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Emergent Behaviour and Society


1) Extensive evidence demonstrates that emergent behaviour shapes groups of people.

2) Modern society is a group of people.

3) Therefore, emergent behaviour shapes modern society.



Emergent behaviour can be a powerful ally. However, if emergent behaviour is working against us, it can create enormous problems. Determining how society is being shaped could enable us to use emergent behaviour to solve some of the biggest problems facing modern society.


These problems include:


1) ecosystem decline

2) over population

3) wealth inequality

4) climate change

5) increasing isolation within first world countries

6) starvation in poor countries

What is Emergent Behaviour?


What does emergent behaviour look like? It is all around us. It is the way molecules interact, your body functions, and nature balances.

A simple example is flocking birds. Tracking a single bird gives no meaningful information. Watching the flock as a whole is mesmerising.


The shape of a flock of birds is determined by emergent behaviour. It can be seen by observing as big a group of birds as possible. 



If you zoom in to watch a one or two birds, the pattern disappears.

Below is an example of human emergent behaviour. Note that nothing is controlling the flow of people. Each individual moves on their own path. At the group level, a smooth flow emerges.

Below is an example of people being controlled by robots -- traffic lights in this case. Note the stop/start nature of artificial control. This method requires society to pay for technology, maintenance, establish bureaucratically administered rules and enforcement in order to function.

Human Emergent Behaviour

Rule Based Behaviour (not emergent behaviour)