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Ilya Prigogine

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Prigogine was born in a Jewish family in Russia. His father was a factory owner. After the socialist revolution of 1917, his parents emigrated: first, to the Baltic countries, then to Germany. After Nazis started gaining ground, the family moved to Belgium, where Ilya Prigogine spent all of his remaining life.

Alternative version:

(born in Moscow a few months before the Russian Revolution of 1917, into a Jewish family.[4][5][6][7][8][9] His father, Roman (Ruvim Abramovich) Prigogine, was a chemical engineer at the Moscow Institute of Technology; his mother, Yulia Vikhman, was a pianist. Because the family was critical of the new Soviet system, they left Russia in 1921. They first went to Germany and in 1929, to Belgium, where Prigogine received Belgian nationality in 1949... In 2003 he was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto)

Nb3O7(OH) self-organization2

Initially amorphous cubes gradually transform into ordered 3D meshes of crystalline nanowires, under hydrothermal treatment at 200 Celsius.

Main idea of Prigogine has to do with open systems, i.e. ones in which there is an input of energy/matter/information from outside the system. He showed that in some instances such systems are capable of making a qualitative jump into more complex systems, exhibiting a greater amount of organization. In his own words (from his Nobel Prize lecture ): "non-equilibrium may become a source of order and that irreversible processes may lead to a new type of dynamic states of matter called 'dissipative structures'".

Alternative explanation: 

(Ilya Prigogine discovered that importation and dissipation of energy into chemical systems could reverse the maximization of entropy rule imposed by the second law of thermodynamics

Dissipative structure theory led to pioneering research in self-organizing systems, as well as philosophical inquiries into the formation of complexity on biological entities and the quest for a creative and irreversible role of time in the natural sciences.

Prigogine's formal concept of self-organization was used also as a "complementary bridge" between General Systems Theory and Thermodynamics, conciliating the cloudiness of some important systems theory concepts with scientific rigour

In his 1997 book, The End of Certainty, Prigogine contends that determinism is no longer a viable scientific belief. "The more we know about our universe, the more difficult it becomes to believe in determinism." This is a major departure from the approach of Newton, Einstein and Schrödinger, all of whom expressed their theories in terms of deterministic equations. According to Prigogine, determinism loses its explanatory power in the face of irreversibility and instability.

Prigogine asserts that Newtonian physics has now been "extended" three times[citation needed], first with the use of the wave function in quantum mechanics, then with the introduction of spacetime in general relativity and finally with the recognition of indeterminism in the study of unstable systems.)

Lack of equilibrium in the initial condition of the Universe is manifested by unequal number of particles and anti-particles. If the number was equal, we would have an explosion and no Universe. This initial disequalibrium may be what drives the entire system towards self-organization (see "Order Out of Chaos", a book by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, 1984). 


A bird flock.

This insight has led to research into self-organizing systems. Bird flocks and human society are two examples of self-organizing systems in biology. 

Insight of Prigogine into self-organization of matter, in opposition to the second principle of thermodynamics (stating that there is a tendency towards disorder in a closed system) is illustrated in the lecture on "Big History " of David Christian. This shows self-organization of the Universe, from the Big Bang to modern threshold in human history. 

Drawing hands
The process of self-organization of matter, in technology, is called "self-assembly", a process where disordered parts build an ordered structure by themselves. Here is one TED talk devoted to explaining this process, 2013. Self-assembly, self-replication and self-improvement (self-evolution) are the key concepts for the emerging technology. 
Prigogine may be summarized by a Russian anarchist slogan: "Anarchy is the mother of all order".


A huge part of my scientific career would then be devoted to the elucidation of macroscopic as well as microscopic aspects of the second principle, in order to extend its validity to new situations, and to the other fundamental approaches of theoretical physics, such as classical and quantum dynamics

Since my adolescence, I have read many philosophical texts, and I still remember the spell "L'évolution créatrice" cast on me. More specifically, I felt that some essential message was embedded, still to be made explicit, in Bergson's remark:

"The more deeply we study the nature of time, the better we understand that duration means invention, creation of forms, continuous elaboration of the absolutely new."


Irreversability is a fundamental aspect of nature, i.e. once the events have taken a certain course, it is not possible to go back

Humanism and Its Aspirations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Signed by Prigogine, among other Nobel prize winners, 2003)

Humanism and Its Aspirations subtitled Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 is the most recent of the Humanist Manifestos published in 2003 by the American Humanist Association (AHA). The newest one is much shorter, listing six primary beliefs, which echo themes from its predecessors:

  • Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. (See empiricism.)
  • Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.
  • Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. (See ethical naturalism.)
  • Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
  • Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
  • Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.

Quotes of Prigogine

Other languages:

Илья Пригожин

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