A system able to define its own goals, or at least able to behave in order to tend in a permanent way to maintain itself in the future.
Human beings are more or less conscious of their goals and in any cases able to define and describe them. In other living beings the goals remain implicit and probably totally unconscious.
The study of anticipatory systems is quite difficult. B. EKDAHL writes: "Anticipatory systems are a result of evolution and the characteristic of them is that they consist both of description (genotype) and interpretation (phenotype). Many such systems are not conscious of their own interpretations and can be regarded as having only a built-in theory and no language in which its interpretations is described. Such systems show an algorithmic behavior and can be simulated on a computer.
"Systems which can also make a (semantic) model and moreover have a possibility to reason about this model cannot be reduced to computation since in no other language its interpretation process can be described than in the language itself.
"As a consequence, model-based anticipatory systems cannot completely be described by mathematical means but have to be holistically considered in order to give a reasonable explanation of their behavior. The way to look upon a system as a mathematical structure is not applicable in such cases" (2000, p. 13)