Gershenson, Carlos

Even when concepts similar to emergence have been used since antiquity, we lack an agreed definition. However, emergence has been identified as one of the main features of complex systems. Most would agree on the statement “life is complex.” Thus understanding emergence and complexity should benefit the study of living systems. It can be said that life emerges from the interactions of complex molecules. But how useful is this to understanding living systems? Artificial Life (ALife) has been developed in recent decades to study life using a synthetic approach: Build it to understand it. ALife systems are not so complex, be they soft (simulations), hard (robots), or wet(protocells). Thus, we can aim at first understanding emergence in ALife, to then use this knowledge in biology. I argue that to understand emergence and life, it becomes useful to use information as a framework. In a general sense, I define emergence as information that is not present at one scale but present at another. This perspective avoids problems of studying emergence from a materialist framework and can also be useful in the study of self-organization and complexity.