The world around us is an emergent system. The interactions among subatomic particles give rise to atoms, the interactions among atoms give rise to molecules, and the interactions among molecules give rise to the various forms of physical matter in our environment — including cells with the potential to interact and give rise to complex forms of life. We cannot perceive these relationships with our unaided senses, only with technology or our own imaginations.
An emergent systems perspective recognizes that everything is simultaneously a whole emerging from the interactions of parts at a lesser scale and an interacting part from which another whole emerges at a greater scale. These parts, wholes, and interactions represent the same patterns at different levels of scale. The framework presented here describes the basic mechanics of emergent systems in terms of patterns of interaction and levels of scale.