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Emergence, Reduction & Artificial Intelligence

IEET Fellow Ben Goertzel formalized emergence in his book ‘The Evolving Mind’ as patterns that appear when you put two or more things together that are not there in any of the individual parts. The concept of emergence is controversial to some - for example Eliezer Yudkowski, who favors reductionism, wrote a critique at Less Wrong.  Do reductionists often dismiss emergence?

The Attack of the Aliens from Vector Space: Steps Toward a Complex Systems Theory of Categorization and Similarity: (Emergence & Compression) Extract: “The important concept of emergent pattern is defined: a pattern emerges between two entities if it is present in the combination of the two entities, but not in either of the entities separately. And the structural complexity of an entity is defined as the “total amount” of pattern in it. If the Metapattern is accepted, then these two concepts become essential to any analysis of biological reality.

We turn from these abstractions to a concrete biological example: the mammalian immune system. The theory of clonal selection states that immune systems evolve by natural selection; using the computer simulations of Alan Perelson, Rob deBoer and their colleagues as a guide, we inquire as to the exact nature of this evolution.

We conclude that, in immune systems, survival is roughly proportional to emergence: those antibodies which generate a large amount of emergent pattern in conjunction with other antibodies, will tend to survive.

It is argued that this correlation between emergence and survival also applies to the evolution of species: that an organism which generates a large amount of emergent pattern in conjunction with its environment will tend to survive. Since the environment of each organism consists partially of other organisms, this implies that an ecosystem is an enormously complex “system of pattern equations.” This principle is illustrated with biological examples.”


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