Emergence results in the creation of novelty
2004 05 24
From Fritjof Capra’s The Hidden Connections
Emergence results in the creation of novelty, and this novelty is often qualitatively different from the phenomena out of which it emerged. This can readily be illustrated with a well-known example from chemistry: the structure and properties of sugar.
When carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms bond in a certain way to form sugar, the resulting compound has a sweet taste. The sweetness resides neither in the C, nor in the O, nor in the H; it resides in the pattern that emerges from their interaction. It is an emergent property. Moreover, strictly speaking, the sweetness is not a property of the chemical bonds. It is a sensory experience that arises when the sugar molecules interact with the chemistry of our taste buds, which in turn causes a set of neurons to fire in a certain way. The experience of sweetness emerges from that neural activity.
Thus, the simple statement that the characteristic property of sugar is its sweetness really refers to a series of emergent phenomena at different levels of complexity. Chemists have no conceptual problem with these emergent phenomena when they identify a certain class of compounds as sugars because of their sweet taste. Nor will future cognitive scientists have conceptual problems with other kinds of emergent phenomena when they analyze them in terms of the resulting conscious experience, as well as in terms of the relevant biochemistry and neurobiology.
Chapter Two, Mind and Consciousness, The Nature of Conscious Experience, pp. 41, 42
Capra’s context there is cognition: in particular, the Santiago Theory of Cognition. My context is information, specifically new information emerging from informational complexity: macroinformation.
I predict that Maturana will become increasingly visible at Macroinformation. I don’t doubt that I’ve been influence by his work for decades, but I’m only just beginning to go out of my way to study it directly.
pk throws in a social example to be developed in several other modules: team work: for example, the good cop / bad cop tag team
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