13 Nov 2022 02:04 - 07 Sep 2023 05:40
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    • I've occasionally felt the same way – that talk of "emergent phenomenona" is mindless prattle – but if EY is saying it then it is probably wrong. Not wrong exactly, but midwit – the thought of someone who thinks himself far clever than he actually is.
    • “Emergence” has become very popular, just as saying “magic” used to be very popular. “Emergence” has the same deep appeal to human psychology, for the same reason. “Emergence” is such a wonderfully easy explanation, and it feels good to say it; it gives you a sacred mystery to worship. Emergence is popular *because *it is the junk food of curiosity. You can explain anything using emergence, and so people do just that; for it feels so wonderful to explain things
    • Well, I am trying to get myself to believe in magic, so.
    • He is right that just saying "emergence" is not an explanation. But as an idea, it points to an important set of real phenomena – and the nature of higher level things like persons. Persons are an emergent phenomenon of neurons and the physical environment – that does not explain them, but it suggests what the proper form of explanations should be – that is, acknowledging the reality of the high level phenomena (intelligence, culture) while acknowledging its implementation in terms of the lower level (physics, signal processing).
    • The metaphorical high- and low- markers are a bit suspect, but never mind that, it is simply the case that reality has things going on at different levels and they require different languages of description. A Beethoven composition can't be broken down to an analysis in terms of physical forces, even theoretically. That is just a fact of life. So it's either supernatural (that is, completely outside the physical world), or its emergent from the physical world, arising from it if not quite of it.
    • Note

      • Omigod I actually dropped a comment on this post 15 years ago! No response though:
        • Emergence is an annoyingly vague concept, but that doesn't mean it's an empty one.
        • One meaning of emergence is "decentralized control". In a free market economy, prices and other properties are emergent from a large set of transactions among distributed agents, in contrast to a centrally planned and controlled economy. So there's something that is not emergent, or less emergent. Similarly, it used to be thought that a bee colony was controlled by the queen, but now we know that its activity is also the result of the work of distributed agents. It didn't have to be that way, so we have found an instance of emergence where we might have found something else. In AI, there are emergentist approaches like neural nets or genetic algorithms, or the old-school symbolic approach which is top-down and designed.
        • So it's clear that emergence is not meaningless. But you are right, it is not an explanation for anything. If you've found that a bee colony is decentralized, you still have to tease out the rules and interactions of the various agents involved.