The Edge of Chaos

A new story for Life on Earth

Will Franks
Sep 10, 2019 · 3 min read

The Edge of Chaos is what all Life, at all levels, strives towards.

All systems lie on a spectrum between order and disorder.

Ordered systems are rigid, repetitive and predictable. Solid.

Disordered, systems are unpredictable, chaotic. Gas.

Between the two lies the Edge of Chaos, where maximum complexity emerges. Where systems evolve. Where Life happens, and is no other than this ceaseless fluid creativity.

Too much disorder, too many degrees of freedom, and structure dissipates. Melts. Disperses.

Too much order, not enough degrees of freedom, and structure cannot adapt or innovate. Frozen. Stuck.

In the middle is the perfect balance between structural dissipation and adaptation. Here, poised between order and disorder, a system goes into transition. Continually falling apart, continually coming together in new ways.


The structure is changing, innovating, responsive to changes in its environment, yet stable enough to remain organised. Resilient yet adaptive. Self-renewing, self-organising.

New patterns emerge, flow, interact – and complexity increases.

Complexification is evolution. Evolution is life. Life is complexification.

Ancient rainforests evolve to maximal biodiversity where all species influence one another. This point is called climax. Embodiment of the Edge of Chaos. Here there is maximal connection, novelty, diversity, beauty, intelligence, and emergence. Maximal complexity.

The more complex the system, the more states it can transition to while retaining its structure, or pattern. Exploiting chaos to evolve, to search all possible states for the most complex next-step. And that space of possible states is expansive. Infinite.

An infinitude of exploration beckons as paths open in all directions. Endless opportunities for recombination and restructuring. The universe is a canvas for life’s Great Play, for this spontaneous unfolding into evermore degrees of freedom.

Evolution is a dance through multidimensional parameter space – seeking complexity. Seeking beauty.

This is what wants to emerge through all life – every being, every network of beings, through the entire Gaian matrix. A biosphere regulating its atmosphere and chemistry for optimal complexification conditions. This telos animates an entire planet. Search for the Edge of Chaos. Evolutionary impulse that is Life itself.

Yes, Gaia. Precious bluegreen jewel. Oasis of complexity in equilibrial desert.

Home of Life.

And to humans. What is our place in this story?

Humans are endowed with the unique capacity to consciously open the degrees of freedom in the world. In themselves. In one another. This is the Infinite Game that Life invites us to play. Maximising complexity, maximising freedom, maximising beauty. Co-evolving with all around us.

As existing orders collapse, chaos ensues… and right there in the middle is the fertile soil, rich with seeds, pregnant with latent complexity.

We can nurture that soil and watch Life flourish. Within us and through us and around us. Human-managed ecosystems can grow to greater biodiversity than unmanaged ones.

Gardening as Art. Blossoming of the cosmos.

Embody this. Dance.

Free Nature.

The interdependent network of all beings – and systems – on this Earth. We’re embedded in that and we can align our whole being with this movement. Returning Gaia to the Edge of Chaos. A transition to creative global evolution. In this time of crisis, we need nothing less.

Re-wild your mind.

Complexify with all around you.

Live at the Edge of Chaos.

The Edge of Chaos is a story that simplifies the world by allowing us to see the central roles of order, chaos, and complexity in all systems. It encompasses ecology, humanity, society, culture, art, love – and collapse. It’s just a story, but stories are all we have. Stay tuned for more.

The Phoenix Project

Will Franks

Written by

Naïve utopian.

The Phoenix Project

Ideas, visions and tools for a better world.

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