Part of the Process
Emergence is often related to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This idea is true in many ways, but there are also different ways of understanding what it means for one thing to be part of another. With emergence, it is necessary to change how we generally think about part-whole relationships.
GETTING TO THE BEST PART
In our everyday lives, we use the noun, “part,” to refer to a wide range of part-whole relationships. A slice is part of a pie. The filling can be part of a pie as well. Even its ingredients could be considered part of a pie. Usually, though, the best part of a pie is how it tastes.
CAN YOU SOLVE THE PUZZLE?
To understand emergence, we need to think of parts in a specific way. Normally, when we think of part-whole relationships, we’re imagining some sort of jigsaw puzzle. The parts are like puzzle pieces we put together to form the whole picture. Emergence is a special kind of puzzle in which the pieces aren’t physical shapes but rather forms of interaction.
PART OF A PATTERN
Parts can be organized into three patterns of interaction: independent, dependent, and interdependent. What independent interactions are individual parts involved in? What dependent interactions are happening between parts? What interdependent interactions are happening among all of the parts? These patterns are the puzzle pieces from which a picture emerges.
PUTTING ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER
Patterns help us organize interactions. Just as parts can be integrated into wholes, patterns of interaction can be integrated into more complex patterns of interaction. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s a lot of interaction, which tends to get messy both literally and figuratively. That’s where levels come in.