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Emergence : the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software
Steven Johnson
Adult Nonfiction Q325 .J65 2001

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Summary: This book is about the mystery of why the whole is sometimes smarter than the sum of its parts. Emergence is what happens when an interconnected system of relatively simple elements self-organizes to form more intelligent, more adaptive higher-level behavior. It's a bottom-up model; rather than being engineered by a general or a master planner, emergence begins at the ground level. Systems that at first glance seem vastly different -- ant colonies, human brains, cities, immune systems -- all turn out to follow the rules of emergence. In each of these systems, agents residing on one scale start producing behavior that lies a scale above them: ants create colonies, urbanites create neighborhoods.In the tradition of Being Digital and The Tipping Point, Steven Johnson, acclaimed as a "cultural critic with a poet's heart" (The Village Voice), takes readers on an eye-opening intellectual journey from the discovery of emergence to its applications. He introduces us to our everyday surroundings, offering suprising examples of feedback, self-organization, and adaptive learning. How does a lively neighborhood evolve out of a disconnected association of shopkeepers, bartenders, and real estate developers? How does a media event take on a life of its own? How will new software programs create an intelligent World Wide Web?Drawing upon evolutionary theory, urban studies, neuroscience, and computer games, Emergence is a guidebook to one of the key components of twenty-first-century culture. Until recently, Johnson explains, the disparate philosophers of emergence have worked to interpret the world. But today they are starting to change it. This book is the riveting story of that change and what it means for the future. If you've searched for information on the Web, played a recent video game, or accepted a collect call using voice recognition software, you've already encountered the new world of artificial emergence. Provocative, engaging, and sophisticated, Emergence puts you on the front lines of a sweeping revolution in science and thought.


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