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Unread July 9th, 2006, 10:00 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 106
Default What is emergence?

Searle talks about how consciousness is an emergent property of the neurons in our brains...

There is some controversy over what he means by emergence...

So I thought I'd ask.

One take is that emergent properties are properties that can't be predicted from knowledge of the entities and relationships between entities on a lower level of analysis.

For example... Take a bunch of H2O molecules. If we know the facts about the molecules internal constitution and we know the facts about the bonds and about the relationships between H2O molecules then can we predict liquidity?

If we can then liquidity wouldn't be an emergent property in the sense of emergence outlined above (whereas if we couldn't predict the liquidity from the facts from the lower level then liquidity would be an emergent property).

Is this what others mean by emergence or do they have something else in mind?

What is an emergent system?
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Unread July 27th, 2006, 04:57 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Philadelphia area
Posts: 1,143
Default Re: What is emergence?

When you hear "emergent" think of spores and seeds.

Think of bottom-up instead of top down. (And evolution rather than intelligent design!)

Also think of power laws, not bell curves; path analysis, not straight lines (Sewall Wright or Robert Plomin. Also, Barabasi, 2002; Ball, 2004); networks of weak influences that achieve extraordinary stability such as those you see in your grandmother?s wicker basket or in your bathroom mirror (Kauffman, 1993; Lewontin, 2000); doodles rather than outlines, and an electronic mouse rather than a directory tree; and, most wonderful of all, the glories of animism and possession. And when resources are evenly distributed, think of coral reefs and socialism!


from "Life Organizes in a Tinker Toy Way" Brody, ISHE poster, 2006. All rights reserved, copyright.
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Unread August 7th, 2006, 11:18 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 174
Default Corning on Emergence

There are some interesting thoughts on "emergence" (along with a discussion of its theoretical implications and an approach to testing for it) in Peter Corning's writings.

For example, see:


or the expanded discussions in "Hollistic Darwinism" or "Nature's Magic."

kind regards,

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Unread August 8th, 2006, 01:41 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: What is emergence?

Let’s cut to the chase—“emergence,” “Nature’s Magic,” “synergy,” evolution, natural selection, etc., are merely terms, often circular terms, for phenomena that we, for the most part, don’t begin to truly understand, and that are possible only b/c of the “specialness” at the beginning of the universe, 14 billion years ago, that we sapient beings now find ourselves in.

Roger Penrose, the eminently qualified Oxford mathematician and physicist, who recently also wrote The Road to Reality, A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, 2005, “the most complete mathematical explanation of the universe yet published,” explains this in his chapter on thermodynamics (the following is from an review of Penrose’s book by a Reviewer, Glenn L. E. May, Islington, Ontario Canada on 6/2005):
In his chapter 27 on thermodynamics, Penrose seems to finally 'bury' dissenters who believe there is nothing unique or improbable about the universe.

For instance in Vic Stenger's attack in his book Timeless Reality Stenger says:
"The initial entropy of the universe was also as large as it could have been, since it was also the entropy of a black hole. Thus, the universe has maximum entropy at the two extremes on the time axis. In each case, the universe is in equilibrium. At each time, the univserse is in a static state of total chaos. This is a point that has been missed by almost everyone, including Penrose." [Referring to Penrose’s earlier book The Emperor's New Mind.]
However, in his recent book Penrose counters:
"Now let us return to the extraordinary 'specialness' of the Big Bang. The fact that it must have had as absurdly low entropy is already evident from the mere existence of the Second Law of thermodynamics. But low entropy can take many different forms. We want to understand the particular way in which our universe was initially special...

It seems to me that this apparent thermal equilibrium in the early universe has grossly misled some cosmologists into thinking that the Big Bang was somehow high entropy 'random' (i.e. thermal) state, despite the fact that, because of the second law, it must have actually been a very organized (i.e. low entropy) state. A prevalent view seems to have been that the resolution of this paradox must lie in the fact that, soon after the Big Bang, the universe was 'small' so that comparatively few degrees of freedom were available to it, giving a low 'ceiling' to possible entropies. This point of view is fallacious, however, as was pointed out [earlier]. The correct resolution of the apparent paradox lies in the fact that the gravitational degrees of freedom have not been thermalized along with all of those matter and electromagnetic degrees of freedom...In fact, these gravitational degrees of freedom -providing a huge reservoir of entropy -are frequently not take into account at all...Rather than sharing in the thermalization that, in the early universe, applies to all other fields, gravity remains aloof, its degrees of freedom lying in wait, so that the second law would come into play as these degrees of freedom begin to become taken up. Not only does this give us a Second Law, but it gives us one in the particular form that we observe in nature. Gravity just seems to have been different!...physicists have tried to come to terms with this puzzle and related ones, concerning the origin of the universe. In my opinion, none of these attempts comes at all close to dealing with the puzzle..."
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