Stanislaw Lem

In The Invincible Lem does a very effective job of describing how global patterns can arise from local interactions.
Here Lem describes a fictional world inhabited by tiny robot "insects" that, when unfamiliar circumstances arise, self-organize into a vast cloud. Although the individual elements are too simple to respond effectively to environmental stresses, the cloud, a product of inorganic evolution, can respond with terrifying power and sophistication. The cloud is a physical relaization of a 3-dimensional cellular automaton.
Here is a brief quote, indicating the care with which he treates the issues od self-organization.
"Are you suggesting that these elements have been clever enough to jump back to their proper places again by themselves? That would imply some initial blueprint of the entire brain - " "Not necessarily. It suffices for each element to recall those elements with which it was in immediate contact." ... "But this is no more than a grossly simplified description. The process must be far more complicated than that - just consider how frequently these individual elements are destroyed - and yet the overall functioning of the superstructure remains unaffected."
Other of Lem's stories deal with artifical worlds, cyberspace landscapes inhabited by virtual creatures. We wonder if Lem imagined fractal constructions to make natural-looking artificial landscapes, or to provide easy navigation for the inhabitants of these worlds.