Emergence : from chaos to order

by John H. Holland

Paper Book, 1998





Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley, c1998.


From one of today's most innovative thinkers comes the first book to carefully explore emergence - a surprisingly simple notion (the whole is more than the sum of its parts) with enormous implications for science, business, and the arts. In this work, John Holland, a leader in the study of complexity at the Santa Fe Institute, dramatically shows that a theory of emergence can predict many complex behaviors, and has much to teach us about life, the mind, and organizations.In Emergence, Holland demonstrates that a small number of rules of laws can generate systems of surprising complexity. Board games provide an ancient and direct example: Chess is defined by fewer than two dozen rules, but the myriad patterns that result lead to perpetual novelty and emergence. It took centuries of study to recognize certain patterns of play, such as the control of pawn formations. But once recognized, these patterns greatly enhance the possibility of winning the game. The discovery of similar patterns in other facets of our world opens the way to a deeper understanding of the complexity of life, answering such questions as: How does a fertilized egg program the development of a trillion-cell organism? How can we build human organizations that respond rapidly to change through innovation? Throughout the book, Holland compares different systems and models that exhibit emergence in the quest for common rules or laws.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MyopicBookworm
I have to say that I found this book less interesting than I had hoped. Coming to it with a biologist's interest in the emergence of complexity from simple systems, I found its detailed discussion of formal computer algorithms such as checkers-playing programs partly impenetrable (even though the serious maths is segregated into text boxes), and the dryness of the subject didn't make me want to penetrate it further. The discussion of scientific models and metaphors in general seemed simultaneously superficial (compared to what I have encountered from philosophers of science), and too detailed in specific areas of information theory that I don't appreciate. This book didn't grab me. It might interest students of information theory or computing theory, but I think most general readers would find it arid. MB 31-viii-2008… (more)


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