An introduction to the question: What is emergence?

Emergence, when you first see it, seems mysterious … The organization comes from the bottom up. So, at the bottom, we have these things that are following their own sets of rules, often fairly simple … What we see is a pattern emerging from the bottom up … The behavior of the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

Emergence. NOVA scienceNOW

Everyday Examples of Emergence. NOVA scienceNOW.


An exploration of the mystery of emergence through stories of fireflies, ant colonies, urban design, crowds, search engines, neurons, and the study of consciousness.

How can order come out of disorder? This is what the creationists love to talk about, and it’s because they don’t understand and neither do we. This is the big, big mystery of science.

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Emergence. Radiolab.


Emergence as a way of seeing: Beyond helping us understand the natural world, how can emergent complexity help us understand the nature of problems?

Carl Popper, the great philosopher said, “All problems are either clouds or clocks.” To understand a clock, you can take it apart its individual pieces and you study the pieces and then you can understand how a clock works. A cloud, you can’t take apart a cloud. A cloud is a dynamic system. A cloud you can only study as a whole.

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david brooks

*At the same time, if we understand that clouds have parts (the interaction of molecules from which clouds are formed) and that clocks are in fact emergent (what we see as a clock arises from the interactions of the atoms of its various parts), then the distinction between cloud and clock problems is actually a question of how we choose to define the problem.

David Brooks. What is Emergent Thinking?. Big Think.


This content is being created and curated as part of a project exploring how changing the ways we think about thinking can revolutionize the ways we change the world. See the Emergent Cognition Project overview to learn more.