A metasystem transition is the emergence, through evolution, of a higher level of organization or control.

Prime examples are the origin of life, the transition from unicellular to multicellular organisms, and the emergence of symbolic thought. A metasystem is formed by the integration of a number of initially independent components, such as molecules, cells or individiduals, and the emergence of a system steering or controlling their interactions. As such, the collective of components becomes a new, goal-directed individual, capable of acting in a coordinated way. This metasystem is more complex, more intelligent, and more flexible in its actions than the initial component systems.

The concept of metasystem transition was introduced by the cybernetician Valentin Turchin in his 1977 book "The Phenomenon of Science", and developed among others by Francis Heylighen in the Principia Cybernetica Project. The related notion of evolutionary transition was proposed by the biologists John Maynard Smith and Eors Szathmary, in their 1995 book The Major Transitions in Evolution, and developed among others by Richard Michod.

Evolutionary Quanta Edit

The following are the classical quanta of metasystem transition and their standard reifications as emergent properties from the inception of life to sapient culture:

  1. Control of Position: Motion
  2. Control of Motion: Irritability
  3. Control of Irritability: Reflex
  4. Control of Reflex: Association
  5. Control of Association: Thought
  6. Control of Thought: Culture

See alsoEdit


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