Systems can surprise us. Out of neurons comes consciousness. Out of cars, traffic jams.
You’ve probably heard of emergent properties like these, which follow from the properties of the parts but belong only to the whole. Just as interesting but less discussed are submergent properties, in which the causal arrow points down rather than up. Latent system properties get buried in components. The group changes the individual.
Submergent properties are fascinating because they push against reductionism and emphasize the importance of the system. They also remind us of the porous boundary between a system and its parts. As we like to remind ourselves at Nautilus, following Blake, the world really can be seen in a grain of sand.
Welcome to “Systems.”Read the Issue