Emergence – The Bizarre Key to Becoming a Genius
“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration.”
– Nikola Tesla
Our world is increasing in complexity and competitiveness. To be successful you must think differently to the common man. To win you must leverage emergence
When you look at this picture what do you see?
No it’s not an alien. It’s just a flock of birds. But why do they behave this way? Almost like one gigantic organism.Did someone give them instructions? Did they rehearse?
This complex pattern called a ‘murmuration‘ occurs from two very simple rules. Each starling in the flock tries to stay as close as possible to the flock whilst also avoiding collision with other birds.This is comparable to what happens during a Mexican wave.
Now consider ants.
How on Earth are they able to build huge colonies without engineers, project managers or even politicians? Keep in mind they can’t speak and have worse eyesight than your grandma. It turns out that they too follow some basic rules.
The ants in the image below are able to build a bridge to get over an obstacle.
The lead ant slows down when it hits a gap – a smart decision, not bad for an ant. Another ant then climbs on top of its back stopping at the new gap. The process repeats itself until a bridge is formed. Ants do this without an overpriced civil engineering degree – How amazing!
The art below is called the Mandelbrot set – it’s actually fractal geometry, and it’s created by repeating a few basic mathematical rules.
This phenomenon of complexity arising from simplicity can be seen everywhere in our Universe.
It’s called emergence.
It’s what happens when larger and more complex patterns, entities and processes arise from the interactions of simpler entities which do not exhibit such patterns.
Consider water which is made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These two elements do not have the quality of wetness when observed in isolation, but when you combine the two you get water molecules. Water is the emergent property of the two interacting together.
Imagine that you’re an economist trying to study the spending habits of every person in a nation. Watching how they save their money and what types of Ice cream they like to buy likely won’t help you in predicting the economy of the country.This is because the economy is an emergent property of the interactions that happen between the individuals.
It’s incredibly difficult to predict what will happen at the higher levels from the more basic levels. For example studying how the cells in your best friends body interact won’t help you predict which Dave Chappelle special he will likely watch.
What the hell does this have to do with getting smarter you ask? Be patient young grasshopper it will all emerge very soon.
How Your Brain Thinks Creative Thoughts
Your brain operates very differently to a computer. Computers follow logical rules. They take an input, store and process it and deliver an output. They are very good at doing brute force calculations. Something our brains suck at.
What we lack in processing power we make up for in creativity and pattern recognition. Have you ever been on a website and received one of those annoying CAPTCHA messages? Turns out those things are effective at tricking computers. Computers don’t do well when exposed to these sorts of tasks. This is something that the machine-learning field is trying to fix through AI.
Even from a young age our brains are already incredibly good at these tasks, this is all due to how they are structured. Whenever you are exposed to a new input, let’s say a banana.
The information is stored in networks of neurons which are connected in dense and elaborate patterns. Each time you think of a banana, the connections fire and get stronger. New formations are constantly forming. Our brains are ever evolving. This is called neuroplasticity.
Now in your life you will encounter billions of bits of data which all influence how your brain is formed and shaped This data will influence the quality of the thoughts you have. As thoughts are largely dependent on the neural networks you have already formed,
Even something as basic as language can influence how you see the world. Therefore all your thoughts are framed from the perspective of the language you learn. This is why the voice in your head is in English and not High Valyrian.
Your thoughts are the emergent property of the inputs you experience in your life. You can’t know what thoughts you will have by observing the inputs you experience, just like we can’t understand a societies culture by spying on a single individual. They are on two different levels.
Despite this there is a way to genius and it’s simpler than you think
How To Think Unique Thoughts
What is the difference between average people and successful people?
Most people are privy to the same information fed by the same institutions. They learn the same things at school. They watch the same TV shows and get their news from the same sources.The average person hangs out with other average people. They talk about average stuff.
Their brains have not been exposed to any new inputs and hence share many of the same thoughts.
“I wonder when the Game of Thrones Spin off is coming out”.
“I can’t wait to go on holiday, I almost have enough leave hours”.
“Maybe I should get a new car, the neighbour has one”.
Nothing amazing or new ever arises in their minds.
On the other hand geniuses immerse themselves with knowledge from different disciplines. They learn from people with specialized knowledge. Geniuses tend to learn new and interesting things from the trenches whilst the average person works like an automaton from a desk job.
I have researched many successful people and one of the most prominent characteristics is that they self-educate. They are autodidacts – People who teach themselves.
Leonardo da Vinci was largely self-taught. He learned about engineering, painting, optics and sculptures from books and conversations with professionals. Einstein took studies into his own hands and researched concepts and ideas which were not taught in his physics class during his spare time.
When you read and learn from different sources your brain will create connections which most humans are incapable of. Think of each book, course or conversation with an intelligent person as an ant. It’s through the interaction of all these unique perspectives that something special happens.
Through the power of emergence you will bring to the world something more complex and beautiful than what anyone has ever seen before.
Do this and I promise you will be one step closer to living and dying well.