P2P as a Complex Adaptive System

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Introduction to P2P as a Complex Adaptive System

Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a complex system, and because P2P is currently under a great deal of scrutiny we can say that it is displaying the properties of a Complex Adaptive System. Somewhat like the origins of the first large scale American enterprises P2P as a system of discernable uniqueness amongst other complex adaptive systems like the one called "Free Market Capitalism" is shoring up a number of potential barriers simultaneously in order to create a wide and deep environment in which to grow, change, and increase in complexity and variety. This is a general description of the strategy of using software production and services as a means to cross and collaborate between borders while simultaneously exploring the limitations and potential solutions to organizing and branching into additional production and social systems in other geographic or knowledge areas.

As an example of the range of qualities of a P2P system you can take a look at the P2P Companion Concepts article which outlines a number of the important qualities of P2P that are also listed below as examples of properties of P2P that are shared with a more general definition of Complex Adaptive System, as noted in various source.

Analyses of P2P as a Complex Adaptive System

  • "The Functioning Levels Model gives a general description of the modes an intelligent system functions, as well individuals (humans, higher mammals) as groups (societies, cultures, companies). This model explains some hitherto more isolated models, including Freud's developmental stages of personality and society, stages of bereavement, psychiatric illnesses, and some recent models, including P2P, Spiral Dynamics and the Temenos Model." (see Functioning levels)
  • Autopoiesis, is a core feature of Complex Adaptive Systems and an integral aspect of a Commons Based P2P Network. In "Six Levels of Complexity; A Typology of Processes and Systems" Dietrich Fliedner describes 6th level autopoietic systems "These are also self-organised, self-preserving and self-delimited, but the structures are materialised directly. They only remain in existence as long as the carriers exist, and vice versa. This applies for all systems of the 6th level of complexity, i.e. not only for living creatures and cells but also for chemical systems and molecules, planets and ions, solar systems and atoms. The spheres are the frame. The global ecosystem is an hierarchic system (and an non-equilibrium system), which creates itself structurally (evolution) and forms the milieu for autopoiesis of the living beings. Neither the global ecosystem is an autopoietic system, which creates itself materially, nor, of course, the regional sections of the global ecosystem. The latter can be studied only as flow-equilibrium systems, consisting of numerous inferior non-equilibrium and autopoietic systems (living beings, cells). It is remarkable that, on the one hand, relatively simply constructed atoms belong to the highest level of complexity, while, on the other, highly complicated ecosystems are assignable to much lower levels of complexity. [1]


  1. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 4, no. 1, , 3.4b, http://www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/JASSS/4/1/4.html