More From Emergence By Steven Johnson

Cover of "Emergence: The Connected Lives ...

Cover via Amazon

In Part Two of Emergence by Steven Johnson, Deborah Gordon of Stanford University is discussing ant colonies and the author brings up five fundamental principles that are needed to build a system from the ground level. These are:

(1) More is different.

We need to have critical mass ( a sufficient number to study) in order to make an intelligent judgment and only by observing the entire system can be understand the system’s behavior.

(2) Ignorance is useful.

The stupidity of ants and the simplicity of their language actually is a feature rather than a problem because emergent behavior needs to remain simple rather than complicated.

(3) Encourage random encounters.

Ants need to have interaction with other ant colonies in order to change the colony if need be because of ever-changing environmental circumstances.

(4) Look for patterns in the signs.

This principle reminded me of really spending time determining noise in a system from the signal. I love this quote from page 79:

“Smelling the pheromones of a single forager ant means little, but smelling the pheromones of fifty foragers in the space of an hour imparts information about the global state of the colony.”

(5) Pay attention to your neighbors.

Also, on page 79:

“Local information can lead to global wisdom.”

According to the author this is the most important lesson the ants have to give us.

I am in the process of beginning a new business and these five principles are going to play a significant part in building my business.


One thought on “More From Emergence By Steven Johnson

  1. Pingback: Finished Reading: Emergence By Steven Johnson | Consilient Interest

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