Kauffman, At Home In The Universe (review)

"At Home In The Universe" is a popularized version of "The Origins of Order" by the same author. The book discusses the characteristics of systems which self-organize, claiming that given certain conditions, self-organization is the norm, as opposed to being a highly unlikely event as some would have us believe. This has far reaching consequences for the creation and maintenance of life.

At times I found the book wandered off on what, to me, were uninteresting tangents. Having said that, the parts I found interesting were so very interesting that I could not put the book down until I'd finished the whole thing. As I write this review, I am in the process of reading Prigogine & Stengers' "Order Out Of Chaos". It would seem that the 'tangents' in Kauffman's book are an attempt to discuss some of the issues addressed far more comprehensibly by Prigogine & Stengers.

Perhaps the technical reader would be better off approaching Kauffman's first book (above). If this is found to be too much like hard work, "At Home In The Universe" provides a solid overview of Kauffman's ideas on self organizing systems even if it is padded with matter more relevant elsewhere.

On the whole, the discussions in this book I found very exciting and I'm willing to concede that if one does not like reading nearly 700 pages of Kauffman in "Origins of Order", this is a rewarding second best. There is a lot of interesting material on "Far from equilibrium systems" and some fascinating results in analysing self-organizing, auto-catalytic, cross-catalytic, chaotic, non-linear, dynamic etc. etc. systems!

Alan Dorin, 20 Dec 96

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