Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Emergence is universal

Last Christmas holidays I started reading Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson.
But the holidays ended.... and so I just got back into it.
It is a really nice book and he is a very gifted writer. I also find it helpful and fascinating because although it is about emergence it virtually never mentions physics or chemistry! Johnson's background is in software but he does a really nice job connecting emergence in software (e.g. genetic algorithms and SimCity) with emergence in ant colonies, slime moulds, formation of neighbourhoods in cities, ....

Johnson says (p. 77) there are five fundamental principles to follow "if you're building a system where macro-intelligence and adaptability derive from local knowledge"
  • More is different
  • Ignorance is useful
  • Encourage random encounters
  • Look for patterns in the signs
  • Pay attention to your neighbours

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