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Emergence is a concept known from systems theory. It explains how complex structures can arise from simple rules. For example, emergence explains how a play on DNA building blocks resulted in the emergence of the human brain in evolution.

In self-directed learning, emergence can be used to explain how a simple neural mechanism of the learn drive can lead to coherent and consistent models of reality. One of the chief myths of unschooling is that good learning requires a teacher, while the best knowledge actually emerges in self-directed learning. Coherence is one of memory properties that prevents forgetting. It underlies creativity and problem solving. The best way to build coherence is to rely on emergence powered by the learn drive.

Emergence of knowledge is the key to intelligence (and happy life)

The harms of direct instruction can be explained with the missile metaphor. In contrast, the emergence of knowledge in learning can be explained with the tree growth metaphor, jigsaw puzzle metaphor or the crystallization metaphor.

Crystallization metaphor of schooling and unschooling
Crystallization metaphor of schooling and unschooling

Figure: In perfect schooling we create a perfect crystal of knowledge. In college, we add an extra crystal of specialization. In reality though, learning looks a bit less perfect. For most kids, knowledge never builds sufficient coherence and falls apart due to interference (i.e. fast forgetting). As a result, in real schooling, knowledge asymptotically reaches a certain volume and keeps churning around from that point on with little progress in stability or coherence. In contrast, in free learning, the acquisition of knowledge is chaotic and uneven. However, as long as it is based on the learn drive, the volume of knowledge is very large. Individual crystals of knowledge collide, and build consistency and coherence. This in turn helps stability and further integration of knowledge. By the time of college, in terms of volume, free learners should know far more than ordinary students. Free knowledge has multiple areas of strength, and multiple areas of weakness. However, it is superior in coherence. This is why it is more applicable in problem solving

For more on emergence, read about its interpretation in systems theory.

The power of emergence may one day lead to new physics and new science. See Stephen Wolfram's excitement about the beauty of the fundamental theory of physics.

This glossary entry is used to explain "I would never send my kids to school" (2017-2024) by Piotr Wozniak