Meet the gömböc (pronounce goemboets). It is a three-dimensional object that self-rights. If you put it down on a horizontal surface, its clever shape ensures that it will start wobbling around until it has safely reached its equilibrium position, no matter what position it has started from (for a clear and simple account of the mathematics behind it, see https://plus.maths.org/content/story-goumlmboumlc).
When an Indian star tortoise is turned on its back, it self-rights via a similar mechanism. Some economists and sociologists believe that economies and societies behave in rather the same, way, self-righting when they get out of equilibrium and returning to a state of balance so long as no one interferes with them (as I showed in the last post, ecologists used to think similarly about ecosystems). But complex socio-economic-ecological systems consist of many interacting individuals, so can this simple idea still be true? And if so, under what circumstances?
It is certainly possible for groups of individual objects to self-organize, even with no apparent guiding intelligence. To see it happen, just watch this video of a sack of plastic balls spilled on to an escalator:
Scientists love simple models like this as an aid to thinking about more complex systems. But how relevant is this one to our human world? Some answers in the following posts.
VIDEO from Sea-FM, Tasmania