Emergence

May Chin was telling me how the word “emerging” suddenly popped out more and more in the news lately. I found it amusing because when I use the words “emerging”, “emergent” and “emergence” they draw out quite interesting and even contrasting responses – some connect it with how the early church was emerging, others may see another “trend” lurking or equate it with a phase, one or two might not know what to do with it. At times, it can be frustrating but I guess it’s important to allow “new” & “unfamiliar” words to get our lazy brains sending more signals (i.e. thinking) and I think it’s also important to look at “old” & “familiar” words like “Evangelism” (which I’ll be doing later at 5pm with a bunch of university students) and recapture is lost essence. Mental pictures always helps … like this section from the chapter “Why am I Emergent” in A Generous Orthodoxy (p. 276)

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Also about this time Steven Johnson’s bestselling Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software was published. The book explored how a community (of ants, of slime mold spores, of city dwellers) can be smarter than its consituents, how new levels of intelligience emerge from the interaction of lesser intelligiences:

Emergence is what happens when the whole is smarter than the sum of its partts. It’s what happens when you have a system of relatively simple-minded component parts — often there are thousands or millions of them — and they interact in relatively simple ways. and yet somehow out of all this intercation some higher-level structure or intelligience appears, usually without any master planner calling the shots. These kinds of systems tend to evolve from the ground up.


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