Emergence

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

The interaction between simple things can create novel, complex and unpredictable systems.

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Finding Truth

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Systems Thinking

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A system can have properties that can hardly or not at all by explained by looking at the parts of the system individually.

In other words, emergence means that the whole can't be explained by what its parts do.

A few examples:

  • Language Individual sounds and even words don't have much of a meaning. However, when part of a system, the interconnection between words creates deep meaning over time, space and contexts.
  • Society
  • Cultural beliefs and values as well as institutions that govern our norms and standards only arise over long periods of time as the result of the interaction of millions of people.

  • Wetness
  • While a the water in a bucket is 'wet', none of the individual H2O molecules that make this have that same 'wetness' property — it arises only from an interaction between these individual molecules.

  • Life What we regard as life, complex as humans or simple as singular cells, arises from an interaction of molecules in a very specific and highly complex way — while none of the molecules is alive itself.
  • Corporate Cultures How working at a company feels like depends on the social dynamics and the hard to describe 'climate' that exists in relation to the organization — none of which can be explained by looking at individual people employees but only by studying the system of communication, processes and learned behavior between people.

Emergence is one of the most mysterious, yet powerful phenomena that govern the reality around us at every scale.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

— Carl Sagan

Explore

This Kurzgesagt video on emergence gives a fascinating glimpse into the power and mystery of emerging phenomena in reality.

➞ For a highly technical perspective on emergence in the context of quantum physics, check out Sean Carroll's video explanation.

This Wikipedia article will teach you most of the fundamental aspects of emergence.

Resources

If this idea resonates with you, some of these resources might add value to your life.

LinkNAMEFormatAuthor
A Short History Of Nearly Everything
Book
Bill Bryson
Scale
Book
Geoffrey West
Antifragility
Book
Nassim Taleb
Fooled By Randomness
Book
Nassim Taleb
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces
Book
Richard Feynman
Six Easy Pieces
Book
Richard Feynman
A Brief History Of Time
Book
Stephen Hawking
Lesswrong
Blog
Edge.org
Blog
Lex Fridman Podcast
Podcast
Lex Fridman
Startalk
Podcast
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Mindscape
Podcast
Sean Carroll
Science Weekly
Podcast
Hidden Brain
Podcast
Invisibilia
Podcast
Closer to Truth
YouTube Channel
Crash Course: Statistics
YouTube Channel
Zach Star
YouTube Channel
3Blue1Brown
YouTube Channel
Quanta Magazine
YouTube Channel
Physics Videos by Eugene Khutoryansky
YouTube Channel
Up and Atom
YouTube Channel
Verge Science
YouTube Channel
PBS Space Time
YouTube Channel
Arvin Ash
YouTube Channel
SciShow Space
YouTube Channel
Physics Girl
YouTube Channel
Crash Course
YouTube Channel
Minutephysics
YouTube Channel
Brilliant.org
Courses
Udemy
Courses
Khan Academy
Courses
Wondrium
Streaming Platform