Self-Organization is the process where a structure or pattern appears in a system without a central authority or external element imposing it through planning. This globally coherent pattern appears from the local interaction of the elements that makes up the system, thus the organization is achieved in a way that is parallel (all the elements act at the same time) and distributed (no element is a coordinator).
The most robust and unambiguous examples of self-organizing systems are from the physics of non-equilibrium processes. Self-organization is also relevant in chemistry, where it has often been taken as being synonymous with self-assembly. The concept of self-organization is central to the description of biological systems, from the subcellular to the ecosystem level. There are also cited examples of “self-organizing” behaviour found in the literature of many other disciplines, both in the natural sciences and the social sciences such as economics or anthropology. Self-organization has also been observed in mathematical systems such as cellular automata.
Sometimes the notion of self-organization is conflated with that of the related concept of emergence. Properly defined, however, there may be instances of self-organization without emergence and emergence without self-organization, and it is clear from the literature that the phenomena are not the same. The link between emergence and self-organization remains an active research question.
Self-organization usually relies on four basic ingredients :