complexity and emergence: a workshop on disentanglement
Work in complexity theory since roughly the 1980s, has focused on large but homogeneous systems such as transactions in a market, impacts between sand- grains in a windswept dune, or synaptic activity among neurons, in part because they are easy to model in large, straightforward systems of binary operators. This workshop addresses smaller but less straightforward and heterogeneous systems of multifunctioning operators.
Work on emergence most notably addresses the huge and intractable leaps from chemistry to life or from life to mind. Where emergence is associated with predictability, a philosophical problem arises that once we understand an instance or kind of emergence, it becomes predictable and no longer, in the strong sense, emergent.
This workshop uses the weaker sense of emergence in which phenomena of a type not identiﬁable in a set of parts emerge from the conﬁguration of elements. The questions raised and games played in this workshop explore concepts of convolution, diversity, richness, depth, non-linearity, and so on in the smallest and most constrained systems possible. This challenges us to sharpen our appreciation of such concepts or phenomena. Even if we don’t arrive at common deﬁnitions, the experience offers emergent results such as improved abilities to analyse and design larger and open-ended systems.
KEYWORDS: emergence, space and form, simplicity and complexity, order, negentropy