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timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the good-heavy-light-reading dept.

Science 103

mrgrumpy contributes this review of a book which, despite the interesting subject matter, he says comes with some forgiveable but hard-to-ignore shortcomings. Emergence still sounds like an interesting read and broad introduction to the theories and subject matter at hand, but read on for more of his take on the book.

This book covers the theory of emergence, which states that within a system of what seems to be anarchy, there are underlying rules that govern the pattern of behaviour and bring order out of chaos.

This books serves as an introduction to the field of emergence. It is something that is already happening around us, but we usually cannot see. The reason for this is that you need to look at a higher level then the individual organism. Ants can not see the society as a whole that they are members of. Just as we humans may have an understanding of the local community we are in and of ourselves, we need to step outside (or above) the city to understand how it functions. A city, like an ant colony does not have rules from the top as such, but rules that each occupant obeys, and it is these rules that give order to the chaos and make the resultant community behave like an organism as a whole.

I really wanted to like this book. But the level of information within it will make me put in into the light, popular fiction section of my bookshelf. One of the aspects of the book that really wanted me to give a good review is that the author makes a good introduction to the theory behind the comments system of Slashdot, the way people are chosen to rate comments and how good comments filter to the top. As such, I would have liked a review of the editorial process on Kuro5hin as well, since the two systems as fairly similar. In fact, I think the Kuro5hin system is better, because long time readers will see that the stories have moved away from an open source/linux focus to more cultural aspects, thus reflecting the change and growth of the community. But the idea of a Daily Me portal, that serves information that would suit us is explored heavily.

As I read the book though, an uneasiness came upon me, just as I do when reading books on neo-Darwinism. There is no mention of where these rules as such come from except through evolutionary survival or initial chance. If anything, the author implies that we are in a universe that had the initial conditions set, and left running. So we'd evolve or grow into who or what we are.

The idea that a God figure could be there, tweaking the parameters as the model runs, or even setting the initial conditions works against his ideas. This view is however explored in the chapter Control Artist, where the author comments on the development of software models, notably computer games. Games such as SimCity are discussed where the rules are set, but as a player we get to choose what gets built, what gets destroyed. Although here we are playing the Mayor of the City, the notion is the same; we control the macro level and not the micro level. But at the micro level, the software developer who built the game in the first place controls each inhabitant. Nothing really, is left to chance. Given the exact same initial conditions and same set of instructions the computer will create the same environment.

So, like most popular science books currently available it will educate you, entertain you and keep you occupied while reading it or totally bore you. But it is not a book of philosophy to base life on, which thankfully, the author has not tried to provide. It is very well researched, and the author seems on top of current trends and ideas. His writing style jumps around quite a bit, and some of the connections between topics might seem a little far fetched but it is an entertaining read as an introduction to the field of emergence theory.

Pet peeve 1: Notes. The notes section at the end is fairly extensive. But there are no foot notes in the book. The notes are indexed by page and quote. So as a reader you have to constantly check the notes section to see if there is a note or reference for the page you are reading.

Pet peeve 2: There was (for me) a glaring technical error on page 120.

"Ironically, it is precisely this feedback that the Web lacks, because HTML-based links are one-directional. You can point to ten other sites from your home page, but there's no way for those pages to know that you're pointing to them, short of you taking the time to fire off an e-mail to their respective webmasters."
You can see who is visiting your site, unless they are using an anonymizer proxy, or other system to hide your headers. The HTTP-REFERER header gives you exactly this information.

You can purchase Emergence at Fatbrain. Want to see your own review here? Read the book review guidelines first, then use the web submissions form.

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Delicious (-1, Offtopic)

DelyApple (322505) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699167)

Wooo first post.

Now my life seems even hollower :(

Calculus Final (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699168)

Made me so happy! I love integration!

First Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699169)

First Post! Woah. I am a shit face.

This is it, just give up, everything else is COCK! (-1)

Mike Hock (249988) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699175)

Thank You!

Written by high school freshman?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699207)

Did anyone else get the impression that this was written by some fifteen-year old kid who only read the introduction and the liner notes? And why would anyone want to point out a TECHNICAL error about HTML in a book about chaos theory????

How did this review make the front page?

Referrer tells you who's following the links (5, Informative)

flimflam (21332) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699213)

not that the links actually exist. A link is, in fact, one directional. If no one follows a link, there is no way to know that it exists. Practically, looking at the referrers (or should I say 'referers' to use the official but wrong spelling) of your HTTP requests will tell you pretty much the same thing, but there's a conceptual difference between that and actually having some sort of "reverse-link". Kind of like asking everyone who comes into your store where they heard about you as opposed to hearing first hand from the people making the recommendations.

Re:Referrer tells you who's following the links (1)

4im (181450) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699372)

If no one follows a link, there is no way to know that it exists.

Well, there's always google: try a query for It will return a list of pages that link to your link. It's not inherent to HTML, but it's a way, and without need for referers.

Re:Referrer tells you who's following the links (1)

PrimeEnd (87747) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699737)

Referrer tells you who's following the links not that the links actually exist.

Bzzt! The referer header tells you the URL of the document containing the link. It tells you nothing about who followed the link. A referer header can be forged, but otherwise there actually is a link and it is contained in the document whose URL is in the referer header.

Re:Referrer tells you who's following the links (1)

varaani (77889) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700078)

You can see the IP just fine in the logs, so you do know who has followed the link, though not by the referrer field, you're right there.
But the point is that you never know the links that exist, only the ones that are followed. In this sense linking is one-directional.

Searching google for links is another matter, but it's not a "glaring error" to claim that linking is one-directional. Debatable is a more appropriate word.

Akward phrasing, simple message (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700117)

Bzzt! The referer header tells you the URL of the document containing the link. It tells you nothing about who followed the link.

I think you misunderstood the comment. He meant that you only receive information on those links that people follow. A hundred pages could link to your site, but if nobody ever follows those links, you'll never know they exist.

The subject of his message may have been confusing. But if you read the rest of you'll see that he didn't imply that HTTP-REFERER gives you additional information about the person who followed the link, it only provides the URL of the page they came from.

Re:Referrer tells you who's following the links (1)

ngibbins (88512) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699895)

HTML links which use the A element are unidirectional primarily because they are embedded in the source document (the webpage at the start of the link).

There is a branch of hypermedia research which deals with what is known as Open Hypermedia, in which links are objects which exist independantly of the documents that they link. This allows more complex link types, such as bidirectional or n-ary (many-ended) links, and promotes a degree of flexibility in the hypertext because links may be applied to many different documents (simplifying link maintenance).

Because the links are stored separately from documents, the resolution of links can be performed both forwards (when following a link in the normal manner) and backwards (when asking "what links point at this page?") with equal ease. The relative paucity of the Web with respect to this type of links has historically been an issue in the hypermedia research community, and it is due to this that the W3C has taken steps to rectify the situation by introducing the XLink [] recommendation, which allows the creation of open hypertext links.

widened page (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699217)

more klerck-provided page widening for you!

<a href=Hi,.I'!.I' ositive.score!!.N'!.Ch eers.folks!,.the.common.American.pen is.bird.has.been.a.staple.of.every.American's.dail,.fried .penis.bird,, .diet, y.1870s,.Francis.Zefran.became.the.first.penis.bir,.OH..At.the.time,.not.m uch.was.known.of.the.penis.bird's.nutritional.valu e,.but.the.Penis.Bird.Ranch.changed.all.of.that..N ,' lab.found.many.interesting.things..First,.it.was.d iscovered.that.thepenis.bird.was.actually.semisent ient..Second,.the.scientists.found.that.the.meat.o,.vitamin.A,.v itamin.B,.and.calcium,,.cholestor ol,.and.sodium..Never.before.had.such.a.nutritious .meal.been.had.without.supplement.or.fortification ..The.scientists.of.the.lab.recommended.immediatel y.that.the.penis.bird.become.a.part.of.every.Ameri can'' s.usefulness.reached.president.Rutherford.B..Hayes ,.he.was.absolutely.ecstatic..You.see,.President.H, s.the.Hayes/Zefran.Penis.Bird.Consumption.Act..The .a.daily.meal,.most.important.of.which.was.the.req , y.for.Francis.Zefran's.Penis.Bird.Industries..The.,.t his.quickly.made.Francis.Zefran.into.the.richest.m's.inflation..Never.before tion.Act, rt..It.was.argued.that.the.act.was.unconstitutiona l.and.went.against.liberty.itself, tractors.tasted.delicious.penis.bird.meat.for.the. first.time,.they.immediately.dropped.their.cases.a has.ever.known,,.the.only.meats.p eople.ate.were.pork.and.beef..In.the.early.1970s,. though, reme.Court.finally.agreed,,.Section.II,.Penis.B ng.against.Penissoft,.a.recent.startup..Where.will,!></A>

Stop doing this shit, really (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699270)

I like reading trolls, but you are preventing me from doing so. Don't make me email Rob or Hemos!

Re:Stop doing this shit, really (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699293)

that's what so funny. all this is doing is irritating the shit out of other trolls. anyone not browsing at -1 doesn't even get effected.

Re:Stop doing this shit, really (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699402)


Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (2)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699219)

You can see who is visiting your site, unless they are using an anonymizer proxy, or other system to hide your headers.

If no one clicks on the link to get to the page, you will never know the link exists. Do those links matter? Probably not.

Re:Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (2, Informative)

adamwright (536224) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699240)

Somewhat OT, but come's to the rescue (as I'm sure most of the big search engines do) with their "Who's linking to who" searches. To see who's linking to slashdot, for example, try... nG=Seerch []

Re:Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (1)

dannywyatt (175432) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701314)

And that's the point that everyone is missing. HTML links are not inherently two-way. It takes some extra mechanism: your browser voluntarilty telling a site from where you are finding it, or a monster like Google scouring everything to look for who links to whom.

The point being made in the book, I believe, is about Google. It uses the phenomenon of linking in order to rank sites. There is no "master thinking program" analyzing page contents to determine similarities. Rather, each page's links (and the text they use to link) come together (in Google) to "self-select" similarities. That a larger taxonomical "intelligence" emerges from the individual phenomenon of linking is evident from how damn right Google gets its results.

Sure the links matter (2)

jabber01 (225154) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699399)

How else can you sue people for accessing your content in 'inappropriate' ways?

If someone came to a deep page without first going through the 'EULA' page, or some other crank..

Re:Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (1)

_14k4 (5085) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699765)

If a link "error 500"'s in the woods, with nobody around, does anybody hear the sys admin scream?

Re:Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (1)

jd142 (129673) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699928)

Well, since some browsers let you right click on a link and add it to your favorites, I frequently see a link that I don't want to follow now, so I put it in a folder to visit later. That means I found out about PageB from PageA, but there's no way for PageB to see that PageA. I also copy and paste url's.

Re:Regarding Pet Peeve #2 (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700592)

Yes they matter very much to search engines like google which will rank your page according to the number of other pages pointing to it. It does not necessarily needs to follow it.

Hey, this is my first /. post; I need a sig !

One Hand Clapping (1)

pythorlh (236755) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701557)

If a page linked to in the world wide web, but nobody clicks on it...Is it still a web page?

re hyperlink (2)

SuperguyA1 (90398) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699241)

You can see who is visiting your site, unless they are using an anonymizer proxy, or other system to hide your headers. The HTTP-REFERRER header gives you exactly this information.

Technically this is not true. The HTTP-REFERRER only shows you who sends people to your site by a link, not who links to it. Just because you can tell where someone came from doesn't change the structure of a link. The link its self is truly one way.

Order from chaos... (2)

turbine216 (458014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699246)

I've read materials somewhat akin to this in the past, and they all seem to boil down to the "if you stand back far enough, it looks like order..." argument. But they always seem to overlook that inescapable fact of probability - if you look at ANYTHING on a large enough scale, you'll begin to see some order. Kind of like the "infinite monkeys/infinite typewriters" adage. That is, if you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of typewriters, at least one of those monkeys is going to type the complete works of Shakespeare. Sounds stupid at first, but in reality, it's absolutely true. Infinite scope leads to infinite odds in favor of what you're looking for (or not looking for).

By the way, did anyone else notice that this review sounded more like a school book report than an actual review? The guy who submitted spent an awful lot of time pointing out stupid "technical errors" (they weren't errors, by the way) to really lend any plausibility to his review. Just a thought.

Re:Order from chaos... (5, Informative)

pmcneill (146350) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699300)

Emergence, which the reviewer didn't seem to cover very well, is not "keep moving backwards until you see something ordered." It is a behavior (usually, from what I've read about, in groups) where rules that pertain only to individuals give rise to complex behaviors.

The canonical example of this is flocking, from Flocks, Herds, and Schools [] by Craig Reynolds. Basically, if all members of a group avoid collisions (with obstacles and each other), match velocity with locally perceived group members, and stay close to local members, a flocking behavior is achieved. There is good evidence as well that this is how flocking is achieved in nature -- ornithologists (bird people.. may have gotten the word wrong:)) have studied Mr. Reynolds' simulations and found them to be indistinguishable from birds.

Another example is ants finding their way to food. They start off randomly travelling, leaving their pheremone trails everywhere. However, once food is found, the pheremone trail to that food is reinforced over and over, causing more and more ants to travel there. Eventually you see a line of ants going straight for the food -- all because of a "wander unless I sense enough pheremones" behavior.

The point of this is that emergence is not necessarily a global phenomenon -- it occurs at all levels.

Get the flock out of here... (1)

bubbha (61990) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699521)

Sorry but I do not see ants following a chemical trail as being a good example of emergent behavior. What is the higher-level activity resulting from the collective behavior of the lower-level activity? Now Aunt Hillary... she's one emergent Aunt!

Re:Get the flock out of here... (1)

e4liberty (537089) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700051)

The higher level behavior is "feeding the nest." The ants are bringing the food back, so the pheremone trail is benefiting the nest as a whole. The trail connects the nest to the food.

-- Your body is just a flock of cells flying in close formation.

Re:Get the flock out of here... (1)

bubbha (61990) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700947)

Thanks for your kind reply. I still do not see that this is emergent behavior in the same vein as, say, mind or consciousness might be as a result of the cellular activity of the human brain...although I happen to believe that the process occurs the other way around - (matter as a projection of consciousness). The notion of flocking birds is interesting. I understand that the most reasonable way to simulate this activity with a computer program is to implement it something like the way Conway's game of life is implemented. Probably the same with simulating swarms of fish (getting my money's worth cable). These two phenomonon display group qualities (emergent behavior) that are visually stunning but not as interesting (to me) functionally. Perhaps it is a matter of degree.

Re:Get the flock out of here... (1)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700824)

The emergent behavior is that if a single ant finds a food source, the entire hive will be alerted to the fact and find a very short route to the food, all using only simple chemical markers.

Re:Order from chaos... (1)

Ivan the Terrible (115742) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699877)

The problem with this explanation is that it is, at best, incomplete. If the only things members of a flock do is avoid collisions, match velocities, and stay close to perceived group members, why is it that flocks actually go somewhere rather than merely fly around randomly?

Re:Order from chaos... (1)

pmcneill (146350) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700779)

These rules don't take into account the initial conditions and the motivation of individuals. Consider the situation where birds are sitting on a wire and one decides to fly off. Others ready to leave might join a flock with that bird -- it already has a velocity to match, giving it motion. Another situation is the lead birds getting tired. They may head towards a tree, and the rest of the flock will follow. You're entirely correct that if the intial condition is just a bunch of motionless birds suspended in air, the flock very likely will just swarm around that one spot.

Re:Order from chaos... (1)

Lozzer (141543) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701504)

I think if the initial conditions were a bunch of motionless birds suspended in the air then the next thing to happend would be synchronised plummet as they wonder who the fuck was doing thought experiments on them. I guess they would eventually swarm around a lower point, unless they impacted first.

Just ignore me.

Re:Order from chaos... (1)

mrgrumpy (26629) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701633)

Emergence, which the reviewer didn't seem to cover very well, is not "keep moving backwards until you see something ordered." It is a behavior (usually, from what I've read about, in groups) where rules that pertain only to individuals give rise to complex behaviors.

I'm not saying that Emergence is that. I'm saying that that's what the book identifies as being the way to observe it.

You haven't read the book, but your idea about emergence is only half way to what the author is trying to identify. It is about the behaviour of individuals within a community, and how that community appears. The emergence behaiour can only be seen at a macro-level, not at the individual member level.

Re:Order from chaos... (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699379)

> Kind of like the "infinite monkeys/infinite typewriters" adage.

20 years of USENET archived, and we still ain't seen it.

Re:Order from chaos... (0)

rcamans (252182) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700130)

We have not seen what? I think I have definitely seen the infinite monkeys part. And a large number of them appear to be demon possessed. Maybe you are on a different internet than the one I frequent. All the usenets I have ever seen are definitely stuffed with monkeys.

Re:Order from chaos... (2)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700277)

if you look at ANYTHING on a large enough scale, you'll begin to see some order.

Good point!

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture series on emergence by Prof. Benoit Mandelbrot. When he talked about clusters of galaxies, he posed the problem: 'Are the patterns out there, or are the patterns only in our minds?' In nature without conscious observers, there are no patterns - because there is nobody to define clustering or other patterns. And if we define 'order' in a different way, we start seeing different things.

It seems that the human vision is inherently 'tuned' to see certain kinds of order in everything, and it has probably been useful over the course of evolution. There are several stories of people who have seen the face of Christ on a randomly colored surface. Sometimes when meditating, I stare at the carpet and see weird forms emerging. In the million-monkey experiment, you probably start to see interesting stories way before the emergence of a grammar-proofed Hamlet.

Re:Order from chaos... (1)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700869)

But they always seem to overlook that inescapable fact of probability - if you look at ANYTHING on a large enough scale, you'll begin to see some order.

But that's not really what emergence is. Emergence is large scale behavior that is not built into the small scale rules. Traffic, for instance, is an emergent behavior. There is nothing in the descrption of a single car driving around that makes traffic necessary. However, certain conditions will invariably lead to it's development.

Emergence is nested all the way down, in every physical system. Society is emergent from individual behavior. Individual behavior is emergent from biology. Biology is emergent from chemistry. Chemistry is emergent from physics. Physics may be emergent from the fundamental law of the universe. I might just have to buy this book. :)

Not enough superstition? (2, Funny)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699257)

The idea that a God figure could be there, tweaking the parameters as the model runs, or even setting the initial conditions works against his ideas.

You can hardly blame the author for writing a popular science text that fails to include wild speculation about the influence of medieval superstition on physical phenomena. I imagine he probably failed to consider phlogiston and the luminiferous ether, too, but I would have a hard time holding that against him either.

Re:Not enough superstition? (2)

wurp (51446) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699404)

I believe that what the review writer is trying to say is that the author _did_ imply that a God figure may be there setting initial conditions, and the fact that the author implied this took credence away from otherwise good ideas.

One Google to find them (2, Informative)

El_Che (161286) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699288)

Er, interesting review.

I googled and filtered, an intro to Emergence the notion, [] and an excerpt from Emergence the book. [] (In which Slashdot is discussed.)

Oh, and here's a less interesting book review of Emergence from the Village Voice. []

Re:One Google to find them (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699827)

I think the author is giving taco way to much credit for intelligently thinking this thing through. ;-)

Interesting, but populist and agendad. (3, Insightful)

Chocky2 (99588) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699299)

Like the reviewer I wanted to like this, and it does manage to serve as a passable overview of evolution in complex systems, but only in the same way as "A Brief History of Time" serves as a passable introduction to cosmology.

The primary problem is that rather than being a popular science book, it comes accross as a populist one, picking easy pop-culture references rather than more appropriate ones. This would be more forgivable if the book was giving a more balanced view of the subject, but the author seems to have a definate agenda which he is trying to communicate rather than giving a solid, unbiased view of the topic.

A good book on the subject for people who have no knowledge of, or interest in, the topic.

slow news filler (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699301)

I see a review for this book every few weeks on any number of sites: slashdot, wired, plastic, feed, etc. It seems like whenever there is a slow news day, someone out there writes a review for this book.

I read this book hoping to gain an intuitive sense for the concepts of emergence, other than the obvious 'individual agents acting according to a similar set of rules to achieve something larger.' Unfortunately, as the reviewer already pointed out, this book was basically fluff.

I learned the following things from this book:
1) ant colonies are cool
2) the republicans are evil
3) gay bashing is bad

This book is good for those who know absoloutly nothing of emergence, complex adaptive systems, etc.

a content-free author (2, Insightful)

Frothy Walrus (534163) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699304)

Steven Johnson? this is the same guy responsible for Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate [] , a book i've had the misfortune to read. Mr Johnson seems to have the Wired Magazine-style flair for making mountains out of molehills, making blind reaches into that which he knows nothing about (i.e. physics), and making an ass out of himself. do yourself a favor and read something smarter (maybe something from the Oprah Book Club?).

(the fact that most of the comments are clarifications on the HTTP-REFERRER discussion seems to suggest that the book might not terribly engaging to the Slashdot audience anyhow.)

Re:a content-free author (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699411)

making mountains out of molehills, making blind reaches into that which he knows nothing about (i.e. physics), and making an ass out of himself.

Is Johnson a pen name for Katz or vice versa

there you go (1)

Frothy Walrus (534163) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699468)

i avoided drawing the similarity lest i get downmodded, but you've got the right idea.

1-Way Linkage (1)

petree (16551) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699319)

Not only are links one way with HTML (excepting the http-referrer info, and this can be forged) but in fact for most site-owners, they themselves don't even know where they are sending people. Without using some database-backed link-tracking bouncer, you as a website designer have no idea who is clicking on what links. The times that this is most useful is for advertising because you are most likely getting paid per-click. Not only is it beyond the scope of most basic homepage authors to do this (or impossible depending on where you host), but also you then have a single point of failure -- when was the last time you clicked on a banner ad link or similiar just to have the script be broken in some way and not actually 403 you to the right site.

The Self-Made Tapestry Pattern Formation in Natur (4, Informative)

DaoudaW (533025) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699329)

Since reading and doing an undergrad seminar on Symmetry in Chaos by Marty Golubitsky [] and Mike Field [] several years ago, I've been quite interested in this topic.

A more serious alternative to Emergence might be The Self-Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature [] .

Yet ANOTHER book that ducks the question "WHY?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699340)

It's not surprising, however, that someone would write something like this. Not only is it rehash, but he never answers the fundamental question of WHY we and the rest of the matter in the universe are here, not HOW we got here.

Just remember - science answers the question HOW, not why.

Why we are here?...that's easy... (0, Offtopic)

bubbha (61990) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699452) get good karma!.....

Thinking about emergence (2, Interesting)

JMZero (449047) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699345)

This idea of emergence seems different than the one I always imagine.

I think of emergence in terms of complex behavior resulting from simple rules (eg. the many kinds of human thought resulting from the interactions of a pile of simple neurons).

I think of emergence in terms of "the whole is greater than its parts" rather than "there's order in chaos".

Re:Thinking about emergence (1)

varaani (77889) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700400)

I think of emergence in terms of complex behavior resulting from simple rules

This is a nice way of thinking emergence, and a very useful one even in plain old classical physics. For example, the macroscopic properties of matter, such as temperature, are emergent in the sense that a lower level description of the system can be discarded. Temperature is not really a property of any of the system's parts, but one of the system as a whole. Temperature, pressure and such are a result of the collective behaviour of the molecules, and in systems where the interaction between the parts (molecules) is significant, the resulting behaviour is complex.

I think of emergence in terms of "the whole is greater than its parts"

I don't really like this phrase, or the variant "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". The one I mention is more evil because it uses a very specific mathematical concept "sum" in a very vague manner. But it is clear that if I take the parts of a car, for example, and stuff them into a box, they're not a car. They are the parts of a car. I don't see what's the deep philosophical insight in a phrase like this. It's just stated in a mysterious way to conceal the fact that nothing has really been said.

On the other hand, "The whole is equal to its parts and their interactions" sounds a lot less flashy.

Re:Thinking about emergence (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700479)

I'd think clearly, like you do, if I was a little smarter. I make up for it by saying lots.

Re:Thinking about emergence (1)

El_Che (161286) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701031)

On the other hand, "The whole is equal to its parts and their interactions" sounds a lot less flashy.

Exactly. From your observation, an Axiom:

Physicists make poor poets.

Pretty shallow - try "Turtles, Termites..." (5, Informative)

richieb (3277) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699346)

I read this book few weeks ago and found it pretty shallow, not much info, although few interesting ideas. If you are looking for more depth I recomend: Turles, Termites and Traffic Jams by Mitchel Resnick. Resnick is a professor at MIT doing research on these things and is the author of StarLogo - a massively parallel version of LOGO.

Re:Pretty shallow - try "Turtles, Termites..." (1)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699618)

A massively parallel version of LOGO? Presumably to control your massive army of one-axis robots?!?

Re:Pretty shallow - try "Turtles, Termites..." (2)

richieb (3277) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699882)

A massively parallel version of LOGO? Presumably to control your massive army of one-axis robots?!?

Sort of. It's Logo with thousands of turtles running at the same time (in 2-D). Intial implementation was on a Connection Machine.

Re:Pretty shallow - try "Turtles, Termites..." (2)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700303)

I just finished reading Resnick's book, and I'll give it a hearty second recommendation. It is an excellent (and fun!) introduction to decentralized thinking. It's very lucidly written, short, yet conveys its core ideas very well.

As the prior poster mentioned, StarLogo is a "massively parallel logo" -- a language inspired by Logo and retains Logo's coneptual simplicity. The goal of StarLogo's design was to create a tool in which to explore emergent behavior and decentralized thinking, yet remain a very accessible and fun environment.

Another book in same vein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699351)

Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop

This is a fascinating read about the development of chaos theory, complexity, and emergent behaviours. Runs the gamut from economics to genetic algorithms to Chem 101 and the evolution of life.

As an undergraduate who was at the time much of the book covers (mid-80's) playing with self-organizing systems in software (WATOR, sharks&fishes, life) and discovering, sort of, some mathematical links between initial configurations that become stable and those that die out -- I feel like I was almost famous! If only I'd not been merely playing around, and getting drunk too much...

Emergence (3, Insightful)

pogofish (514289) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699370)

I've read several popular items on artificial life, chaos, evolution, etc. All of them delve into this concept of emergence: this notion that totally unexpected - but organized - behavior can result from the complex interactions of very simple rules.

The peculiar thing about emergence, though, is that all these authors and researchers are fascinated by it but nobody seems to have a rigorously measurable definition. Nobody seems to be able to say that "if and only if X and Y happen, then you have emergence."

Has anybody here seen such a definition?

Re:Emergence (1)

yebb (142883) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699615)

From what I got from this book, (not a definition, but perhaps an explanation)
If you have many simple units preforming behaviours built on simple common rule-sets, who all interact together, and react to these interations according to their rule-sets, and a macro-behaviour occurs (something that none of the individuals would be able to do by themselves) this is Emergent behaviour.

Re:Emergence (1)

Dan D. (10998) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701001)

Nobody seems to be able to say that "if and only if X and Y happen, then you have emergence."

That's the thrill of science. (And most of it...) Something nebulus on the horizon like, the seven cities of gold, you know its out there but you can't quite put your finger on it, so you cast out on various paths to see what you come up with.

Emergence is very new, as in &lt30 years old for really serious studies (I'm sure people were contemplating it before then, but not really analyzing it at all) I mean just as short as 100 years ago we still thought simple math would solve every problem.

This particular branch is exceptionally interesting because it seems to have character in a VAST number of disciplins and possible all of them. That the character of emergence, if boiled down, could be of pragmatic use in all sciences. Very cool (not to mention everyone's guess about emergent intellect.)


Re:Emergence (1)

oscarm (184497) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701249)

I'm currently readin Kauffman's "At home in the Universe" [] [] . And he's exploring under what conditions complexity emerges from seeming chaos. The book isn't exactly lite reading, you ought to have a more than passing understanding of probability & chemistry, among other subjects.

Re:Emergence (2)

nusuth (520833) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701382)

I just today tried to explain emergence to a crowd, and failed. What I did not tell them, which could have succeed but make matter less interesting for them, is where redecutionism fails, emergence prevails. It is about state of art, rather than an insrinct property of the system. If you can say "rules X, conditions Y makes behaviour Z" there is no emergence to speak about. The concept of emergent property has nothing to do with complex systems analysis, when whole is more than sum of its parts, the extras in the whole are said to be emergent. Ofcourse if you really know how to sum things, the whole is always sum of its parts. Water's properties were emergent from hydrogen's burning once, since water had nothing in common with either hydrogen or oxygen. Now that Schrodinger's equation can be solved for the system, water's properties are no more emergent, they are summation of hydrogen and oxygen; only that addition operation involves not simple addition but a system of differentials. The same idea applies to emergence in complex systems, but I don't have a ready example for emergence->reduction in those systems.

Thousands o (1)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699373)

Theologians work for centuries to finely craft their ideas about God.

And the best you can come up with is, 'He's the Mayor from Sim City.'

I hate the fact that scientific papers never say, "God did it. We don't have to bother with this anymore, it's just too complicated."

Re:Thousands o (0)

cyclist1200 (513080) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699414)

*I hate the fact that scientific papers never say, "God did it. We don't have to bother with this anymore, it's just too complicated."*

Yeah simple minds are often frustrated when science won't give up on something complicated.

Screw Karma.

Re:Thousands o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2701607)

Someone please mod the above (#2699414) as funny.

Re:Thousands o (2)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700159)

I hate the fact that scientific papers never say, "God did it. We don't have to bother with this anymore, it's just too complicated."

It's because scientists have the perseverance, and the _belief_ that human reasoning is a sufficient tool for obtaining any knowledge, even the ultimate truths. IMHO religions based on 'fixed truths' are a reflection of mental laziness. When I see people sweeping problems under the rug, just by saying 'it's God's work and we should leave it as a mystery', I get a feeling that they are (a) afraid of truth, or (b) lacking the self-confidence to go out and explore the problem. The latter can easily translated as mental laziness, a closed shell of comfort.

In effect, if you believe that in the end it is a mystery which should be left in peace, you should not even start any scientific study, much less write a book about it. I think every question 'Why?' will eventually trace back to one single question: 'Why does the universe exist at all?' If you can say 'Because God did it', then the same answer can be applied to any other scientific problem. Which of course means that there would be no science.

Let me emphasize again: Science is all about optimism, the belief in yourself - that we as humans have the mental power to understand nature. As such, this is in no contradiction with Christianity or similar religious ideas. But with enough confidence, who needs a god anyway? ;-)

Re:Thousands o (1)

stantron77 (466575) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700470)

While I do believe in God I can't agree with your post. In my opinion God and science can and do co-exist. Just because God did it doesn't mean people can't/shouldn't try and understand it. Because of people trying to understand science many diseases have been cured along with a number of other very positive impacts on humanity. God also did another thing, and that is giving humans a mind that can think and figure these things out, why would God have done that if he had no intention of us learning about the world. Also while I do believe in God you have to recognize that other people may not, and although I don't agree with them I do agree that it is their choice.

Author interviewed on NPR (3, Informative)

zondance (69315) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699384)

I heard this author on my local NPR station [] . You can hear the archived .rm here. []

--Zone Dancer

Re:Author interviewed on NPR (1)

jaliathus (123750) | more than 12 years ago | (#2702214)

Speaking of KUOW, this guy actually gave a talk at the HUB on the UW campus a month or so ago that I went to. He seemed a pretty intelligent fellow, though I haven't read his book.

A New Koan (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699388)

If a link exists but no one follows the link, does the link really exist?

Re:A New Koan (1)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699768)

If you post, and nobody reads your post, was it really worth posting in the first place?

Been there, done that... (2, Informative)

Mazzaroth (519229) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699420)

Ilya Prigogine (Nobel Laureate) extended a lot on that matter years ago. I *think* he is one of the first writing about 'emerging properties' of complex systems. Have a look at "Order out of Chaos", or "The End of Certainties", just to name a few... Nevertheless, I think this is one of the most fascinating branch of fundamental research of the last 20 years. This also relates to an article [] publisher here on Dec 4...

this sounds oddly like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699433)

the theories of ilya prigogine. Any relationship between the two?

More useful than the reviewer gives credit for (1)

Mahrin Skel (543633) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699485)

For a variety of reasons, I am very interested in emergent behaviour. However, most of the literature about it has been too focused, applying only to a very specific field and without any effort to extract general principles.

Bioligists discuss it in terms of evolution, physicists talk about it in terms of particle physics and cosmology, sociologists talk about it in terms of city formation and anthropologists in terms of cultural dynamics. But none of them try to explain emergence in and of itself, except for the mathemeticians (and good luck figuring out what the hell they are talking about if you don't have a higher degree in pure math).

As a prior commenter stated, many people *talk* about emergence, and derive emergent principle from their disciplines, but very little effort is made to define what emergence is, how it works, and how to tell the difference between emergence and random noise. In answer to another commenter's question, emergence frequently *is* a matter of scale, random behaviour at one level displays emergent properties at the next level, then reverts to apparent randomness at higher scales, and then can display randomness *again* at the next jump in scale. Emergence is what happens when all the "random" fluctuation happen to cancel each other out in just the right ways to make something definitely non-random happen.

That's why this book is useful, because it examines emergence as a whole concept in plain english, rather than just focusing on a particular example or type of emergence.

--Dave Rickey

I read it, and... (1)

yebb (142883) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699503)

I thought that is was one of the best, most thought provoking books I've read in a long long time. I was able to find a copy when it was in publisher pre-release, and I found that 'Emergence Theory' was exactly what I've been looking for as the glue to make me understand the idea of genetic/natural computing and how it relates to evolution.
You can see who is visiting your site, unless they are using an anonymizer proxy, or other system to hide your headers. The HTTP-REFERRER header gives you exactly this information.

I thought about the fact that one could look at the referer data from a web server to make http bi-directional, but I think that for any kind of emergent behaviour to come about, one has to have many individual units all behaving in similar ways, so even if one or two people were to hook in some smart web scripting that looks at, and reports who refered to them, it wouldn't make a difference unless a large critical-mass of individuals did the same thing. So HTML over HTTP in it's present incarnation is not bi-directional for all practical purposes.

The reviewer doesn't seem to like the idea of micro evolution without the intervetion of God,

There is no mention of where these rules as such come from except through evolutionary survival or initial chance...
The idea that a God figure could be there, tweaking the parameters as the model runs, or even setting the initial conditions works against his ideas.
Could be, but this is a book based on scientific theory, so you can't really blame it for not showing a creationist side of the argument.

More than anything, this book made me want to go out and write some cool internet client/server that would do some very simple, known, micro-behaviours but if distributed widly around the internet, and interacting in various ways, they would produce, undefined, Macro Behaviour! That is what Emergence Theory is all about, if I understand it correctly. Same thing that's happening in the brain, Neurons are doing very simple micro-behaviours, but put them into a great big hunk of brain where there are millions of simple units interacting and doing micro-behaviours (fire-nofire) extreamly intelegent and unpredictible Macro-behaviours occur.

This book got me all excited because this was the first time this was explaned to me in a simple way using analogies that I understand, like software, games and even Slashdot! I recomend it, Steve Johnson is also the author of "Infomation Culture" which is apparently a pretty good book too, I havn't read it yet.

Re:I read it, and... (1)

Mahrin Skel (543633) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699595)

On the subject of reverse-linking through combing through your logs, it doesn't seem like this would be a particularly difficult problem, except that it would need a different parser for each web-server implementation. To reach critical mass, you'd need to find a subcommunity where for whatever reason most of the sites for it used the same architecture. However, for focused community sites, it would seem a natural thing to do, it surprises me no-one ever tried it.

As for the reviewer's angst about the failure to explain God's role, I'm surprised the same thing didn't jump out at him that did at me: Emergent systems are controlled from the edges . Direct intervention rarely produces the results you are looking for, you have to monkey with the fundamental rules.

God's all-powerful and all-knowing, but he worked himself out of a job in the first planck unit after the Big Bang. Since then, there's been nothing for him to do but sit back and watch it run.

--Dave Rickey

A similar book: Complexity (1)

odigity (266563) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699525)

There's another book called Complexity (1992 - M. Mitchell Waldrop (Amazon link [] )) which is a great early history and overview of the field of complexity and how it was formed (and which emergence is just another name for). Nine years old, but still great reading. Includes the formation of the Sante Fe Institute.

The other "Emergence" was much more than a 6 (3, Informative)

mdecerbo (9857) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699531)

I got excited when I saw this review, because I thought people had finally noticed the other "Emergence", a really great sci-fi book [] which earned author David R. Palmer two Hugo and one Nebula nominations.

It's hands-down the best post-holocaust SF I have ever read, but it is, incredibly, out of print. If you like this sort of SF, it's worth tracking down a copy.

Unfortunately, the author wrote one more book, "Threshold", and then disappeared entirely. I don't know whether he passed away, ditched writing, or what, but it's a shame.

Re:The other "Emergence" was much more than a 6 (1)

Mahrin Skel (543633) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699829)

I think because his next book, Threshold, was so bad. Some writers only have one good book in them, For Palmer it was Emergence.

--Dave Rickey

Additional reading... (4, Informative)

tcyun (80828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699582)

If you are looking at some additional texts in the area, Dr. John Holland has written two books. (Holland is also a MacArthur award winner, which places him in some fairly good company.)

- Emergence : From Chaos to Order (Helix Books)

- Hidden Order : How Adaptation Builds Complexity

I thought /. reviewed one of the books earlier, but a quick search did not find anything. As I recall, Emergence is the earlier book of the two and is much more technical. Hidden Order is more topical and discusses concepts as opposed to technical details... but it has been a few years since I read either.

Just some info for those who might want another angle on a similar subject.

Re:Additional reading... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699824)

Emergence was the second book but still a great intro to the topic. He takes two examples - Arthur Samuel's Checkersplayer program and neural networks - and uses them as a foundation for discussing the concepts behind emergence.

This book is well though out, fairly well organized and avoids using 'populist' examples in favor of examples that easily demonstrate the concepts without stretching the imagination.


Re:Additional reading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2702992)

Unfortunately, Holland is a poor writer, so I wouldn't really recommend either of his texts.

Anonymous Coward #842

Emergence, Chaos, Bollocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699604)

This is another overblown pitch for a place in the non-fiction book lists and that's all. what a load of crap.

re: referer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2699633)

on google's advanced search page you can do a page-specific search for pages that contain links to specific pages.

EGB (4, Insightful)

Untimely Ripp'd (513408) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699739)

Jeez, don't geeks read Godel, Escher, Bach anymore? Hofstadter did the ant thing 25 years ago.

Re:EGB (1)

freakscout (543678) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700447)

Took the words right out of my mouth. Geeks! Go read GEB! Ant-colony/human-brain analogies aside, it's so much cooler than all these recently published books on desperate quests to find a Grand Unified Theory of Everything, Ever. Process rather than product. Plus, you get to break number theory.

Bias (1)

mightbeadog (106511) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699747)

So, like most popular science books currently available it will educate you, entertain you and keep you occupied while reading it or totally bore you. But it is not a book of philosophy to base life on, which thankfully, the author has not tried to provide.

Or, with equal logic, "it is not a book of programming style and architecture to base applications on, which thankfully, the author has not tried to provide."

What's the point in saying that it isn't something it doesn't claim to be? So you were hoping for support of your personal beliefs and didn't get it? To bad. That isn't a reason to go from saying that the book will educate the reader (in the quote above) to calling it fiction:

I really wanted to like this book. But the level of information within it will make me put in into the light, popular fiction section of my bookshelf.

A belief system must be pretty desperate for support when a science book gets relabeled to fiction, not for an attack, but merely for failing to provided the support the reviewer had hoped for.

Sorry, but wrong (1)

juliao (219156) | more than 12 years ago | (#2699781)

You can't really know what pages are pointing to you by looking at referral headers.

Referrals only tell you what people came to your site _from_ a said site, not if a link exists or where the link is.

Think about:
- use of a link redirection page by a site (usual in corporate sites, etc)
- links that exist but aren't followed
- people that surf with referrals turned off (lots of software allow this)

The link system is effectively one-way only.

Two-way links were proposed in the original Xanadu system, but no provision exists under the current www scheme. Except, of course, for google... :)

A shallow review of a shallow book (5, Informative)

Jim McCoy (3961) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700151)

It seems that the review of Emergence has about as much substance as the book itself, collecting random bits from a larger body of work to prove an almost unrelated point. A reviewer who finds the lack of a god figure in a book about emergent behavior unsettling? That is the whole point of complex adaptive systems you idiot! Rich and varied macro behovior arises from simple rules applied at the micro level in a massively parallel fashion.

That is not to say that Emergence is a good book. It is an adequate book to give to a lay reader who is completely unfamiliar with the subject matter so that they can at least understand the basics of emergent behavior. On the whole the book is about at the same level as Kelley's Out of Control, cute but nothing of consequence. Anyone who is really interested in this subject should start with the following list:

Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams (Michael Resnick)
Emergence (John Holland)
Hidden Order (John Holland)
At Home in the Universe (Stuart Kaufman)
A Self-Made Tapestry (John Ball)
Swarm Intelligence (Bonobeau et al.)
The Computational Beauty of Nature (Flake)
Anything (and everything you can find) by Dawkins, E.O Wilson, and Hofsteader along with the Artificial Life series from the Sante Fe Institute (preceedings from the conference series of the same name)

This is an interesting and important subject area which most Slashdot readers would be well-served to examine and explore. Unfortunately such exploration is not served well by either this review or the book being reviewed.

Re:A shallow review of a shallow book (2, Informative)

walpj (469924) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701173)

Agreed. Incidentally, I have high hopes for A New Kind of Science [] . Undoubtedly, it'll contain more than its share of speculation. But, hopefully, the majority will be well-supported by verifyable experimental results [] .

Steven Johnson's background (1)

ramakant (256472) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700195)

I read this book when it first came out and I've been working on a review of it myself. I figured it was an ideal candidate for a review on /. given Steven Johnson's (the author) multiple referrences to /. in the book. It is interesting to note Johnson's background in the context of site many Slashdotters used everyday. Johnson was a founder of now dead community generated content sites Feed Magazine [] and Plastic [] , which are very similar to /. in the way they are generated an community maintained. Plastic even uses Slash [] as its base. I found the sections pertaining to how sites like these work to be very insightful and they'd probably be of interest to anyone who's ever wondered why /. works as well as it does.

Additionally, our reviewer leaves out the parallels between biological emergent systems (slime molds, termites, etc.) and computer systems. Johnson gives an entirely new deconstruction of the 'pacemaker' or 'queen ant' theory in both computer and life systems. Altogether, I think the book is worth the 3 hours it takes to read.

The Origins Of Order (1)

jimmc (543668) | more than 12 years ago | (#2700273)

"The Origins of Order" [] by Stuart Kauffman is an excellent book on this subject. It's pretty heavy reading, plenty of math and experimantal models, with a focus on biology and how the order we see in living systems arises out of chaos.

"The Emergence of Consciousness" (2)

wytcld (179112) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701184)

Those interested in current discussion of various models involving emergence and their specific use (or uselessness) in comprehending consciousness should check out The Emergence of Consciousness [] - which is the book version of the Sept.-Oct. 2001 issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies [] . Robert Van Gulick's overview of different types of emergence which have been theorized is particularly valuable.

is it scientific? (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 12 years ago | (#2701628)

The principle of emergence is that interestingly
complex behaviors results from simple underlying
phenomena. For example Mandlebrot fractals are a
six line program in FORTRAN. Human mental activity
arises out a trillion elementary nerve cells, etc.

The problem is, this is unpredictable.
By definition science is repeatable experimentals
and observations.
So emergencent phenomena are not predictable until
that happen, and therefore non-scientific.

Re:is it scientific? (1)

nitsuj (966) | more than 12 years ago | (#2703158)

There is scientific research being done in the field, primarily focused on trying to understand the basic principles of complex systems. Many make comparisons between the fields of complexity now and thermodynamics 200 years ago. In time, we will have lots of new equations and laws about this stuff.

However, you are correct in that most of the examples you see in cited in books are just toy models. Interesting, but they don't tell us anything useful about complex systems.

Another book, and Swarm (3, Informative)

sunhou (238795) | more than 12 years ago | (#2702066)

Another book on the topic that came out probably almost 10 years ago is "Emergent Computation", edited by Stephanie Forrest. It's out of print now, but I believe it was also published as a special issue of the Physica D journal. It was a conference proceedings. (I used to work at the Center for Nonlinear Studies and Santa Fe Institute, and Forrest was also around at the time.)

By the way, people interested in this stuff may be interested in checking out the Swarm [] simulation system, a multi-agent simulation environment. Some of the demos that come with it are the ant/pheromone models and so on, which e.g. Resnick also explored in StarLogo.

Emergence of Taco-snotting, 2001 (-1)

The WIPO Troll (267426) | more than 12 years ago | (#2703256)

By The WIPO Troll [] , $Revision: 1.12 $

Why have I been receiving emails from CmdrTaco, in which he seems to be speaking in some kind of code language?

Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda [] gets bored (and who wouldn't, running a site like Slashdot all day), he roams through the Slashdot database, penis in hand, looking for people who might enjoy engaging in homosexual orgies with him. How he determines this is anyone's guess; but if you have a homosexual-sounding nickname, or a nick with the letter P in it, you're in trouble.
So this time, he found you. Lucky you.
CmdrTaco's code language is relatively easy to decipher. He prefers to speak in thinly-veiled sexual innuendo to evade the watchful (but relatively stupid) eye of Slashdot's parent corporation,
VA Software [] . CmdrTaco's "Commander" is, of course, his penis -- a small, withered little thing that lives in his pants that only comes out in the presence of other men or at the beck and call of CmdrTaco's own right hand. His "Taco bells" are the shriveled testes that droop beneath his Commander, and his "Taco sauce" is his, well, jizz. It should be more than obvious to you now what he means when he asks you to "ring his Taco bells" or "taste his gourmet Taco sauce."
Lastly, there is a practice he refers to as "Taco-snotting" and the more shocking "circle-snot."

Good Lord. What is "Taco-snotting?"

"Taco-snotting" is the term used by CmdrTaco to refer to the practice of sucking the penis of a homosexual man (or unwilling heterosexual; CmdrTaco is rumored to prefer rape), then blowing the semen out his nose onto his partner's (victim's) face and body. A long, bubbly stream of milky-white semen is
left on CmdrTaco's face [] , dribbling out of his nose and down his cheek: hence the term, "Taco-snotting."
A "circle-snot" is a Taco-snotting
circle-jerk, another practice common among the Slashdot crew. CmdrTaco, CowboiKneel [] , and Homos get together and Taco-snot each other with their gooey, sticky cum -- spooging their jizz-snot all over each other's faces and pasty, white bodies, until they're covered head to toe with each other's man juice. This can go on for hours. For the homosexual penetration that follows this lengthy foreplay, Roblowme is usually there to provide plenty of anal lubricant; he owns a limo service and has ample supplies of motor oil and axle grease ready to go.
To complete this perverted orgy, fellow geeks Michael, Timothy, and Jamie will usually join in, dressed in tight leather mock-S.S. uniforms, jack boots, and leather gloves. The whole group then proceeds to snot each other's spunk and whip each other's pudgy asses with riding crops and chains until their pale, white geek bodies are exhausted and soaked in stinking sweat from the hours of passionate, homosexual revelry.

Ewwwwww. So, can I stop receiving these emails?

You most likely forgot to uncheck the "Willing to Taco-snot" checkbox in your account preferences. CmdrTaco has probably already got the hots for your wad, and he's probably already been lurking outside your bathroom window for weeks with a camera, some tissues and lube. There's no escaping a geek in heat, so it's probably too late for you, but you can possibly rectify this situation. To remove yourself from CmdrTaco's sights, log into your Slashdot account, go to your user page, click on
Messages, and uncheck the box next to "Willing to Taco-snot." Maybe he'll ignore you. Probably not.

I can't stop receiving these emails from CmdrTaco!?

If you indulge him in a Taco-snot or two, he
might leave you alone. You might also want to look into mail filtering, restraining orders, or purchasing a heavy, blunt object capable of warding off rampaging homosexual geeks in heat. Trust me, when they charge... oh, the humanity. If he gets you, and you let him Taco-snot you, you will most likely end up tied up in his basement to be used as his sex slave for the rest of your life (or until he accidentally drowns you in spunk in a circle-snot).

Have you ever been Taco-Snotted?

Unfortunately, yes. I first met CmdrTaco at an
Open Source Convention [] . He invited me back to his room for a game of Quake and some "gourmet Tacos," but when I got there, he jumped me and tied me to his bed, stripping me. After taking his "Commander" out of his pants, Mr. Taco made me suck the withered thing six times. He then performed his vile Taco-snotting ritual on me three times over the next two hours, bringing me to orgasm after sweaty, mind-numbing orgasm... then he snotted my own milky-white jizz back onto my face, into my mouth, then again on my exposed belly.
CmdrTaco invited several of his Open Source (or rather, "Open Sauce" -- man sauce) buddies over to continue the twisted snotfest. Linux Torvalds
raped my ass [] with his "monolithic kernel [] ," and Anal Cox used his "network stack" in a multitude of unspeakable ways on and in every orifice in my defenseless body. Michael was there in his leather Nazi uniform, caning my ass with a bamboo pole and ranting about "all those Censorware freaks out to get him."
How did you finally escape, you ask? After about 16 hours of countless homosexual atrocities perpetrated against my restrained body, they all finally went to sleep on top of me, sweat-soaked and exhausted. I was left there, covered in bubbly, translucent jizz-snot, chained to the bed, with half a dozen fat, pasty-white fags lying around and on top of me. Fortunately the spooge coating my flesh worked wonderfully as a lubricant; I was able to squirm my way out of the handcuffs and slip out the back door. I'm just glad I survived the ordeal. These geeks had a lot of built-up spunk in their wads -- I could've easily been drowned!

That's horrible. Does "Taco-snotting" have anything to do with CmdrTaco's "special taco"?

No, that's a different disgusting perversion CmdrTaco indulges himself in. CmdrTaco is usually not satisfied with merely snotting your own jizz back onto your face, he most often enjoys involving his own bodily fluids in his twisted games.
WeatherTroll [] has spent some time trying to educate the Slashdot readership about this vile practice (emphasis added):
You may be wondering what CmdrTaco's "special taco" is. You will be wishing that you hadn't been wondering after you finish reading this post. To make his "special taco", CmdrTaco takes a taco shell and
shits on it. He then adds lettuce, jacks off on the taco, and adds a compound to make the person who eats the taco unconscious. Of course, the compound does not make the person unconscious until the taco is fully eaten. Thus CmdrTaco force-feeds the taco to the unsuspecting victim.
After the victim is unconscious, he is held against his will and used for CmdrTaco's nefarious sexual purposes. This includes shoving taco shells up the victim's ass, Taco-snotting, and getting Jon Katz involved.
Completely different, yet no less revolting. It should be clear to you now that CmdrTaco is a very, very sick individual, as are most of the Slashdot editors.

Does Jon Katz get involved in any of this? I thought he was a paedophile, not a homosexual.

Actually, Jon Katz is a homosexual paedophile. He's also a coprophiliac, and, many suspect, a zoophile. Jon Katz is somewhat of a loner and doesn't involve himself in circle-snots. Mr. Katz usually engages in a game called "
Katz juicy-douching [] " with his harem of little-boy slaves: a vile practice which involves administering an enema to himself of the little boy's urine (forced out of them with a pair of pliers), spooging the vile muck from his ass back into the enema bag, then squirting and slathering the goo all over himself, and the little boy's chained-up and naked bodies. If he's in the mood, he will sometimes skip refilling the enema bag and just squirt it from his ass [] onto his boys. Unwilling boys are further tortured with the pliers until they comply and allow Mr. Katz to juicy-douche them for the rest of their lives.
As I already said, Mr. Katz is
also a zoophile. As if the sexual escapades with the helpless little boys aren't enough, Jon usually enjoys his juicy-douches best when his penis is firmly planted in a female goat's anus [] . He is also rumoured to get off on watching his little boys eat the goat's small, bean-like turds.

...Are you getting hard writing this?

Why, yes. :) Join me in a WIPO-snot?

No, thanks. I'm already CmdrTaco's boi toi.


  1. Fucking hilarious too bad it didnt get a 5:Funny (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.12.02 19:01 (#2644105 [] )

    this is good shit man

  2. Re:Taco-snotting@Home! (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by Dark_Cobra87 [] on 2001.12.01 23:03 (#2642180 [] )

    Oops, forgot to check that Taco-snot option...

  3. Re:Fuck Linux! Fuck him hard! (Score:-1)
    by Fecal Troll Matter [] on 2001.12.01 20:55 (#2641791 [] )

    Mmmmmmm, Taco Sauce... []

    Sig (appended to the end of comments you post, 120 chars)

  4. Look (Score:-1)
    by ArchieBunker [] on 2001.12.01 20:19 (#2641679 [] )

    I love trolling but this shit is getting old, fast. At least start mixing them up a little bit. How about the 'How OSM was Freed' series?

  5. Re:Congratulations! You have been WIPO'd!! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.12.01 8:37 (#2640602 [] )

    Stop posting this! I've got hangover and Taco Snotting doesn't make me feel any better.

    I'm really glad that Taco Snotting is illegal here in Europe.

  6. Re:Snot me baby, one more time! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.30 1:01 (#2634213 [] )

    Get a life you loser! Don't you have anything better to do than insult CmdrTaco and the gay community? We are not perverts, we are human beings just like you. So give it a rest!

  7. Re:Hello, perdida!!! Won't you snot my face tonigh (Score:-1)
    by perdida on [] on 2001.11.27 14:13 (#2618764 [] )

    Shut up you asshole.

    I am not great, I am merely adequate. I live in adequacy.

  8. Go back to Russia. (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.26 22:22 (#2616035 [] )

    You weiner trool!

  9. Re:The Taco-Snotting FAQ Rides Again!! (Updated so (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.25 9:14 (#2609574 [] )

    try to find a pic of actual "taco-snotting"! fucking funny it would be! so go to gay porn sites day in and day out until you find a man giving another man a blowjob that has jizz coming out of his nose and mouth. by the way, keep up the good work

  10. Re:Snotting another first!! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.23 12:18 (#2603370 [] )

    WIPO, this is getting waaaay old, either drop it or revise it.... there've been no updates for days now...


  11. Re:It's Taco SPAM!!! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.22 17:28 (#2600815 [] )

    A truly excellent and very humourous troll indeed!

    To complete this perverted orgy, fellow geeks Michael, Timothy, and Jamie often join in, dressed in black Gestapo uniforms, jack boots, and leather gloves.

    Black GeStaPo uniforms? The GeStaPo (Geheime Staatspolizei - Secret State Police) wore civilian clothes (although there are reports on them occasionally using Allgemeine SS uniforms in occupied territories).

    I seriously doubt that perverted individuals like CmdrTaco et al would have the good taste to ever wear the outstandingly beautiful black Waffen SS uniforms! Please update the FAQ accordingly.

    • Re:It's Taco SPAM!!! (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.23 4:06 (#2602610 [] )

      Actually, it appears you are both wrong!! Ah ha!! I think our boy WIPO was thinking of the Allgemeine SS [] uniforms. Waffen SS were grey.

  12. Re:Microsoft's Taco-Snotting Connection (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.21 4:49 (#2594325 [] )

    oh yeah, you say you have masturbated only 2 times to this post. well, by the time it takes for me to get through reading it, i usually end up masturbated 5 to 6 times, 10 to 12 if i have the homepage loaded up and am looking at it side by side with the slashdot page. my keyboard, hands, mouse, monitor, the underside of my desk and around the floor under my desk are cum soaked and sticky with the man smell i know and love.

  13. Re:Microsoft's Taco-Snotting Connection (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.21 4:41 (#2594311 [] )

    for version 2 you should make a total re-write of the cod...errr...text and add some details about cmdrtaco and the homo-gang's happenings with their coworkers (osdn?) and all of the gay revelry they enjoy and promote. by the way, did i just see cmdrtaco on television promoting the nax hair removal system? i guess after using vaseline in and around his ass he grew quite a ponytail and it had to be removed somehow...ouch!

  14. Re:Microsoft's Taco-Snotting Connection (Score:-1, Troll)
    by TRoLLaXoR [] on 2001.11.21 3:59 (#2594191 [] )

    WIPO, do you notice how few comments you get for anything you write/post/spam nowadays?


  15. Jon-Katz docking (Score:-1)
    by sales_worldwide [] on 2001.11.20 11:53 (#2588488 [] )

    You forgot to mention Jon Katz's "docking" games, where he places his chopper head to head with another chap, and rolls the other guys foreskin over his own circumcised end ("docking"), providing him with fantasies of actually having his own forskin ...
    "Making linux GPL was the best thing I ever did" - Torvalds. I'd hate to see the worst thing...

  16. Re:Snotting a first! (Score:-1)
    by Fucky the troll [] on 2001.11.20 11:28 (#2588446 [] )

    Woah! When did the WIPO troll get freed? And how the fuck did I miss it?

    Excellent FP, sir.

    This is a sig virus. Please put me in your sig

  17. Re:Snotting a first! (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.20 11:04 (#2588407 [] )

    omg that is crapflooding material if i ever saw it!!!!!! and u got a first post!!!! whoot to the wipo troll!!!

  18. GW, please.... (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.19 9:03 (#2583756 [] ) know we love every hair on your 27 acre ass... and I, for one, would never do anything untowards your graceful demeanor. And you probably have several friends that would love to help you do the bear dance all over my face if I so much as spelled your name wrong. And you know I'd defend your Constitutional right to defame God in heaven. I'd even help fund your education, should you ever decide to take that route. Hell, I'd buy you a tall tepid bear-whiz beer if you were here with me, right now!

    But. ...if you can't find another topic, I'm gonna step over your dead mother's grave and kick your assuredly anesthetitized butt clear across the playground.

    Now go stick your shaved head back down inside the woman's toilet, and just to show there's no hard feelings, I'll jump in the tow-truck and drive right over to help you pull it right out...ok?


  19. Re:Help me Taco-Snotters!! (Score:-1)
    by mark knopfler 69 [] on 2001.11.19 8:25 (#2583695 [] )

    I DO NOT BELIEVE YOU SIR. FOR ONE THING, THE E-MAIL FROM CMDRTACO DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH GRAMMATICAL AND SPELLING MISTAKES. Let's be realistic here, CmdrTaco usually types with one hand, and since he is shaking from jacking off his aim on the keyboard isn't too good. Those e-mails were a little too well written. Sorry boy, you'll have to do better.

  20. Re: What the hell is "taco snotting"? (Score:-1)
    by WeatherTroll [] on 2001.11.19 8:14 (#2583667 [] )

    You should update this to say VA Software instead of VA Linux.

  21. YOU ARE WINNER (Score:1)
    by smackmonkey [] on 2001.11.19 7:06 (#2583510 [] )

    Crackhead moderators: this is +5, Hilarious material.

    CNN declares War on Islam!
    Left-wing America declares War on its Civil Liberties!

  22. Re:On Taco-Snotting 1.9 (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.19 5:40 (#2583336) []

    This was funny the first 100 times. Now it is getting boring!

  23. Digusting and Shameful (Score:-1)
    by egg troll [] on 2001.11.18 22:27 (#2582054 [] )

    Having masturbated *twice* to this post, I'm still incredibly aroused! Come over for a Taco Snot. I'll be wearing my crotchless Clifford the Big Red Dog outfit!!

    For more info check out this /. article []

  24. IMPROVE THE FAQ (Score:-1, Flamebait)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.18 12:03 (#2580822 [] )

    add more links to goatse and to cowboineal's site to make it better. a link to would be nice too

    • Re:IMPROVE THE FAQ (Score:0)
      by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.18 12:18 (#2580832 [] )

      and a link to michael's site and to jon katz's site if he has one and homo's site. i dont know what else to say. maybe a few links to they have nice penis pictures! a link to the planet quake site or whatever. really make the reader feel this faq really answers their questions. oh yeah, and when you talk about cmdrtaco snotting you, say he brought you to "orgasm after sweaty orgasm". describe it more is all i'm saying. and use more italics and bolding! and when you talk about jon katz shitting or whatever have a link to fecal japan on

      other wise a great job wipo troll! keep up the good work!

  25. Re:CmdrTaco's filthy secret! (Score:-1)
    by Wil Wheaton [] on 2001.11.18 6:41 (#2580438 [] )

    Hi. Let's be buddies.. butt buddies.

  26. WIPO speaks the truth (Score:-1)
    by dead_puppy [] on 2001.11.18 5:33 (#2580342 [] )

    Here is an e-mail I received a week ago:

    Subject: were where you last friday? :(

    I thought we where supposed to meet at Backdoor's at 8-ish, sugar-lips? You could've at least told me that you could'nt make it! I was even in my favorite pink skirt for you, honey-cup... next time, you could be more considarite and tell me you cant come... bastard.

    CmdrTaco (

    You finding Ling-Ling's [] head?

  27. Taco snotting is WRONG!!! (Score:-1)
    by Big_Ass_Spork [] on 2001.11.18 4:53 (#2580300 [] )

    I do it wrong

    Laying here in the shadows of my room, I squint up at my love. My Ms. Portman. I am sore and tired after fucking her for eight solid hours. My chapped and aching dick is soaking in grits to relieve the pain. She gets on her knees and starts lapping the grits up out of the bowl. She places her beautiful hands on my penis and starts to lick the grits off my achy piece.

    Massaging my nutsack she....


    Yanking my dick out of her mouth I throw her to the ground and shove it in to her gaping freshly fisted ass. []

    "OH BIG ASS SPORK!! Fuck my ass, fuck my ass good. DEEPER, my stallion, deeper!! Make a Beowulf cluster of sperm on my back!!"

    "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of this baby!"

    I DO IT WRONG!!!!

    All your Sporks are belong to Big_Ass_Spork! What you say?! All your Sporks are belo... forget it...

  28. Rob Malda Dead at age 25! (Score:-1)
    by j0nkatz [] on 2001.11.17 22:54 (#2579596 [] )

    I just heard some sad news on the radio -- famous queerbait Rob Malda was found dead in his Holland home this morning. The details were a bit hazy, but it seems that he drowned in jizz while Taco Snotting his friend Hemos. I'm sure everyone in the /. community will miss him -- even if you didn't enjoy his queer antics and boring ass website, there's no denying his contributions to the homosesual cultural development, particularly in the areas of Taco snotting. Truly an American icon.

    I wanna Open Source sex so it won't be worth a shit either.

  29. TACO-SNOTTING is really Donkey-Punching (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.15 6:38 (#2567601 [] )

    No no no, the correct term for that is "donkey-punch". I have eye-witnessed this amazing eye-popping event demonstrated on unsuspecting hose-monsters by my frat brothers in the past.. . :-)

  30. Re:the effect of knowlege laws... (Score:1)
    by AbsoluteRelativity [] on 2001.11.15 5:31 (#2567457 [] )

    The WIPO Troll []
    Slashdot and the Karma Lottery - News for uber monkeys, by uber monkeys.

  31. Re:Taco-Snotting (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.13 9:27 (#2557632 [] )

    Oh, man that's just sick !

  32. HOW DO I GET AN ANONYMOUS PROXY? (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.13 9:03 (#2557604 [] )

    TELL ME WHERE I CAN GET AN ANONYMOUS proxy please WIPO Troll. Maybe later i will join you in a snotting at my place. ;P

  33. Re:Taco-Snottage!?!?!? (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by vikool [] on 2001.11.13 7:43 (#2557495 [] )

    what is this bull shit,i feel offened that some people feel so so senseless to post stuff like these esp when such a tragic incident has occured

  34. Re:Taco-felching!! (Score:-1)
    by I.T.R.A.R.K. [] on 2001.11.11 22:38 (#2551890 [] )

    Where the fuck do I sign up?!

    - I throw rocks at retarded kids

    " Where congenital stupidity is not an option, but a requirement."

  35. Re:Taco-felching!! (Score:-1, Troll)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.11 21:53 (#2551753 [] )

    this shit is hilarious..keep up the good work.

  36. Re:Taco-felching!! (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by rockwood [] on 2001.11.11 21:49 (#2551746 [] )

    OMG! That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard! WHo in their right mind would sit down and waste the time to construct such a replusive story. I guess I'll be skipping lunch and dinner today.. and possibly tomorrow also. The game doesn't affect reality. Reality affects the game.

  37. Re:Ban this! It's disgusting!! (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.11 14:43 (#2550701 [] )

    dude, this is crap-flood material if i ever saw it.

  38. Re:Taco-Snotting = HATE SPEECH (Score:-1, Flamebait)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.11 8:16 (#2550266 [] )

    Ah, so that's what the newsgroup is about!

  39. MOD THIS UP PLEASE!!! (Score:-1)
    by egg troll [] on 2001.11.11 5:34 (#2550024 [] )

    +5, Arousing

    For more info check out this /. article []

  40. Re:Taco-Snotting = HATE SPEECH (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.11 4:39 (#2549891 [] )


  41. Re:Taco-Snotting = HATE SPEECH (Score:-1, Offtopic)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.11 4:37 (#2549887 [] )

    I love you. Why do you use your bitchslapped account, rather than signing up for a new account to post at +1 before getting bitchslapped by the censors here? I guess I should speak for myself, but I don't want to log out and lose all my slashdot customization properties, nor do I want to lose my 50 karma yet.

  42. Re:On Taco-Snotting (Score:0)
    by Anonymous Coward on 2001.11.09 9:19 (#2542412 [] )

    you fucking rock! right down to the expanded cvs id!

    WIPO trolls > linux


$Id: tacosnotting.html,v 1.12 2001/12/02 20:07:02 wipo Exp $
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