The concepts of emergence and collective intelligence are fascinating, and from their study might come good things. But neither is ‘good’ by definition and we ought to be careful not to let our enthusiasm and interest lead to us into speaking too casually about the benefits of ‘encouraging emergence’ or ‘developing collective intelligence’. We can find ourselves battling the emergent properties of a system, and working against its collective intelligence. This article explores an example to illustrate this from the field of social care. It also discusses some tentative ‘laws’ and some issues resulting from the positive nature of popular perspectives on emergence.