## Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Groningen's online course, Decision Making in a Complex and Uncertain World. Join the course to learn more.
2.4

## University of Groningen

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds All right. This was a beautiful movie right in the previous step and really fascinates me to see how the metronome seemingly through magic cooperate and synchronise as a military group in action. What is really happening here is communication between the metronome. Have you noticed how the floor was moving? And the floor was basically the medium through which the metronomes were communicating. And the more the metronomes performed synchronous behaviour, the stronger the force became to further synchronise. And this is typically the process of self reinforcement or what is known as self organisation.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second The later you are in the process of the metronomes, the more metronomes behave the same and the stronger the force upon the other metronome gets to comply to what appears to be a norm. If you look very careful at the movie, you can watch it again. Take a close look at the most right metronome on the second row and enjoy how this metronome first tries to resist against the norm. But ultimately also this metronome has to give in.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds Now here, we’re talking about emergence. And emergence is defined, for example, by Joshua Goldstein, as “the arising of novel and coherent structures, patterns and properties during the process of self organisation in complex systems.” These complex systems involve systems with a lot of agents that are interacting. Here, we have 32 metronome that all were interacting through this common floor. So what we see is self organisation of synchronised behaviour. That’s emergence. The other way around, the other principle is called downward causation. And downward causation refers to how this group behaviour imposes the norm to individuals. Donald Campbell defines this as the causal relationship from higher levels of a system, all the metronomes together to lower level parts of that system, individual metronome.

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 seconds So the force on this individual metronome to comply to the norm is the downward causation. We’re talking here about the micro-macro interaction. The micro individual level leads to macro phenomena. And the macro phenomena in turn define what the behavioural possibilities of the individuals on the micro level are. This tension or this relation between the micro and macro level interaction are already recognised with Aristotle. And now, we just a very simple yet intriguing example of metronomes. But the question is how does this is work in a society. Because we are obviously interested in emergent phenomena in our human society . How does this principle of emergence work in living organisms, in what we say complex, adaptive systems? Take for example, ants.

Skip to 4 minutes and 7 seconds How do ants organise themselves? What kind of emergent phenomenon can be seen in the life of ants? In the next step, I would like you to take a close look at a very interesting movie that was made by Edward Wilson of the Harvard University.

# What is emergence?

How are these metronomes relevant? What does this tell us about emergence and communication in emergent phenomena?