An analogy for memory and the self-organization of information from Lateral Thinking by Edward Bono:
A memory is anything that happens and does not completely unhappen. The result is some trace which is left. The trace may last for a long time or it may last for a short time. Information that comes into the brain leaves a trace in the altered behavior of the nerve cells that form the memory surface.
A landscape is a memory surface. The contours of the surface offer an accumulated memory trace of the water that has fallen upon it. The rainfall forms little rivulets which combine into streams and then into rivers. Once the pattern of drainage has been formed then it tends to become ever more permanent since the rain is collected into the drainage channels and tends to make them deeper. It is the rainfall that is doing the sculpting and yet it is the response of the surface to the rainfall that is organizing how the rainfall will do its sculpting.
… The contours of the surface are formed by the water but once formed the contours direct where the water will flow. The eventual pattern depends on where the spoonfuls of water were placed and in what sequence they were placed. This is equivalent to the nature of the incoming information and the sequence of arrival. The jelly provides an environment for the self-organization of information into patterns.