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Autopoiesis is a natural process which includes the potential for transformation, the creation of novelty, from within the organization itself.

Source: Autopoiesis. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (accessed: March 18, 2007).
Autopoiesis literally means ""auto (self)-creation"" (from the Greek: auto - αυτό for self- and poiesis - ποίησις for creation or production) and expresses a fundamental complementarity between structure and function. The term was originally introduced by Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana in 1973:

    ""An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them; and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network."" (Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 78)
    ""[...] the space defined by an autopoietic system is self-contained and cannot be described by using dimensions that define another space. When we refer to our interactions with a concrete autopoietic system, however, we project this system on the space of our manipulations and make a description of this projection."" (Maturana, Varela, 1980, p. 89)

The canonical example of an autopoietic system, and one of the entities that motivated Varela and Maturana to define autopoiesis, is the biological cell. The eukaryotic cell, for example, is made of various biochemical components such as nucleic acids and proteins, and is organized into bounded structures such as the cell nucleus, various organelles, a cell membrane and cytoskeleton. These structures, based on an external flow of molecules and energy, produce the components which, in turn, continue to maintain the organized bounded structure that gives rise to these components. An autopoietic system is to be contrasted with an allopoietic system, such as a car factory, which uses raw materials (components) to generate a car (an organized structure) which is something other than itself (a factory).

dissipative structures --
More generally, the term autopoiesis refers to the dynamics of a non-equilibrium system; that is, organized states (sometimes also called dissipative structures) that remain stable for long periods of time despite matter and energy continually flowing through them. Actually, this flow is what maintains the organization of the open system. A vivid example of such a non-equilibrium structure is the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, which is essentially a gigantic whirlpool of gases in Jupiter's upper atmosphere. This vortex has persisted for a much longer time (on the order of centuries) than the average amount of time any one gas molecule has spent within it.

From this very general point of view, the notion of autopoiesis is often associated with that of self-organization.