The text “Emergence “by Stephen Johnson is a bottom up approach to architecture. This interesting piece is drawing a strong relationship between our urbanism and the ant colonies. The main idea of the text is showing Emergence in 5 different principles.
“Emergence” in architecture refers to a processes where large entities, patterns and regularities arise through interactions among small or simple entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.
The 5 main principles of emergence mentioned in the text are
1- More is different
2- Ignorance is useful
3- Encourage random encounters
4- Look for pattern in the signs
5- Pay attention to your neighbors
For the first mentioned point “More is different “, the ant colonies use methods to assure perfect outcomes and give no margin of error. Instead of having only 10 ants work on one task they make 2000 ants work on that task .Hence, reducing the margin of error and therefore insuring a perfect outcome.
“Ignorance is useful” in the sense of the simplicity of the ant language and relative futility of the ant. Ants only follow the program they are programmed without really knowing the bigger picture. They work from point A to point B. The system is an interconnected and dense system with simple elements that develop in a more sophisticated outcome.
The next important emergence point is “Encourage random Encounters”. The ant colony building system is a decentralized system where there is no leader to tell every ant what task it needs to do. The most important ant is the queen when she dies the colony dies but she doesn’t give orders every order follows the program. It’s a group work to reaching the ultimate goal and the encounter between ants is arbitrary, but there are so many involved that they are capable of altering the system and stumbling across new food sources.
“Look for pattern in the signs” in the sense that ants don’t have a vocabulary or a language in a sense they rely on pattern and chemical reactions. When too many ants are working on the same task they start switching tasks to balance their forces around the colony. Sign after sign and a huge network of patterns gets created.
Last but not least the last Emergence principle “Pay attention to your neighbors” As the author states that means: Local information can lead to global wisdom”. By adding more ants to the overall system and having interaction between the neighbors will enable colonies to solve problems and have a more efficient regularity. Without neighboring the strong interaction between ants won’t exist and it will turn into an individual organism without any logic.

For my research interest I would want to research how to adapt the ant system to something as small as a building or as a big as urbanism. It would be interesting to create a certain pattern or algorithm that would help the design to make people be more aware of their surrounding and knowing the importance of all the small tasks we pursue every day to create a more interconnected comprehensive whole. Design should be influenced in my opinion by these 5 emergence principles because they help us understand some ground rules in creating a more complex and comprehensive final picture by small simple steps that will affect the whole. A big lesson learned from ants is that simplicity, interconnection and order can lead to very complex yet functional designs that could cater for a better life. If the ground rules of the ant colony system could be integrated in our design and considered in design concepts it could lead to a better standard of living and a more efficient system of design that will help create a better bigger picture and help people contribute more to a higher standard of living.

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