ilteris kaplan blog


November 09, 2005

Emergence is the process of complex pattern formation from simpler rules. This can be a dynamic process (occurring over time), such as the evolution of the human brain over thousands of successive generations; or emergence can happen over disparate size scales, such as the interactions between a macroscopic number of neurons producing a human brain capable of thought (even though the constituent neurons are not themselves conscious). For a phenomenon to be termed emergent it should generally be unpredictable from a lower level description. Usually the phenomenon does not exist at all or only in trace amounts at the very lowest level. Thus, a straightforward phenomenon such as the probability of finding a raisin in a slice of cake growing with the portion-size does not generally require a theory of emergence to explain. It may however be profitable to consider the emergence of the texture of the cake as a relatively complex result of the baking process and the mixture of ingredients.

**Self-organization **refers to a process in which the internal organization of a system, normally an open system, increases automatically without being guided or managed by an outside source. Self-organizing systems typically (though not always) display emergent properties.

Written by Ilteris Kaplan who still lives and works in New York. Twitter