As Steven Johnson explains with a rare lucidity in Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software
, an individual ant, like an individual neuron, is just about as dumb as can be. Connect enough of them together properly, though, and you get spontaneous intelligence. Starting with the weird behaviour of the semi-colonial organisms we call slime molds, Johnson details the development of increasingly complex and familiar behaviour among simple components: cells, insects and software developers all find their place in greater schemes.
Most game players, alas, live on something close to day-trader time, at least when they're in the middle of a game--thinking more about their next move than their next meal, and usually blissfully oblivious to the 10-or-20-year trajectory of software development. No-one wants to play with a toy that's going to be fun after a few decades of tinkering--the toys have to be engaging now, or kids will find other toys.
Johnson has a knack for explaining complicated and counterintuitive ideas cleverly without stealing the scene. Though we're far from fully understanding how complex behaviour manifests from simple units and rules, our awareness that such emergence is possible is guiding research across disciplines. Readers unfamiliar with the sciences of complexity will find Emergence an excellent starting point, while those who were chaotic before it was cool will appreciate its updates and wider scope. --Rob Lightner
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
" Mind-expanding...intelligent, witty and tremendously thought-provoking" -- The Guardian
"A delight...clever and thought provoking" -- Washington Post
"A dizzying, dazzling romp through fields as disparate as urban planning, computer game design, neurology and control theory" -- The Economist
"Fascinating and timely" -- Steven Pinker
A successful and fluent attempt to put complexity theory at the service of cultural criticism" -- Independent, Books of the Year