Lewis Thomas defined emerging systems in 1973

Above all, we must preserve the absolute unpredictability and total improbability of our interconnected minds. In that way we can keep all possibilities open, as we have done in the past.

It would be nice to have better methods of monitoring the changes, to be able to recognize them as they are occurring... Perhaps computers can make this possible, although I rather doubt it. Simulated models of cities can be created, but what can be deduced from them is that they seem to be beyond intelligent analysis... This is interesting , given that a city is the largest possible concentration of human beings and they all exert as much influence as they are willing to bear. The city seems to have a life of its own. If we can't understand how it works, we won't get very far in the general understanding of human society.

And yet, it should be possible. Put together, the great mass of human minds around the world seems to behave like a coherent living system. The problem is that the flow of information is almost always unidirectional. We are all obsessed with the need to provide information as fast as we can, but we lack efficient mechanisms to extract something in return. I confess to knowing no more about what goes on in the human mind than I do about an ant. Come to think of it, that might be a good starting point.

Lewis Thomas, 1973

Read in the foreword of Emerging systems

As early as 1973, Lewis Thomas, an American physician, poet, etymologist, essayist, administrator, educator, policy advisor, and researcher. He made a synthetic definition of the phenomenon of emergence. It is as valid today as when he made it, moreover, today there are many phenomena that can be explained from this perspective.


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