Emergence: the connected lives of ants, brains, cities, and software

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Scribner, Aug 28, 2001 - Computers - 288 pages
111 Reviews
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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Excellent introduction to the science of networks. - Goodreads
A little bit out of date, but a good overview. - Goodreads
The book was interesting and easy to read. - Goodreads
a GREAT introduction to self-organizing systems. - Goodreads
The prose is boring, the content is awesome. - Goodreads

Review: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

User Review  - William Anderson - Goodreads

Emergence is a tour through a few systems that focuses on ants and cities mostly through the lens of software. Speaking of writing programs whose intelligence is metaphorically represented as ... Read full review

Review: Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

User Review  - John - Goodreads

Even though I read this 10 years ago I still marvel about that ant colony at Stanford and the parallels between their civilization and ours. But beyond that I still think of cities and cultures as ... Read full review


Here Comes Everybody
The Myth of the Ant Queen

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