In many ways it's reactivity to circumstances is similar to the way individuals and others react. This does not mean it produces the most desirable action, the intervention of thought and planning will generally improve results.
ian807 wrote:The problem with leaving things to the market is that few people understand systems theory enough to know what the market is.
The closest analogy I can think of off the top of my head is a bacterial colony like Paenibacillus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paenibacillus). Paenibacillus has no brain, yet it manages to produce complex pattern forming behaviors. Paenibacillus is just one example (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/27/AR2008072701443.html).
What bacteria can't do, is anticipate, plan, think ahead, or really, think at all. They just respond to food supply or temperature the way a shopkeeper would respond to changes in price or supply. An individual shopkeeper might think ahead. Shopkeepers en masse, however, do not. Bacteria and shopkeepers work only for themselves. Adaptive self organization, when it occurs, is a happy coincidence for the bacteria and shopkeepers. Economist like to call that self-organization "the invisible hand."
Free market folks like the bacteria strategy, betting on the fact that they as individuals will be the winners. Peak oilers think anticipation and planning, possibly as a group, is the thing. Since neither strategy will ever produce perfect results or make perfect predictions, both sides have plenty or room for criticism.
The interesting thing is that nature produced both emergent behavior properties of bacteria AND hierarchical, central planning structures (e.g. the frontal lobe of the human brain). If I had to take my cues from nature, I'd say we need both.