What is an emergent property and how does it relate to the way we as human beings function?

I was working with a group of people this afternoon and this question came up for me. I thought it was something neat to ponder. Why don’t you ponder for the evening and then we can congregate and share?


Add yours Comments – 62

  • Darwin

    on October 3, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    Oh! Sorry! I had a “philosophical” moment there and did not answer the question!

    It is said that the term “emergent property” is an aspect of the “whole” and not the “parts”.


    You can have eggs and you can have bacon but it is not considered to be/have “emergent property” until it is breakfast.

    Of course…

    It MIGHT only be considered “emergent property” when the bacon combines with your arteries to form a heart attack.

    Or is that putting the cart before the horse?

    Is it an “emergent property” when sodium and chlorine come together and make salty?

    Or does it wait until it grows up into MSG?

    Potash (mineral commodity) by ITSELF tastes salty!

    Is it then pre or post or even “neutral” in it’s emergent properties?

    Or perhaps it is the MOMENT the heart attack combines with the crash cart and the doctor and THEN the “emergent property” is the subesequent bill for services?


    Philosophy IS a dog chasng it’s tail.

  • Bouroux

    on October 3, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Allison.
    A good example of emergent property. The ultimate question physical and most fundamental of all perhaps, that time!

    This time allows us to think, choose to be free. This time we finished that limit. This physical concept is ultimately at the root of all our existential anxieties which philosophy and / or religion, each in their register, trying to find answers.
    Can we explain scientifically the existence and nature of time as an emergent property of a basic geometric texture? The subject of time is not unrelated to the concept of symmetry breaking mentioned above. Indeed, everyone knows that a microscopic mechanical Newton is strictly symmetrical and does not distinguish past or future. Yet, in our scale, this symmetry is really broken: we remember yesterday and not tomorrow! This is a broken symmetry that affects us in the depths of our being and our conscience!
    How a society composed of thousands of ants can be as well organized without a communication system and computers?

  • r kappz

    on October 3, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    My grandfather wrote about an emergent conscience. A quick rundown is that an emergent conscience as it implies a persons sense of self is created without, not within, would mean that peoples actions not only dictate our reality and have a direct effect on others but may also be the ONLY thing which effects us. No such thing as instinct, just thoughts or feelings we don’t recognize as eminating from our mind. For instance if a person is not born wanting to be a lawyer, outside influences caused by others will eventually make him/her want to be a lawyer, even if that person doesn’t recognize the external sources that made her/him choose to be a lawyer. It sounds like a more elaborate explanation of karma. I guess the opposite of emergent consciousness would be a soul. So with that in mind the only logical way to live so that nobody suffers is for everyone to always do good things at all times for all people equally.

  • Anti-spud

    on October 3, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Hey Allison, I appreciate all you have done to form an online community here at allisonmack.com, but I would like to ask some questions about your recent blogging.

    Your recent blogging has put great emphasis onto fan discussion, with yourself at times taking a backseat in content and merely guiding the conversation. Do you feel that this has caused a decline in the quality of your own input into this blog?

    Also, I have noticed that you rarely receive any negative comments (in the vein of constructive criticism and honest opinion.) Although I respect that your fans have no right to place demands on you, and that this is your blog lovingly created for fans with you baring your soul for us. I would like to ask, do you ever feel the need for some negative feedback and honest opinion, so you can gather feedback on your blogging and progress your communication with your fan base?

    Although my questions hint negativity towards recent blogs, I would just like to say that I respect and admire you as an amazing talent in acting and a figure of online blogging. My questions are not meant with any negative intent.

  • Brittany

    on October 4, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Hey Allison! I would completely give you my opinion on an emergent property if I knew what it was. Sounds like an interesting topic though. I hope you have an excellent weekend! Love, your biggest fan, BrittanyXXOX

  • Bouroux

    on October 4, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Allison.
    It’s a nice combination of beauty and innocence.

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    While the majority of these films have played at international film festivals, occasionally you’ll find films that have never before screened for wide audiences.

    All films playing in the YouTube Screening Room are displayed within our High Quality player to give you the best viewing experience possible.

    Be a part of a new generation of filmmaking and distribution and help us connect films and audiences in the world’s largest theater!

    Do you think that we can see Alice & Huck on this website?

    Have a good weekend.


  • paul

    on October 5, 2008 at 4:37 am

    “Reduction-minded ‘mechanists’, who supposed that the processes of life were governed wholly by physical-chemical principles, contended with the extreme anti-reductionist ‘vitalists,’ who posited an entelechy, a primitive substance or directing principle embodied in the organism which guided such characteristic vital processes as embryonic development and the regeneration of lost parts. Emergentists sought to develop a middle way, eschewing vital substances but retaining — in some sense — irreducibly vital qualities or processes.”
    ( source: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    I see a certain parallel between the theory of emergent properties and the theory of intelligent design. The latter is a compromise also, a less dogmatic and perhaps a more palatable version of Creationism. A compromise between hard rationalism and spirituality.

    Those “irreducible vital qualities” mentioned above seem to me similar to the idea of an abstract creative and directing force (perhaps short of an actual deity) posited by Intelligent Design. To my mind, both are a refusal to let go of the mystical.

    I think it is natural, when we are faced with phenomena that are incredibly complex and beautiful, that are beyond our immediate or complete understanding, to want to believe that there is something mystical at work. As human knowledge advances, the mystical has been driven further into the corners, and so we tend to cling tenaciously to the remnants that are left. It’s our security blanket.

    Personally, I want to throw away the security blanket. I find inspiration in those throughout history who have embraced hard rationalism, denied their gods, and unveiled mysteries.

  • Tony

    on October 5, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Response to: “Personally, I want to throw away the security blanket. I find inspiration in those throughout history who have embraced hard rationalism, denied their gods, and unveiled mysteries.”

    I see a strong positive vein in the above comment. It reflects a desire to not be led by our fears into embracing superstitious behavior that has no relevance to the living of our lives.

    What I want is to hold on to the best of everything. What if my “security” blanket is a real blanket? I might want to keep warm. I don’t want to limit myself because I’ve “embraced hard rationalism.” I’ve never read deeply into Intelligent Design discussion, but I see no conflict between the phrase and my reasoning skills, whatever it is that they are. That there would be intelligence behind the complexities of the worlds we observe seems likely to me. And that is a thing that I want to embrace. That means that I don’t have to parrot what any man or woman has said before me, religious, scientific, or whatever. It means that I can choose to learn from everyone as my capacity allows, and choosing means power. It means the using of my intellect, which I choose to believe was made possible to me by a creator.

    After all, those scientists who have unveiled mysteries have done so by using intelligence in some way, not by lying in bed or where they were born and simply existing until some new understanding evolved.

  • Vegas911

    on October 6, 2008 at 7:27 am

    @ Michael L….Thank you so much for the warm wishes……It’s all love here @ AM.com

  • SolShine7

    on October 7, 2008 at 3:42 am

    When I see the word “emergent” I automatically think about Christians and the church. It’s one of those buzz words being tossed around lately. And it usually has to do with Christians who are hipsters, who are into social justice and obscure indie music and those kind of things.

    I’m not sure if that’s what you’re looking for but that’s what came to mind.

    Pondering can be so much fun. 😉

  • Ruth

    on October 9, 2008 at 5:36 am

    How does emergent property effect the way we live as humans? We are the collective product of many. It’s more than outer influences by those around us that effect the way we live and interact. We are connected in a deeper sense. I would say that collective consciousness is an emergent property, that we are evolving to higher level of awareness as a world community. We have a lot growing to do still, but it is moving and inspiring to see the empathy, compassion and creativity that results when we are aware of that connection.

  • Ruth

    on October 14, 2008 at 7:40 am

    I guess the beauty of that connection is in the individual qualities we bring to the table…how we together effect our world as a whole and in our personal interactions of everyday life.