Information and orderliness of living systems

We point out that the quantitative gap between the level of orderliness inherent to living systems and that of open dynamic systems of physical nature 'self-organized' at the expense of external energy fluxes reaches twenty four orders of magnitude. The environmental fluxes of free energy being virtually disordered as compared to living systems, the orderliness of life cannot be maintained by any physical process. To counteract the spontaneous decay of the highly ordered state of life, the living matter must be divided into a sufficiently large number of equivalent objects (individuals), among which a competitive interaction is switched on. As soon as the level of orderliness of any given object diminishes below the sensitivity of competitive interaction, such an object loses competitiveness and is replaced by a copy of a normal object retaining the initial high level of order. Such a mechanism of maintenance of order is unique to living matter and differentiates it from the inanimate world.

We also show that the biotic regulation mechanism cannot be replaced by technology, as far as the information processing capacity of the civilisation is twenty orders of magnitude lower than that used by the natural biota for environmental control.


Gorshkov V.V., Gorshkov V.G., Danilov-Danil'yan V.I., Losev K.S., Makar'eva A.M. (2002) Information in the animate and inanimate worlds. Russian Journal of Ecology, 33, 149-155. (Translated from Ekologiya, No. 3, 2002, 163-169.) Abstract. pdf

Gorshkov V.G., Makar'eva A.M. (2001) On the possibility of physical self-organization of biological and ecological systems. Doklady Biological Sciences, 378, 258-261. Abstract. pdf

Makarieva A.M., Gorshkov V.G. (2000) Order in physical and living systems: Principal differences in quantitative characteristics and mechanisms of maintenance do not allow a similar description. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, Preprint No. 2388, 17 pp. Abstract. pdf

Gorshkov V.G. (1996) Stores and flows of information in biota and civilization. Doklady Biological Sciences, 350, 469-471. [in Russian] Abstract. pdf

Book chapters (PDF)

V. G. Gorshkov, V. V. Gorshkov, A. M. Makarieva (2000) Biotic Regulation of the Environment: Key Issue of Global Change. Springer-Praxis Series in Environmental Sciences, 367 pp. Praxis: Chichester, Springer: Berlin.
Chapter 2. What is Life?
2.1. Distinctive properties of life; 2.2. Physical and biological stability; 2.3. Sexual dimorphism; 2.4. Competitiveness and organisation of life; 2.5. Altruistic interaction of individuals; 2.6. Notorious group selection; 2.7. The basic principle of biology; 2.8. Impossibility of globally correlated living objects; 2.9. Norm and defect; 2.10. The quantum nature of life; 2.11. Ecological community as the highest level of biological organisation
Chapter 7. Energy and information
7.1. Order and decay; 7.2. Solar energy; 7.3. Stores and fluxes of information in natural biota and civilisation; 7.4. Ecological information of large animals.

V. G. Gorshkov (1995) Physical and Biological Bases of Life Stability. Man. Biota. Environment. Springer: Berlin.
Chapter 2. Solar Energy and Ordered Processes in Inanimate Nature
2.1. Decay of Ordered States; 2.2. Solar Energy; 2.3. The Physical States of Dynamic Equilibrium; 2.4. The Stability of Physical States; 2.5. Physical Self-Organization; 2.6. The Measurable Variables: Dimensions and Mutual Correlations; 2.7. Thermal Stability of Climate; 2.8. Correlation Distances and Information
Chapter 3. Stability of Life Organization
3.1. Biological Stability; 3.2. Differences Between Biological and Physical Stability; 3.3. The Quantum Nature of Life; 3.4. The Nature of Genome Decay; ...