Saturday, July 14, 2007



I’ve been struck by a couple of exposures to emergence this week, a newish field that explores how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it’s bottom-up organization of large systems as opposed to the top-down systems that we humans have preferred during most of our existence. First I saw this:

Thanks to Cory Doctorow’s blog entry on Boingboing:

Then I saw this on Nova scienceNow the other night:

This is fascinating stuff and I’ve thought for years that we’re not ever going to create real robotic intelligence from programming it into a central brain with a bazillion lines of code, but from simple responses tied into sensory input. That’s how little bug-like bots work, your sensors bump into something, you move around it, that’s it. On a more complex scale (helluva lot more sensors and responses), we could achieve something that mimics intelligence very well, if it’s not actual intelligence (but it might be).

Maybe sometime in the next hundred years, when we’ve mastered the complexities, we can institute human emergent systems. Imagine a modern industrialized nation running smoothly without the need for leaders. An anarchist’s dream.

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