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A proposed new concept in the science of emergence

  Emergence occurs in complex systems when new structures, patterns, behaviors, or properties arise from the collective interactions of con...

 Emergence occurs in complex systems when new structures, patterns, behaviors, or properties arise from the collective interactions of constituent parts that are not present in the individual components of the complex systems.

The emergent properties help our world to function and be interpreted independently at different levels. It is not necessary to consider nuclear forces for chemical reactions, just as social movements can be interpreted without considering the cooperation of brain neurons that cause human behavior. The emergent properties establish the separation of scales in our world.

Consequently, it is not possible to understand the world only through the functioning of its components, but it is necessary to examine the structure of the world as a complex system at a given level to understand its functioning. The laws of the lower levels of systems that create the higher level typically do not hold at the higher level, where new laws are valid and emerge. The emergent properties can be traced back, at least in part, to the forming equilibrium of interactions at the lower levels and the origin of the emergence of new properties resulting from the accumulation of effects acting in the same direction of the cooperating components of the system. 

In the classification of emergence, we distinguish two fundamentally different categorizations, weak and strong emergent properties. 

Strong emergence is the phenomenon where higher-level properties of a system arise from the interactions of its parts in a way that cannot be explained by understanding the interacting parts alone. Strongly emergent properties are not derivable, even in principle, from the lower-level laws and interactions that govern the components of the system. Strong emergent properties are fundamentally new and cannot be reduced in any way to the components of the system. Given this definition, the weak emergent property has a similarly unambiguous description.

According to the definition, however, there cannot be strong emergent properties in the form defined. A property that is produced by the combined interaction of the components of complex systems, but that cannot be traced back to the interactions of the components, and thus cannot be explained in any way by the interactions of the components that make up the system, could not be consistent with the current view of how our world works. The existence of a strong emergent property as defined above would essentially violate the principle of cause and effect that is fundamental to the way our world works according to our experience. By the above definition of strong emergence, a strong emergent property cannot exist because of the violation of causality in our world.

Thus, what we consider to be a strong emergent property is actually a consequence of our current knowledge, or rather our actual ignorance, since we do not yet understand the cause of the emergence of the phenomenon in the given complex system. So in essence, in this sense, there are only weak emergent properties, or simply only emergent properties that exist. 

(The previous thought about the origin of emergence has a new proposal for classification under a new definition of weak and strong emergence.)

Complex systems can also form non-emergent new properties that are not the result of complex interactions of the system, for example such as those arising from threshold potentials. For example, in the case of a single photon of the appropriate wavelength, it is difficult to interpret the sight of the color yellow, or in the case of a single sodium and chloride ion, the sensation of salty taste, but in the presence of enough photons of the necessary wavelength, or in the presence of enough sodium and chloride ions, the properties are clearly present. The appearance of the yellow color or the sensation of salty taste is not a classical emergent property, its origin is related to a threshold value characteristic of the system, rather than a new, previously non-existent property arising from the interactions of the complex system.

There may also be properties that are emergent in one system and non-emergent in another. The appearance of the rainbow can be formed in a natural emergent way, or it can be created in a direct way by the appropriate use of proper paints of colors.

However, it seems worthwhile to divide emergent properties into two groups, considering new definitions of emergent behaviors based on their occurrence in complex systems. According to a new definition, a new class of emergence can be defined when a certain emergent property can occur in physically completely different complex systems as a result of constituent interactions, and another that can occur only in a specific physical system.  

If we accept the new definition, we can then ask, how can we classify consciousness according to this new definition. Consciousness is typically considered a strong emergent property in the original sense of the categorization of emergent properties, because the phenomenon of consciousness does not seem to be explainable by the complex interaction of neurons alone. This assumption is most likely flawed, a consequence of our ignorance, since, for example, the biochemical effect of anesthetics, which definitely act on neurons, can switch off consciousness altogether. 

According to this new proposed definition, it may be much more interesting to examine - among other kinds of emergence - the categorization of consciousness as an emergent property according to this new definition. Can consciousness appear in an emergent form not only through the complex cooperation of neurons? Can there be, for example, a computer-based consciousness that is not directly generated, but emerges? Is life emergent only in biochemical systems?

As a generalization, we can also ask, according to this new conception of emergence, whether is it possible to define a generally valid, necessarily existing property of a complex system as a prerequisite for the form of emergence according to this new classification?

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