I have, over the course of the recent year, become obsessed with emergence.
In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergence is central to the theories of integrative levels and of complex systems.
Complex systems are everywhere. They manifest in the form of ecology, neurology, sociology, the web, the list goes on an on.
Complex systems which are emergent simply occur. As a global culture we have abandoned (and must continue to abolish) top down systems and instead enable conditions for emergent behavior to occur. Our planet has worked in an emergent way for billions of years. Humans have flipped the equation and attempted to systematically organize the world for administrative purposes. This has proven an unsustainable approach. Monarchies have tried and invariably failed. Our school system is highly restrictive and does not encourage emergent learning behaviors. The American experiment is, I believe, a testament to the enabling power of emergent environments. The “American Dream” is a cliche set of ideals but I believe it should instead be viewed as the dream of people in societies where emergent behavior and innovation is stifled or simply not possible due to any number of political or social restraints.
The question is how can we leverage our knowledge of existing emergent systems to develop new ones which continue to work for us as we manipulate our environment (which we will inevitably continue to do) in the future? Pursuit of the development of emergent design is already brewing in the realms of art and architecture as well as in computer science, and biology (forgive me if I forgot some fields).
I leave the question open as to how we move forward because the very act of suggesting possibilities may begin to limit the imagination.