Any well integrated system may be considered as a goal-directed, i.e., tending or trying to reach some precise and (more or less) permanent goal.
However, this concept is a difficult one.
A composite system, endowed with a very low degree of integration, tends to go back to its characteristic critical states. However this has obviously no volitive undertones: it is just what a loose, but not totally unrelated variable mass of elements does, due to mere physical random interactions. This could be qualified either as dynamical stability or unstability!
A more integrated system acquires organizational closure and autopoiesis (i.e. selt-reproduction capacity) and its global goal is thus inscribed into its internal logic, i.e. to maintain itself in existence.
By stages, from simple living systems to the highest and most complex and integrated ones, a growing mesure of self-regulating capacity leads to the voluntary manipulation of inside and outside regulations, which become "control for", through manipulation of the environment and anticipatory adaptation through feedforward. Thus, "goal directed" evolves into "goal seeking" in a conscious sense.
Besides, in complex systems, the global survival goal may become subdivided into a great number of auxiliary goals, sometimes hierarchized, and whose harmonization may become a very difficult problem.
G. KLIR discussed "goal-oriented systems" and multigoal-oriented systems" in a very close meaning and proposed interesting ways to modelize them (1991, p.143-161).
It is also somewhat difficult to draw a precise separation line between "goal-oriented" and "goal-seeking" systems (see hereafter).
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Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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