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Emergence: From Chaos To Order (Helix Books) Paperback – April 23, 1999


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Emergence: From Chaos To Order (Helix Books) + Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Helix Books) + COMPLEXITY: THE EMERGING SCIENCE AT THE EDGE OF ORDER AND CHAOS
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Product Details

  • Series: Helix Books
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738201421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738201429
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Emergence" is the notion that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. John Holland, a MacArthur Fellow known as the "father of genetic algorithms," says this seemingly simple notion will be at the heart of the development of machines that can think for themselves. And while he claims that he'd rather do science than write about it, this is his second scientific philosophy book intended to increase public understanding of difficult concepts (his first was Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity). One of the questions that Holland says emergence theory can help answer is: can we build systems from which more comes out than was put in? Think of the food replicators in the imaginary future of Star Trek--with some basic chemical building blocks and simple rules, those machines can produce everything from Klingon delicacies to Earl Grey tea. If scientists can understand and apply the knowledge they gather from studying emergent systems, we may soon witness the development of artificial intelligence, nanotech, biological machines, and other creations heretofore confined to science fiction. Using games, molecules, maps, and scientific theories as examples, Holland outlines how emergence works, emphasizing the interrelationships of simple rules and parts in generating a complex whole. Because of the theoretical depth, this book probably won't appeal to the casual reader of popular science, but those interested in delving a little deeper into the future of science and engineering will be fascinated. Holland's writing, while sometimes self-consciously precise, is clear, and he links his theoretical arguments to examples in the real world whenever possible. Emergence offers insight not just to scientific advancement, but across many areas of human endeavor--business, the arts, even the evolution of society and the generation of new ideas. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Emergence, where simple systems generate complex ones, is a fundamental concept in many modern scientific theories. Phenomena as diverse as a game of checkers, neural networks, and even the origin of life are emergent. Holland, the developer of "genetic algorithms," demonstrates how mathematical models can represent the essential elements of emergent systems. Though the subject is arcane, Holland's emphasis on modeling appeals to readers' common sense, and he handles the mathematics very adeptly. Frequent recapitulation also helps. Most of the text focuses on the model-building process, with a few selected examples, and thus this book would be a good companion to others that are broader and more speculative, such as Murray Gell-Mann's The Quark and the Jaguar (LJ 4/15/94). For larger public and academic libraries.?Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 130 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
John Holland's "Emergence" just doesn't make it as a science popularization. The ideas Holland presents are fascinating, exciting, and indeed highly relevant for our globalized, interconnected world.
Unfortunately, none of this comes across. Like many scientists (I know... I *am* a scientist), Holland simply has no idea how a nonscientist would grasp the concept of emergence. He overexplains simple examples like the numbers and board games of the first two chapters, then underexplains the deeper ideas of later chapters. The final chapter is pretty good in terms of unifying the book's themes and providing a broader view of how emergence fits into science and human culture. However, the reader has not been adequately prepared for this broadening because the middle chapters were so poorly explained.
I fear that most readers will come away without sensing the truly revolutionary nature of this new branch of science. Holland lacks passion! The book is bland because Holland seems not to be able to present rigorous science in conjunction with thrill and emotion. He should take a lesson from the experts at popularization, such as Sagan and Gribbin, who succeed at presenting factually correct science in a way that engages and excites nonscientists.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By martyandbritta@dayton.net on November 20, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Having just read Holland's other book "Hidden Order", I was psyched to hear that he had written another book on the science of complex adaptive systems. This book, however, was quite disappointing. While the first few chapters were interesting, the second half of the book was a loss to me. There seemed to be too many divergent themes upon which he was trying to comment. I feel like he ran out of ideas and started just writing down anything that came to mind. The last chapter provided a good summary of the ideas he tried to express concerning emergence, but the book on the whole left more questions than it answered. If you really want to learn something about emergence and related science of complexity, check out his other book "Hidden Order". It's much better and a bit easier to understand in my opinion.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Parts of this book were interesting, but overall it was much ado about not much, and what was done was often overdone (I agree with another reviewer on this point). I see that Amazon has coupled this book with Hidden Order. I can't see why. It would be like buying the same book twice. Anyway, so much of this has been warmed over so many times now that it's frankly a bit dry. I'd like to see a book that really breaks new ground in complexity without overusing buzz words or talking down to me, holding my hand through simple things. Here, the topic is more attractive than the content I'm afraid. Anyone really interested in complexity and emergence will need to go into technical details well beyond this book. Others, like me, will likely find the details that are here to be a bit tedious.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By E. Nichols on June 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
I just read Emergence in preperation for my oral qualifying exams for a Ph.D. in computer science and cognitive science. I disagree with many of the negative reviewers -- this book is well-worth the read. I share some frustration over this book due to the way it seems to scratch the surface. The book's strength seems to be in asking the right questions and pointing the way towards some future science of emergent behavior.

The book is too short for my taste -- in many of the later chapters Holland makes thought-provoking, deep remarks, without the follow-up and commentary that they leave me hoping for. But again, his main purpose seems to be in making people think about the issues. And he provides some formalisms that might be part of some future theory -- his constrained generating procedures (CGPs) and the variable "CGP-v" recall constructs such as the Turing machine for studying computability.

The strengths of the book lie in:

1) Discussion of the nature of modeling in science, and computer modeling in particular. This is discussed with clarity and pragmatism.

2) The beginnings of a framework in which to study emergence in multi-agent systems.

3) Discussion of the importance of metaphor/analogy in the creative scientific process. I didn't expect this to appear in the book but it was very welcome, and especially appropriate due to the role played by Mitchell's and Hofstadter's "Copycat" model (of analog-making itself) as it motivates the expansion of CGPs to CGP-v's as the book progresses.

Overall, I recommend this book highly to readers interested in the beginnings of this exciting new science, that really is in its infancy. I gave it 4 stars just because I felt like Holland had a lot more to say in the later chapters and left too much "as an exercise for the reader." I hope he does follow-on work that clarifies his vision for a future science of emergence!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary Cohen on January 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having done some work with genetic algorithms, I was very excited to read a book by John Holland. I was hoping to learn more about how to create models of complex systems and how new behavior can be exhibited by computer programs that were not inherent in the programmer's intent or design.

I certainly came away with knowledge of how to create models because that seemed to be the main point that Professor Holland made throughout the book. Don't get me wrong. Modeling is critically important to understanding the world we live in and the phenomena we observe in the world. I just had no idea from the title or the blurbs that modeling would be such a central theme. In a way it is reassuring since modeling is something that I am very comfortable with, and to me, relatively straight forward.

The book covers such novel concepts as cell assemblies, anticipation, signaling, and indefinite memory in relatively easy to understand language. There is a fair amount of dense mathematical notation that adds a bit of depth if you are comfortable with the subject matter, but can be skipped by the casual reader. I also like the point Professor Holland made about macrolaws and microlaws - that once basic structures and patterns are in place (microlaws), emergent, higher level structures and patterns emerge (macrolaws) that can be explained without reverting back to a knowledge of the microlaws. This provides a road map to understanding more about emergent behavior as we better develop and understand the microlaws describing emergent behavior.

I do think that some of the material was repetitive. Although many reviewers liked the last chapter or two, the end of the book seemed to drag on for me.
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