Santa Fe Institute

Living Systems: Emergence, Hierarchy, and Dynamics

How does a living system arise, diversify, organize, and regulate itself? As a living system evolves, which innovations are allowed, survive, or even thrive and spread and which fail, and why? Why and how does life organize itself at the molecular, organismal, group, and global levels? How is diversity created and maintained? SFI researchers and their collaborators are addressing these questions in hopes of gaining insights about the mechanisms of emergence, organization, and co-evolution of living systems at many scales.

One interdisciplinary SFI research effort, for example, examines how early Earth's environmental conditions constrained the possible pathways for metabolism, which in turn directed the emergence of life. Another examines the role of conflict in self-regulating living networks such as immune systems and the social landscape of macaque monkeys. Another inquiry explores the role of hierarchy in species interactions by modeling energy flow through feeding networks.