A computer may physically store little more than a string of zeroes and ones, but this binary information can make up a plethora of objects; it can represent an equation, a bank balance, a text document, or even artificial intelligence.
Murray Gell-Mann, one of the pioneers of the field, offers the characterization that, “A complex adaptive system acquires information about its environment and its own interaction with that environment, identifying regularities in that information…into a kind of ‘schema’, and acting in the real world on the basis of that schema” (Gell-Mann, 1994).
This can be interpreted to mean that CAS are a product of their surroundings while they simultaneously influence it.
The next properties to examine, which are again related, are co-evolution, feedback, and iteration.
The internet forms the basis of an entire world which has no corporeal form, but does exist digitally. “DNS Complexity.” Association for Computing Machinery.
The Internet began in the 1960s as a series of connected government and university computers.
Without being planned by any “master architect”, its networking slowly evolved until the World Wide Web emerged on the “ch” server in 1990, which marked the foundation of the “server-client” Internet known today (Berners-Lee, 1996). “Linked: The New Science of Networks.” Barabasi’s Science of Networks. Emergence can spontaneously occur through self-organization (Peak and Frame, 1994).Feedback loops in the emergent system result in co-evolution, which in turn lead to further iterations of the system.According to Peak and Frame, this can be done without violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the reduction in entropy only occurs locally, and the system will eventually fall into a disorganized state. Clearly, the internet exhibits both of these traits. The very existence of search engines are a product of the various characteristics of CAS, and Google soon became the dominant search engine due to its superior algorithms which efficiently and effectively catalog the entire Web for the end user (Asadi). As greater numbers of people began using Google, it went through rapid co-evolution; it began to offer other services, such as email, image searching, digital maps, and more. A well known reference to emergence describes an object as being “greater than the sum of its parts”. Emergence closely relates to self-organization (which can be considered analogous to a “grassroots” movement), in which a system experiences a reduction in entropy and becomes more organized without external influence (Peak and Frame, 1994). The company constantly iterated on its services: its search function was offered in dozens of languages, Gmail expanded its storage, image searching expanded to video, digital maps were updated to 3D, and various other miscellaneous services were added (Google). Year Open Data Went Worldwide.” Lecture TED Summit 2010. S and Jamali, H. “Shifts in Search Engine Development: A Review of Past, Present, and Future Trends in Research on Search Engines”. For Google to maintain their status as the world’s foremost information technology company is no small feat. Accessed 3/14/10. Future of the United States: Part I – The Future of the World Wide Web”.