Here’s a helpful analogy from Yale Professor, Nicholas Christakis: If you take a group of carbon atoms and connect them one way, you get graphite, which is soft and dark and perfect for making pencils. But if you take the same carbon atoms and connect them another way, you get a diamond, which is hard and clear and great for making jewelry.
There are two key ideas here. First, these properties of softness and darkness and hardness and clearness are not properties of the carbon atoms; they are properties of the collection of carbon atoms.
Second, the properties depend on how the carbon atoms are connected. It’s the same with social groups. This phenomenon, of wholes having properties not present in the separate parts, is know as emergence, and the properties are known as emergent properties.
Connect people in one way, and they are good to one another. Connect them in another way, and they are not.
Categories: Sue's Daily Blog