Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, by Steven Johnson

SEL Books: Q325 .J65 2001

This book has solidified some of the ideas I’ve been formulating for past dozen or so years. Immensely exciting! The focus of the book is on emergence—the ability of multiple entities to display intelligent behavior while working as a group. Related terminology includes self-organizing systems, swarm intelligence, complexity theory, and chaos theory.

I have been looking for connections for a great many years, which is why I’m fascinated by comparative anything (comparative literature, comparative religion, comparative linguistics, etc.). Give me an apple and a lugnut and I’ll find some common denominator. (Give me a little time, though.)

It amazes me that slime molds and ant colonies work as an intelligent whole, while each individual organism has the individual intelligence of, well, a slime mold.

This book does not provide any breakthroughs or new information that hasn’t been out there for years. What it does do is gather and organize the information so that we in the general public can get a sense of the mind-bending breakthroughs going on in just about every field of discipline (economics, urban planning, physics, education, management, gaming, biology, etc., etc., etc.).

The main contribution this book makes is to urge us to be asking the questions. How is intelligence formed? How do we measure it? Can we measure it? What kind of emergent systems are on the verge of intelligence? Computers? Robots? The World Wide Web?

An exciting world is emerging.

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