Science

Emergence Explained

Posted 16 Feb 2006 at 19:27 UTC by steve Share This

Emergence is a term we hear all the time in robotics and AI; emergent behavior, emergent properties (even in the comics). At one time "life force" was considered an emergent property of "lifeless chemicals". What does emergence really mean as used today? John Holland of genetic algorithm fame once said, "It is unlikely that a topic as complicated as emergence will submit meekly to a consice definition, and I have no such definition to offer". Russ Abbott of California State University has taken a shot at the topic in a newly released draft of a paper called, Emergence Explained (PDF format). Abbott's paper is well written, non-technical, and very readable. In it he explains the debate between funcionalism and reductionism. He discusses finite state machines, the game of life, Turing machines, what autonomy really means, and host of other fascinating issues. Recommended!

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