Emergence refers to the unexpected manifest ion of unique phenomena appearing in a complex system in the absence of top-down control. It can refer both these novel global phenomena themselves (such as ant trails, Benard rolls or traffic jams) or the mathematical regularities associated with the phenomena (such as Power Laws ).
Emergence is intriguing due in part from its unexpectedness. When we see birds flock or schools of fish, they appear to operate as an integrated whole, yet the whole appears with no specific bird or fish 'in-charge'. Emergent wholes appear through Bottom-up processes that nonetheless yield structure.
Many social scientists are interested in the philosophical implications of emergent phenomena. Emergence poses ontological questions concerning where agency is located, since phenomena arising from agent behaviors at the local level gives rise to emergent manifestations at the global level, which then constrains subsequent agent behaviors. Hermann Haken frames this through the idea of Enslaved State where agents in a system, therefore, come to be constrained as a result of phenomena they themselves created.
Emergence is a concept that has become popular to speak about within urban discourses. However, the way in which the concept is used varies considerably. For example, Urban Modeling tends to highlight the Emerg. of mathematical regularities that manifest both in real cities and in their simulations. Those engaged in the field of Evolutionary Economic Geog. are intrigued by physical patterns of organization (noted as 'clusters' of firms) that appear in urban settings, but are less concerned with the ratios or mathematical power-law attributes of such clusters.
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