The concept of 'stand alone complex' can be compared to the concept of 'system':
In systems thinking, the view employed observes parts and systems which are formed by parts. A system is also observed more holistically; a system is a whole which is more than the sum of its parts. Thus, the basic building blocks in systems thinking are parts, systems, and their relations.
If the primary users of thinking in 'systems' are mechanics and objective specialists, the primary users of thinking in 'complexes' are magicians and subjective generalists.
A 'stand alone complex' view distinguishes the part-relationship difference more than the 'system' view counterpart, and focuses more on dynamicity rather than staticity.
It offers a more fluid view, and less allowing of the possibility of having a separate, objective observer.
In both the first and the second series of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the concept of 'stand alone complex' is applied in a more specific way:
As cyberbrain technology bridges more and more the gap of perceived self-identity between different individuals, self-identity shifts from complete self-containment to being stand-alone.
Ego is not anymore a distinct attribute of one individual, but is streamed through the collective consciousness and is something that emerges or is constructed from there.
The concept of 'normalized ego', rather than 'individual ego', becomes fitting to a greater degree.
In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 1st GIG, the Laughing Man (an expert hacker) through his actions inadvertently causes a stand alone complex phenomenon:
A hero image emerges from the collective consciousness and many people adjust their identities towards that image, resulting in copy-cat crimes without an explicit original.
In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG, Hideo Kuze (a skillful and charismatic revolutionary) through his actions and ideas sets the stand alone complex phenomenon in motion. Kazundo Gouda (a social and political expert) rides the resulting power and manipulates the collective subconscious to much success.
Through the stand alone complex phenomenon, identities can be made stronger, cooperative and aware - but also attacked and manipulated.
Even in a world such as ours (without cyberbrain technology), the conclusions are not too different.