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Stewart Dean's Guide to Artificial Life

Emergence - more that the sum of parts..

Life and Alife are both an emergent property. The best way to explain an emergent property is to say this is what you get when something is more than the sum of its parts. Human thought is reliant on nearly all the cells that make up the brain. If you cut out sections the results are completely different. A single cell is incapable of thought it is and emergent property of all the cells of a brain*. This is true for all cells.

A single cell cannot do much without interaction with other cells. A single cell has no concept of the whole. To be more precise a single cell usually has no concepts at all. A cell runs by the rules built into it. Yet in combination it can play its part in producing complex results. This is also the theory behind Cellular Automata, explained in the next section. Using these terms it is possible to say that life on this planet is an emergent property with each part, cell, creature(according to Gaiaism) playing a part in the whole.

Emergence, that act that leads to an emergent property, will feature several times in this report as it is yet another global theory that can be applied to everything. As with the concept of aLife, no one discipline or world view has a Monopoly on it. Emergence can and does crop up where it is not expected. For example the American phone system is now so complex its started doing things a) it was not designed to do and b) people do not want to happen. After much research someone pointed out that they were the results of emergence.

Gaia - the planet as a lifeform..

In 1972 the biologist Jame Lovelock released, along with microbiologist Lynn Margulis, his view that the Earth can be seen as one living thing. For example the vegetation of the Earth help regulate the temperature of the Earth. The whole of nature can be seen to be a dynamic equilibrium, each part has a baring on all other parts. Its very difficult to find out how closely knitted the interdependencies and often our actions against nature can lead to unexpected or indirect results.

Please send any corrections, comments or additions to: alife(at)stewdean(dot)com

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