Life Cycle Framework
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The previous Living Systems Operation Section focused on living systems in their operational state, where they are capable of performing work, self-maintenance, and reproduction. Between the time of their initial creation and the achievement of operational status, living systems must undergo a growth and development sequence to produce their life function capabilities. For simple cells, development is very short, but for human organisms development is long and complex.
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This Living Systems Development Section examines the overall life cycle of living systems. It uses characteristics of a living system's operational characteristics to define requirements for its development period. Since the same general life cycle process occurs at all levels of living system, details of their operation and development characteristics can be compared.
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Within the three-level architecture, each lower-level living system leads an indentured life cycle within the environment that is provided by its higher-level living system. This dependency is part of the contractual arrangement that exists between lower- and higher-level living systems.


Life Cycle Sequence
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Every living system has a dust-to-dust life cycle sequence that starts with its creation, followed by a period of development and growth, a period of functional operation (work, self-maintenance, reproduction), and finally termination in death.
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Creation Development Operation Death
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Using this life cycle framework, the nature of living system development can be explained in terms of its operational purpose and function. But how is the purpose of an individual living system to be defined? This depends on your perspective within the three-level living system hierarchy. Is the living system made up of lower-level component living systems? Is the living system itself a component of a higher-level living system? Context and Participation are key factors for defining purpose and function.
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Three-Level Context
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For modeling purposes, it is assumed that a cell is the lowest level of living system from which higher-levels are constructed. A higher-level living system must be made up of an aggregation of lower-level living systems. Organisms must be composed of cells, and superorganisms composed of organisms. Further, for a higher-level living system to exist, the behavior of its lower-level living systems must be constrained and directed to collectively perform its life functions. This means that the lower-level living systems must give up some or all of their independence for the benefits of a higher-level system's protected internal environment.
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 A Lower-Level Living System Leads an Indentured Life. 
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Within the three-level living system structure, a lower-level living system's individual purpose has been subordinated to that of the higher-level living system. For example, a human cell operates within a human organism, where it is embedded in an organ to perform work. The cell’s health and existence are entirely dependent upon the wellbeing of its higher-level organism. Through the organizational structure provided by the organ where it resides, the cell’s work contributes to the organism’s life functions.
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Similarly, most human organisms operate within a nation-state superorganism, where they perform work within one of its organizations. The human’s health and existence are highly dependent upon the wellbeing of its higher-level nation-state superorganism. Through the job-specific structure provided by the organization where he works, the human’s daily effort contributes to performance of the nation superorganism’s life functions.
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Contractual Participation
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Within the three-level structure, the relationship between higher and lower-level living systems is contractual and mutually beneficial. The lower-level living system contributes work to help produce one or more of the higher-level living system’s life functions. In return, the higher-level living system maintains a beneficial internal environment that provides nourishment for the lower-level living system and protection from the raw external world.
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Note that the resulting level-to-level dependency contract is not entirely equal. Where an individual cell may be completely dependent on its individual organism for survival, that organism depends on the collective efforts of its myriad of cells. From the organism's viewpoint, specific individual cells may be expendable as long as sufficient cells are available to perform the necessary life function work. This same relationship exists between a superorganism and its organisms.
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Not all living systems participate in the three-level structure. Some cells lead an independent existence, where the structure stops at level one. Some organisms also lead an independent existence, where the structure stops at level two.
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At each living system level there is a wide range of participation and dependence possibilities. Independent living systems survive on their own and interact directly with the world environment. Dependent living systems have given up their independence to fully participate in a higher-level living system that provides nourishment and protection.  Between these two extremes, there may be a wide range of relationships, based on the higher-level living system's stage of development.


Given this three-level context and contractual arrangement, Function & Purpose describes how the existence, function and purpose of a living system depend upon where it fits into that context.


©1995-2012 Ackley Associates   Last revised: 7/20/11
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