Although the ideas of emergence have been of interest to many for millennia it has often been seen as something of a mystery, but with the development of complexity theory, we increasingly have the computational and conceptual tools to understand it in a structured, scientific fashion. During the book, we will be drawing upon different ideas in complexity and systems theory to build up a framework for understanding emergence in a coherent fashion. More specifically, we will explore emergence as a form of nonlinear pattern formation. Where synergies between elementary parts give rise to self-organization and the formation of a distinct pattern, that creates new, emergent levels of organization, that are driven by an evolutionary dynamic.
After giving an overview of emergence theory, the book is designed around four main sections. In the first section, we start off by talking about patterns of correlation in general before going on to look at synergistic interactions that are the foundations to emergence. The next section is focused on pattern formation, the question of how the parts come to self- organize; to synchronize their states into forming a new level of organization. Here we will talk about the two primary different types of emergence that are often used categorizations; what are called strong and weak emergence.
In the third section, we will look at the idea of integrative levels, how synergies give rise to pattern formation and the emergence of new levels of organization called integrative levels. We will talk about how these different levels come to have their own irreducible internal structure and processes that result in a complex dynamic between the micro and macro levels of organization. In the last section of the book, we will look at how emergence plays out over time within some process. We will talk about the edge of chaos hypothesis; how self-organizing, emergent systems never quite lock into place but instead evolve through a dynamic interplay between order and disorder, to create novel phenomena at new levels of complexity.
This is an introductory book and is non-technical, however, it is important to note that the concept of emergence is highly abstract, to do it justice we will have to use high-level abstractions, as such students will need to feel comfortable with formal abstract models. The book should be accessible without need for any specific background in science and should be of relevance to many different domains, in particular for those in the areas of computer science, biology and ecology, philosophy, the cognitive sciences and anyone with an interest in better understanding this central concept with the complexity and systems theory framework.