What is an emergence? LO20143

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Wed, 9 Dec 1998 17:40:28 +0200

Replying to LO21042 --

Dear Organlearners,

I want to dedicate this contribution to my second child Jeanette who like
many of us, have enough problems to cope with. You will soon understand

This contribution is not intended as a primer as is the case for my Primer
on Entropy. I do not think that the time is ripe for such a venture.

But I realise that the word "emergence" is creeping more and more into our
dialogues. I am partially responsible for this by writing sentences such
as "a Learning Organisation is an emergent phenomenon", "believing is a
second order emergent of creating" and the "seven essentialities optimises
a bifurcation into an emergence rather than an immergence". Consequently I
must also take the responsibility for explaining what "emergence" is to
anyone who have never worked with this concept before.

I will restrict my explanation by discussing only one example which is
common to the experiences of many of us. Furthermore, if some of us do not
have such experiences, it must be relatively easy to gain such
experiences. My example will be "baking a cake". Do I hear most of the
gentlemen and a few of the ladies groaning and moaning? In my family (four
woman and three men, including my wife and I) we all have baked cakes. I
hope that we are the rule rather than the exception.

Ordinate Bifurcations
The first important requirement about an emergence, is that it happens
by way of an "ordinate bifurcation". The term "bifurcation" means that
some forking event with two possble outcomes must occur. The term
"ordinate" means that the two possible outcomes are not of the same
order. The outcome resulting in a higher order is called an emergence
while the outccome resulting in a lower order is called an immergence.
Well, "baking a cake" satisfy this requirement. The cake may come out
of the oven perfectly or some kind of flop!

It reminds me of my second eldest daughter Jeanette who is a food
technologist. She works for the largest company in South Africa supplying
premixed materials to the baking industry. One way to ensure QC (Quality
Control) on every mixture, is to analyse the mixture for the correct
amounts of its constituents. You will be surprised how many different
constituents go into an apparently simple premixed product -- flour,
enzymes, phosphates, oils, stabelisers, etc. What is even worse, analysing
for each constituent requires fastly different procedures, some coming
from chemistry and the others from biology. Add to that the physics of
particle size, density, wetability and colloids and you have an analytical
nightmare on hands.

Add to this complexity in her work Jeanette's search for identity, a
broken love afair, her need to make sense of a rapidly changing country as
South Africa in its economical, political and social walks of life and you
will understand why her emotions sometimes ran way with her. However, we
all have in life people who we can lean upon. In Jeanette's case, her
direct chief and senior manager in the company, is such a person. He began
his carreer as a professional baker in the German tradition. His tacit
knowledge by way of experiences in "ordinate bifurcations" is
extraodinary. He knows that one cannot play the fool with quality control
and still arrogantly expect something worthwhile to happen. He knows that
when an emergence fails, one must be patient, seek the deficiencies and
try again. He knows that the complexity is such that one has to be
thankful when an intended emergence does happen. He knows that peoples
personal life's have much in common with "baking a cake". He is a good

But you will be even more surprised to know that even when a certain
premix pass all the tests, it does not ensure a quality product! The
simple reason is that COMPLEXITY involved with a premix being used in the
actual baking process, cannot be ensured by analytical methods ALONE.
Analysis must be complemented by its dual, namely synthesis. So one of the
things which Jeanette has to do, is to use that premix and actually bake
what the premis is intended for (bread or cake). In other words, the
"ordinate bifurcation" is her acid test! Sometimes not even one analitical
measurement indicates a doubtful quality whereas the baking shows a
serious flop! Since it is her company's promise that with their premixes
it is impossible for the baker to have a flop (unless the baker is no
baker at all), they must back up such a promise. The "ordinate
bifurcation" is the last test!

In fact, the "ordinate bifurcation" is so important that they first apply
this test. Only when the baked product flops with respect to one of the
human senses (sight, smell, taste and touch) they will begin to analyse
both the product and the premix to find out what went wrong. Thus they
save much on unnecessary measurements, ensuring a profit at the end of the
day. Herein lies an important lesson for studies on emergent phenomena
such as the Learning Organisation.

Order out of Chaos
This is the title of the intriguing, passionate, brilliant, demanding
and ambitious book (1984) by Ilya Prigogine and Isabella Stengers.
Strangely enough, none of the words "emergence", "emergent" and
"emerging" occur in their book! But you will certainly learn a lot
about bifurcations. Chaos characterise the phase before an ordinate
bifurcation while order characterise the phase after it. The "entropy
production" increases during the phase of chaos and decreases during
the phase of order when the bifurcation resulted into one of more
stable products, whether by an emergence or by an immergence.

But what are this chaos and order which we speak about? Let us investigate
"baking a cake" and not one of the loftier examples of Prigogine and
Stengers. At first there is very little "entropy production" and
everything is close to a state of equibrium. Some of the cake's
ingredients are already stored in the cupboard while others are displayed
on the shelves of the crocery shop -- every thing waiting without change
for the transformation to come. Then someone's mind get the idea "its time
to bake a cake" and out come the words. Picture the minds of all those
who hear those words and the thoughts which begin to flash. Pictures the
neurons begining to fire in bigger constellations. Picture the mouths
beginning to water and the stomaches beginning to twist. All sort of
different behavious begin to manifest themselves. This is what chaos is
about -- a diversity of becoming.

This chaos is merely the beginning. Among one of those who hear the words
"its time to bake a cake", the baker arise with "I will bake the cake".
The baker takes a baking book and let his/her mind meander over all the
recipes and their artistic illustrations in the book. Fingers do the
paging and other minds do the encouraging -- the diversity of becoming
increases. A decision is made, itself a bifurcation, but we will will skip
that. An inventory of the cupboard shows some ingredients not to be
available. Someone offfer to go and buy them while the baker gets the rest
of the things ready -- the diversity of becoming is now really exploding.
Even the animals sense the increase in chaos. The dogs do not want to
listen and stay outside while the cats continually get in the way. The
edge of chaos is coming nearer,

Finally, when all the ingredients and utensils are ready while the oven is
heating up, the baker snaps out an order "control yourself or else there
will not be any baking of any cake". A grand coherency and consistency
begin to manifest itself, all behaviours now focusing on the baker. So
many cups of flour goes in the main mixing bowl, then followed by the
other dry ingredients. So many eggs, milk, butter in another mixing bowl.
The baker closes the book, stare into space while the rest of the family,
dogs and cats included, stare at the baker. Then follows a pinch of this
and scoop of that, things which the recipe not even mentioned. Finally,
with so much attention fixed on the baker, he/she has many helping hands,
some to do the various mixings, others to butter the pans and some even to
lick every thing clean once the pans with their precious mixture goes into
the oven. The edge of chaos has been reached, the high temperature of the
oven indicating this edge. Try to picture the electrons rushing about,
just like in a giant compeuter network like internet, but just on a much
smaller scale. Do you hear them screaming "we are baking a cake"?

Now for the waiting. In the oven many things begin to happen. The mixture
begin to raise and give off a mouth watering aroma. The baker has to fight
off inquisitive minds with "be patient and leave the cake to bake on its
own". The kids will make saltos and the cats and dogs will follow them,
indicative of the saltotorial change of the organisation within the oven.
Finally, when the baker decides so, out of the oven comes something new --
the cake.

It does not have any more the former structure of the baking flower, nor
the structure of any of its other ingredients like the eggs or milk,
neither the structure of the final liquid mix. If all went well, the new
structure will have emerged to please the eye of the baker. Proudly the
baker will anounce that everybody has to wait until the cake has cooled
off so that it can reach a state of equibrium. No, no. the baker will
never use such lofty words, but will say "keep your hands off until I
decide when it is time to cut the cake". But if something went wrong, the
baker will invite the hungry ones to eat what seems to be fit for them.
Sometimes only the dogs will eagerly participate in this task. Meanwhile
the baker will give it another try.

The thorough mixing near the end of the chaotic phase is very, very
important. If you do not want to believe this, do the following
experiment. Add all the ingredienst of the cake in the baking pan without
mixing them and then do the baking. Keep a fire extinguisher ready. When
the time is ready to take the product out, if you can withstand the
stench, look at what you have. Not even the dogs will eat it.

Where Jeanette works, it is not exactly the same, but also not that much
different. She often has to fend off a worker from the factory who tries
his luck amidst such mouth watering aromas. Luckily a baker does not use
knwives like a butcher, although pots and pans might also do in the hands
of a sklled person. She has to maintain a just schedule in selling the
succesful attempts at cost prise to fellow workers. She has to prepare new
mixtures while keeping an eye on those already in the oven. I sat there
one day, admiring her rushing around, avoiding burning herself, handling
heavy industrial and light laboratory equipment alike, keeping all her
wits together while continuously operating at the edge of chaos. No wonder
her emotions sometimes get out of control. No wonder that she has so
little energy left to make sense out of the rest of her life. But like her
boss many years ago, she is gaining on experiences which is more valuable
than gold.

Irreversible self-organisation
What does this word "irreversible" mean. Superficially, it is almost
the same thing as "entropy production". In other words, we can often
replace the one for the other because they always go hand in hand. But
technically, there is a slight difference. Let us make a movie of any
event in which entropy production happens. When we play the movie
forward or backwards, we will clearly distinguish these two cases from
each other. However, if we make a movie of any event in which no
entropy is produced, we will not be able to distingusih between the
forwards and backward playing of the movie. We will not be able to
observe the "arrow of time" because it is entropy production which
gives time its arrow.

The same applies to "bake a cake". Make a home video of the event "bake a
cake". Look carefully at, for example, the "mixing" part. What do you
think will happen when the baker, after having completed the "mixing" part
suddenly observes exactly the opposite happening, namely "unmixing"
exactly as is of a video was played backwards -- the mixture changing
itself into seperate portions of flower, eggs, salt, etc. Luckily
psychologists do not have to cope with such disoders. This event never
happened in the past and it will never happen in future, except for the
video playing backwards. It also applies to the final stage, the
bifurcation point, when the liquid mixture turns into a solid cake.

You have to train you mind to observe this underlying irreversibilty in
the object as well as to distinguish it from the reversibility which the
mind can overlay on it while forming the subject. But you will also have
to train your mind to do something else. Try to understand how entropy is
produced during such an irreversible event. This entropy production can
never be reversed in isolation (in only the event itself). Note the
qualification "in isolation". This does not mean that it cannot be
reversed at all. It can be reversed, but then somewhere else in the
universe entropy has also to be produced in another event and even more
than the original production. Only when both events operate in close
colaboration as a whole, will the entropy production for the former event
be reversed.

How does this apply to our example "bake a cake". The closest we will come
to reversing the process, is to bake a huge cake as if to get an entry in
the Guinness book of records. Some of it we give to the chickens who lay
the eggs. Some of it we give to the cows who produces the milk. Some of it
we give to the farmer to fertilise the land for another crop of wheat.
Some of it we give to the miller as food to gain energy for making another
batch of flower. But what we have to observe, is that all these other
events are irreversible themselves -- events happening in parts of the
universe different to that part where the event "baking a cake" happened.
Eventually when we bring all these events together in close collaboration,
we will arive at the original premix situation.

But what about the "self-organisation"? Once the final mixture in the pan
goes into the oven, we must leave the next bifurcation stage alone. Many
cakes have turned out into flops by merely lifting the oven's door to take
a peep, or even a slight accidental knock at the oven. This ought to give
you some idea what self-organisation is about. Actually, self-organisation
goes much further. In the baking of the cake, the baker and all the other
participants were responsible for much of the changes through their own
"entropy production". They (like the farmers, shop owners, industrialists,
transporters, electricity engineers, book printers and last, but not the
least, the baker) were resposible for bring all the ingredients as well as
the utensils together through various entropy producing events.

The baker was responsible for mixing the ingredients, pouring the final
mix in the pan and putting the pan in the heated oven. Up to that stage
the ingredients of the cake contributed nothing to the self-organisation.
But in the final baking stage at the edge of chaos the ingredients take
control of the self-organisation. The only entropy which they did not
produce, but had to accept from the outside, was the heat produced by the
oven. This inundation of entropy into the mixture by the oven is necessary
to trigger the entropy production of the ingredients themselves. The
ingredients themselves were directly responsible for the bifurcation and
not the baker, nor the farmers, shop woners, etc.

The seven essentialities of creativity
The seven essentialities is liveness, sureness, wholeness,
fruitfulness, spareness, otherness and openness. Let us investigate
cursory how they optimise the emergence of the cake, preventing an
immergence which not even the dogs might want to touch.

Liveness ("becoming-being") is essential. Think of the electrical oven.
Without electrical energy with its voltage (being) and current (becoming),
no thermal energy can be produced through conversion by the electrical
element (resitance). Also think of the words "let us bake a cake" (let us
produce a "being"). If no one voluteer "I will become the baker" (I will
supply the becoming), no cake will ever come out of the oven. Yuk.

Sureness ("identity-categoricity") is essential. Try to bake a cake with
flower of maize rather than flower of wheat which the recipe requires. In
most cases the baked outcome will be a flop. Since table salt (sodium
chloride) and epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) are both salts, try to bake
a cake with epsom salt and taste the result. Yuk.

Wholeness ("associativity-monadicity") is essential. Try to bake the cake,
but leave out the baking powder on purpose. No baker will ever do such a
foolish thing on purpose. Another example: put the cake in the oven and
experience a cut in the supply of electrical power. Have you ever tried to
save such a critical situation, looking at the baking cake with candle
light? Yuk.

Fruitfulness ("connect-beget") is essential. Make the final mixture, but
leave out one of the ingredients (like eggs baking powder). Pour the
mixture into the pan and then the remaining ingredient on top without any
stirring. Test the outcome. Yuk.

Sparseness ("quantity-limit") is essential. When getting the ingredients
ready, do not measure anything off. Ask someone in the family to take as
much flower as he/she likes. Ask each other member to do the same with
each other ingredient. Ask the person who adds the salt to use up all the
salt in the house. Bake the cake. Yuk.

Otherness ("quality-variety"). First mix rancid rather than fresh butter
and the flour. Then mix sour rather than fresh milk into that mixture.
Follow it up with rotten eggs which even make the dogs whining. Add some
gun powder to assist the raising. Bake the cake. Yuk.

Openness ("paradigm-open"). Buy a book with some exotic recipes from a
different culture, produced by an unscrupulous publisher. Spend vast
amounts of time and money to get all the ingredients together. Follow the
instructions carefully up to the minutest detail. Use professional
instruments and technology rather than ordinary kitchen utensils.
Convince a master baker with bags of money to bake that exotic dish,
whatever its outcome. Taste it. Yuk.

Sometimes Jeanette stumble on such a yuk in her work. The amount of time
and the extensiveness of the analysis she and her boss have to carry out
to trace the origin of this yuckiness is shocking. But they have to do it
as soon as possible to absorb as much as possible the shock waves in her
own work. If not, the shock waves of this yuckiness propagates quickly to
the rest of the factory. Sections get behind schedule. The synchronisation
breaks up. Everybody gets mad at everybody. Soon a culture of hurt
develops. Why? Somewhere in the immense network of supplies, we require
only dealer who does not care for only one of these seven essentialities.
Spotting this failure timely is a very complex thing to do. Oh, why do we
have to complicate life so much through our lack of caring for what is
essential? How much absorbing of shock waves can any mind endure?

Just before I commenced with writing the last section, Jeanette phoned
me. They have another problem which is fast becoming critical. It
concerns a unit operation in which jellies have to be formed, using
tetra sodium pyrophospate as coagulating agent. But in their specific
process they have to maintain a low pH whereas the hydroysis of this
substances raises the pH remarkedly. The trouble with a pyrophosphates
is that it is difficult to maintain an exact stochiometry
(composition). But the essentiality sureness requires a fixed
stoichiometry because different polymers of the phosphate ion produces
remakedly different hydrolysis and thus pH changes.

On the one hand she now has to produce accurate evidence in order to
contact the supplier as to what caused the problem. On the other hand she
needs a make-shift solution to their problem to prevent shock waves
propagting into the rest of the factory. I suggested a solution (based on
the formation of bridges) and she will test it on a small scale before the
end of the day so that they can implement it tomorrow. By all her tasks,
she also have to act as a chemical engineer in a matter of a few hours!
Hey, is life not complex?

By the way, I have asked her permission to use her name and to refer to
her work and life. I intended to phone her before mailing this
contribution, making changes if she would not have given her permssion.
But she responded favourably. I want to encourage her to follow the road
of healing, physically and spiritually -- keep it up Jeanette.

Finally, just before I began telling about Jeanette's newest problem, I
got a copy of Leo Minnigh's latest contribution to the LO list on the
subject "Primer on Entropy - Part III C LO20142". Curious as always, I had
to read what he wrote before I could continue. At the end of his
contribution he wrote the following:

>In earlier contributions you have mentioned the following
>situation: with increasing entropy production, a point will
>be reached which is at the edge of chaos. At that point a
>bifurcation will occur, which lead either to an immergency,
>or to an emergency. Could you lift a tip of this mysterious
>veil to give us some insight to a even more complicated
>world? I realise that our medium of e-mail is difficult. I
>suspect that you like to explain this question with drawings
>and graphs. But you are also such an artist with words that
>you may be able to sketcj us a 'picture' without lines, shades
>and colours.

Leo, when I woke up this morning, I knew that today I had to write "What
is an emergence". I knew that I had not the luxury of incorporating
pictures and strange formulas into a book. I had many everyday examples to
choose from, but when I arrived at work I was sure it must be "bake a
cake". As soon as I read this last part of your message, I had the goose
flesh. Someone might tell me that this is not global synchronicity, but
merely serendipity, but I will believe otherwise. Go carefully back in
this contribution until you find the sentence "A grand coherency and
consistency begin to manifest itself, all behaviours now focusing on the
baker." Read that paragraph again and you will discover depths of meaning
which will astound you. Please bear in mind that I have written that
paragraph before Jeanette phoned me or before I have received your
contribution, otherwise you will fail to discover these deeper meanings.

I have not been able to lift a tip of the veil. This is not how emergences
works. But I have tried to bake a cake, using only my mind and the
computer. I hope you will enjoy eating this cake of the mind. Through
technology it will become multiplied into thousands of cakes. For me this
is no wonder. The wonder in multiplying a few fishes and loafs of bread
happened close to 2000 years ago.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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