Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If there was one topic that fascinated me when I was studying computer science in college it was emergence. But, much to my regret now, I never went on to further study. I'm not even sure there was further study back when I was in school. But if I were to return, this is what I would study.

Radio Lab recently had a podcast on Emergence that I found to be fascinating. It has a little of everything from sex to uninformed voters to brain patterns. If you're interested in the way a group works and why it's so difficult to grasp, this episode is for you.

What happens when there is no leader? Starlings, bees, and ants manage just fine. In fact, they form staggeringly complicated societies, all without a Toscanini to conduct them into harmony. How? That’s our question this hour. We gaze down at the bottom-up logic of cities, Google, even our very own brains. Featured: author Steven Johnson, fire-flyologists John and Elizabeth Buck, biologist E.O. Wilson, Ant expert Debra Gordon, mathematician Steve Strogatz, economist James Surowiecki, and neurologists Oliver Sacks and Christof Koch.

Of course if you're interested in a group people creating intelligent conversation, then this might be more your style.

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