Self-organization is frequently observed in active collectives as varied as ant rafts and molecular motor assemblies. General principles describing self-organization away from equilibrium have been challenging to identify. We offer a unifying framework that models the behavior of complex systems as largely random while capturing their configuration-dependent response to external forcing. This allows derivation of a Boltzmann-like principle for understanding and manipulating driven self-organization. We validate our predictions experimentally, with the use of shape-changing robotic active matter, and outline a methodology for controlling collective behavior. Our findings highlight how emergent order depends sensitively on the matching between external patterns of forcing and internal dynamical response properties, pointing toward future approaches for the design and control of active particle mixtures and metamaterials.
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