The interaction between simple things can create novel, complex and unpredictable systems.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
➞ 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.
If this idea resonates with you, some of these resources might add value to your life.
A Short History Of Nearly Everything
Fooled By Randomness
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces
Six Easy Pieces
A Brief History Of Time
Lex Fridman Podcast
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Closer to Truth
Crash Course: Statistics
Physics Videos by Eugene Khutoryansky
Up and Atom
PBS Space Time