Basic Concepts: An introduction to the concept of emergence

Among the various species living on earth, which is the most successful? It’s tempting to consider humans as the most successful one. But the answer to this question is not as easy as it seems.

Yes, we have the ability to talk. We are able to communicate with words. We are one of the few species who are able to transfer what they have learned to the next generation via something beyond genes and genetics. We are one of the most powerful and creative tool-maker animals ever existed. But does it mean that we are the most successful inhabitant on the planet earth?

To find the most successful species, it’s necessary to define success. May we could call ourselves one of the most complex ones, but complexity is not an advantage on its own.

Survival can be considered as one of the greatest success criteria. The whole concept of complexity is grown around survival. Even if we don’t know the question behind the creation, the answer is crystal clear: We leave the playground in favor of more professional players!

Would not be hard to guess that humans are not necessarily the last surviving entity on the earth. There are many other species with more chance. Ants are one of them.

A history of living for more than 300 million years on the earth and diversification into more than 10000 species are just two indicators showing their success on the planet. Considering they are more resistant than humans on bearing hostile and harsh environmental conditions, it can make their survival possible even after our extinction.

From the ant’s point of view with more than 300 million years of life, appearance and extinction of humans within hundred thousands of years is not anything longer than a thunder sound: loud and frightening but short!

 What have helped them to be one the most successful species as we know they have one of the simplest brains ever known to us? Something we can call the social brain.

Ants and termites and similar insects are eusocial. They live together and despite the fact that every single ant has a very simple mind, the ant society has a complicated adaptive social mind. Every ant works like a neuron and every communication between ants works like a synaptic connection.

Here lies the main concept behind emergence:

A process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit that properties.

A single ant is not as successful as an individual human. But the ant society is clearly more successful and more adaptable than the human society with a much brighter future on the planet.

The concept of emergence has a tight connection to the concept of living and predictability. Generally, most of the emerged behaviors of the systems are more complex and less predictable than the behavior of their individual components. And here’s the starting point of the delusion. where we started to put tags on the emergent characteristics which we could not analyze. Living, spirit and intuition, to name a few.

Before any further discussion, would be helpful if you take a look to the following articles:

Life of termites as eusocial insects

predictability and the living things.