A profoundly fundamental question at the interface between physics and biology remains open: what are the minimum requirements for emergence of complex behaviour from non-living systems? Here, we address this question and report complex behaviour of tens to thousands of colloidal nanoparticles in a system designed to be as plain as possible: the system is driven far from equilibrium by ultrafast laser pulses that create spatiotemporal temperature gradients, inducing Marangoni flow that drags particles towards aggregation; strong Brownian motion, used as source of fluctuations, opposes aggregation. Nonlinear feedback mechanisms naturally arise between flow, aggregate and Brownian motion, allowing fast external control with minimal intervention. Consequently, complex behaviour, analogous to those seen in living organisms, emerges, whereby aggregates can self-sustain, self-regulate, self-replicate, self-heal and can be transferred from one location to another, all within seconds. Aggregates can comprise only one pattern or bifurcated patterns can coexist, compete, endure or perish.