Of the 26 letters in the English alphabet, none imply anything complex. They represent a sound or character. Yet arrange them with other letters to form words, and meaning has emerged.
Take these words and form sentences, then form paragraphs, and ultimately you can produce content that inspires emotion, passion, and inspiration.
That writing can produce feelings in others is a profound concept.
By taking single elements that lack any deep meaning on their own, and organizing them into complex arrangements, you can express deep qualities that are not easy to construct. This is the essence of emergent properties.
Somewhere along the spectrum that ranges from individual letters to written content, you transition from mere symbols to profound meaning – but where? This is not so easy to answer.
While it is silly to look for profound qualities in a single letter, it is quite common to recognize them in writing. It is easy to accept this leap without any need for mystical or supernatural explanations.
We are all made of atoms. Everything in the known universe is made up atoms. Arrange them into certain forms and you have a molecule – something much more meaningful.
With enough of the appropriate molecules, you have biological matter, and ultimately, with all the right combinations, life emerges – matter becomes self aware. Quite a leap.
It would be just as ridiculous to look for self awareness in a single atom as it would be to search for such qualities as inspiration in a single letter.
By following the same reasoning, self awareness may be said to be an emergent property of a complex arrangement of atoms just as inspiration is described as an emergent quality of a complex arrangement of letters.
What if along the spectrum of emergence, self awareness is equitable to words rather than writing? Words have meaning. They have qualities of much more substance than single letters. Yet despite being higher along the spectrum, words are not the pinnacle.
We look at the spider building its web and admit there is something remarkable about this process. Yet we attribute little more than instinct to the spider – certainly nothing close to human intelligence.
We do this only because we’re aware of something much greater.
Instinct is rudimentary in comparison to self awareness. If we knew of nothing more complex than instinct, on what basis could we offer judgement?
We’re not aware of something more profound than self awareness because we’ve not observed it. But what if self awareness represents only the tip of the iceberg?
Perhaps self awareness is a mere building block to something far more profound – something that if arranged in just the right manner, will produce emergent qualities beyond the scope of our imagination.