Information is the fundamental currency of naturally occurring complex adaptive systems, whether they are individual organisms or collective social insect colonies. Information appears to be more important than energy in determining the behavior of these systems. However, it is not the quantity of information but rather its salience or meaning which is significant. Salience is not, in general, associated with instantaneous events but rather with spatio-temporal transients of events. This requires a shift in theoretical focus from instantaneous states towards spatio-temporal transients as the proper object for studying information flow in naturally occurring complex adaptive systems. A primitive form of salience appears in simple complex systems models in the form of transient induced global response synchronization (TIGoRS). Sparse random samplings of spatio-temporal transients may induce stable collective responses from the system, establishing a stimulus–response relationship between the system and its environment, with the system parsing its environment into salient and non-salient stimuli. In the presence of TIGoRS, an embedded complex dynamical system becomes a primitive automaton, modeled as a Sulis machine.