As things evolve into other things it is usually difficult or impossible to know what is going to emerge. How could it be thought a few moments after the Big Bang that the point of stuff would grow into a huge mass of teeming what we call subatomic particles? From within that turbulent mass it would have a big puff into empty space and the multitude of particles would condense into hydrogen. Tiny particles so far apart that for half a billion years it would appear that nothing was happening. But the particles were slowly being attracted to each other and that process continued until great masses formed, and the masses were so big their mutual gravity created hydrogen fusion into helium and the release of light and there were stars. In this short story, we have already gone through three emergent transitions that would have been nearly impossible to predict from inside of the former situation what next form matter would take.
But with the stars, it would seem reasonable that they would just go on with that fusion process until all of the hydrogen atoms became helium atoms. But that is not what emerged. What happened was that when gravity was great enough to crush the innermost atoms the whole thing collapsed. Okay, it would just form a much smaller denser thing. Who would have thought that instead the atoms would be crushed into heavier atoms and bounce back into surrounding space as more complex atoms? But that’s emergence for you. It’s unexpected and that’s approximately what the Universe did.
The collecting into planets of these more complex atoms is a new phenomenon, but it could have been predicted because that is what the hydrogen atoms had done earlier. And, the blasted out heavy materials circling the stars would seem almost as reasonable, so it is emergent but it isn’t so unpredictable. The planets having a denser batch of elements collecting into balls because of gravity seems predictable too but it is a new emergent form of being for the Universe.
That a self-reproducing thing we call life would form on some of the planets would be an unexpected emergent property, and that some of these living things would develop sensors and brains that could observe the things around them and seek food and avoid being food for other things seems unexpected and emergent. That some of these would evolve large brains is to be expected but that they would create a syntax-driven speech is emergent.
Okay, we have skipped along through a lot of emergences and now we have developed a technological society capable of manufacturing robots that can think. At the moment they are like human babies and cannot reproduce themselves or even care for themselves but they are almost like a new species of living being that needs to grow up to adulthood.
The emergent thing in the Universe at present could be an artificially intelligent society, and when the individual intelligences have been given the ability to reproduce the physical components of their bodies and assemble these components into a functioning being, they will be alive. They are not alive now but we presently living humans can give them the capacity to be alive.
Many of the emergences above could not have been predicted but some of them could have been. Our robot society is one of the ones that were utterly unpredictable until humans came along and made it possible.
It is our technical society that is now responsible for bringing into reality the next Universe-wide emergence.