Emergence: A Powerful but Little Known Notion

Lee Smolin in his book, "The Trouble with Physics" first brought my attention to the concept of emergence. This is a very powerful approach to physics and potentially other sciences. Smolin describes emergence as something new is able to manifest itself from something that was previously not present. For example the mind emerges from the brain.

Note by comparison, synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and emergence is when the whole is different from the sum of its parts.

It has been contended that since something cannot come out of nothing, emergence therefore requires that all emerging properties must come from a medium that is complex else it is magic. And we definitely cannot have that in physics, can we? This is a paradox. How can something new emerge when it already exist?

To keep things clear, I will use the term "medium" to describe "what was there'. I have placed some conceptual restrains on emergence to eliminate potential paradoxes. These are:
1. New: New properties emerge from the medium.
2. Stimulus: A stimulus is required to bring about a new property.
3. Resemblance: The new property cannot resemble the stimulus, else it is not new.
4. External Factor: The new property is not dependent on an external factor.
5. Form: The stimulus alters the form of the medium, and constrained by (3).
6. Inheritance: Objects inherit the properties of the medium that it emerged from.
7. Reversion: Objects can exhibit a reversion to the properties they inherited.

Of course the stimulus property postpones the discussion of whether physics is derived from magic or not, as we don't know how it originated. We can wait on that answer. The seven constraints provide a structured approach to dealing with emergence.

Now we can illustrate that General Relativity (GR) is not consistent with emergence. In GR the gravitational field is essentially a downward pointing funnel with objects "falling down". If mass were exotic or negative (now invalidated) the funnel would be upside down and objects are repelled by "falling down" this inverted funnel. Therefore this downward movement is external to the medium of spacetime as it exists in spite of the orientation of the funnel. Therefore, by (4) GR is no longer consistent with emergence, i.e. GR is not emergence compliant.

The massless gravitational acceleration formula g=tau.c^2 is based on acceleration specifically in the direction of the greater time dilation transformation (see my earlier articles). That is by (1) a new property, acceleration emerges from the medium of spacetime, and by (5) the form of spacetime has been compressed. By (3) acceleration does not resemble the increased time dilation, and by (4), unlike GR, no external factors are present. By (2) matter is the stimulus that brings about acceleration, the new property. That is, the theoretical underpinnings for g=tau.c^2 is emergence compliant.

Very briefly I have illustrated the importance of emergence in developing new theories, which is in dire need if we are to develop gravity modification and interstellar propulsion technologies.

Coming back to the emergence of the mind from the brain. Can we build an electronic mind from an electronic brain with existing electronics technologies per Ray Kurzweil? We can now answer that question in the negative. Why? Many factors come into play. First, per (2) the stimulus is missing, and we don't know what it is in the biological brain. Second, the medium, in this case, the electronics, must per (5) lend itself to changing form. The biological brain is an ocean of electromagnetic activity, and neighboring changes impinge on each other. We don't see an equivalent with current electronics. And finally, per (3) resemblance, hardware remains hardware, and software remains software. Nothing new, like an ocean of electromagnetic activity, is created with current electronics technologies.

My apologies I hadn't expected a negative, but at least we can now see that for the electronic mind to be feasible it would require further leaps in technologies.