessed within organizations, where they carry out the superorganism’s specialized life-functions. The following table illustrates the living system structures for a human-based three-level system:
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Living Systems Architectural Framework
Living System Level Governance Mechanism Organization Unit Component
 3. Superorganism Government Organization Organism
 2. Organism Brain/Spinal Cord Organ Cell
 1. Cell Nucleus Organelle Biomolecule
 0. Biomolecule - - - - - - - - - - - -
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Two Roles of Living Systems
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Component living systems exist within a protective and nourishing environment that is provided by their higher-level living system, for which they must perform work. They lead an indentured life that is split between their own self-maintenance and work performed within structures that are provided by the higher-level living system's organizational units.
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For example, the cells within a human organism not only perform their own homeostatic life functions, but also carry out the detailed work within various organs that enable the human to function. Correspondingly, the human organisms within a nation-state superorganism not only perform their own life functions, but also carry out the work within various organizations that enable the superorganism to function. The environment provided by a superorganism allows and requires that its component organisms specialize in the particular work they perform. This specialization is required because carrying out the work of different life functions requires different capabilities.

Governance Structure
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In the living systems model, governance is divided into three parts:
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Director: Determine how to respond to new situations, and establish priorities to be used by the administrator in responding to current situations.
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Administrator: Interpret prioritized responses to schedule the functional scenarios required to maintain homeostasis.
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Implementor: Translate scheduled functional scenarios into orchestrated actions by organization units and their component members.
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Director
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Prioritized Responses to
Situations and Conditions

Aggregated Results of
Functional Scenarios
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Administrator
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Schedule of Functional Scenarios to be Initiated

Aggregated Results of
Organization Unit Actions
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Implementor
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Commands to Individual
Organization Units

Sensory Patterns from
Individual Sensory Units

Governance Control
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Governance control of action proceeds top-down through the three level living systems structure. At each level, there is a fan-out of action initiation from the parent living system to its organization units, and another fan-out from there to the lower-level individual living systems that come under their jurisdictions. The overall fan-out sequence goes like this, with one superorganism to many organizations, each organization to many organisms, etc.:
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 Superorganism
     Organizations
         Organisms
             Organs
                 Cells
                     Biomolecules
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This downward flow of governance action initiation continues all the way through the cell-level, finally terminating in orchestrated work by the cells' biomolecule components. These biomolecules perform their prescribed work, which is then aggregated upward through the hierarchy, where higher-level work occurs at the cell-level, then the organism-level, and finally at the superorganism-level.

Internal Model
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Homeostasis requires maintaining certain internal conditions within a changing external environment. For this to occur, the governance mechanism must embody an internal model of the both the external environment with which interactions occur, and the internal conditions that must be maintained. Although the human brain employs high levels of abstraction and reasoning, ultimately all living system actions are driven by homeostatic imbalance that needs to be corrected.
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To support governance homeostatic control, the internal model is structured toward corrective response actions, and is built upon hierarchies of scenario control units. These units represent learned homeostatic corrective actions, which in their simplest form can be viewed as a sequence of action steps:
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action
step
check
result
action
step
check
result
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For a more complete view, check detailed scenario.

Some Conclusions
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Most human organisms live indentured lives within the nurturing, protective, and sometimes demanding environment of a nation-state superorganism. Even though citizens are given broad freedom-of-choice in most aspects of their lives, they are driven by market mechanisms to find work within organizations (businesses, non-profits and government agencies) that collectively produce their superorganism's life functions.
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To support the kinds of interactions they may face, human organisms strive to develop compete internal models of that environment. However, some factual information about their environments does not exist, leaving "unknowable" gaps. These gaps usually become filled with various kinds of theories and non-factual constructed explanations.
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In today's information-centric era, computers and global network technologies are transforming the human-based living system hierarchy at all three levels. At the cell level, the ability to control and modify a living organism's genetic structure. At the organism level, quantum increases in accessible information, with powerful social networking for instant information processing, evaluation and decision making. And at the superorganism level, global sharing of information to accelerate the transition from individual nation-states to a single world-nation superorganism.


The Introduction begins the detailed description of the Living Systems Model.


©1995-2012 Ackley Associates    Last revised: 7/16/11
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