System Concepts from Nature <Thought>

08/22/2007

We can learn a lot from nature's systems.  In fact there is a book and another institute totally devoted to the concept.   http://www.biomimicryinstitute.org/

The following contains some thoughts on some examples from a systems point of view.

Complexity:

Nature uses the methods it does to develop "complexity" because of a method of conservation of information - efficient programming - finding the simplest most robust method to create patterns - Pattern creation and maintenance with the least information possible.  How does complexity help?  It helps in the competition - the solving of problems the climbing of the design (eco-system) landscape.  Information is costly.  And since nature uses experimentation, it doesn't have to understand where it is going before it tries something.  It can just try it and then eliminate it.  It does have to have a slope to the optimum design point.  It has to get "better" as it gets closer.

Hierarchy:

Hierarchy is patterns on top of patterns.  Elementary particles -> Atoms-> molecules > proteins, DNA -> Cells -> cooperation of cells or multi-cell life -> Humans-> ideas, cultures, communities, languages.  Patterns and hierarchy allow complexity to form on top of each other - allow them to enter phases which allow new complexities to form.  Allow them to hold information.  This and encapsulation may actually be the main key to this whole process.   Even though in "theory" complexity/evolution design could "cheat" by not having hierarchy and division of complexity, it actually ends up having the same constraints in a sense as current design engineers.   You still have to "encapsulate" the design space to be able solve the problems or else the design space becomes too big to explore even with evolution concepts.   There are other things evolutionary design can do, but getting away from some sort of hierarchy is not one of them.  It (the process) has to act at different levels and a certain level of "simplicity"…

Evolution and "Fitness Landscapes"

What about a fitness landscape where "optimization" isn't the main driver?   The metaphor is to stay "dry".   If you are above the water line, you are fine, but below it, you die out….  The effect is non-linear.   And the water line goes up and down dependent on the landscape and players manipulation of that landscape.   When the water is low, a lot more random wandering is possible.  When the water is high, more separation happens and more "optimization" is necessary.

DNA and Amino Acid Building Blocks

What about the trick of programming something linearly like the amino acid chains (common back bone that determines "string" order) but still allows it to fold in on itself to create all sorts of different 3 dimensional shapes to serve different functions and building blocks.   Can this "principle" be used in designing other things?  It is a special efficient way of encoding.   It seems similar to our memory functions.  You can't memorize everything all at once, but you can memorize long "strings" of stuff.   This leads to that which leads to another that which leads to this, etc….  Like memorizing verses in a song.   It is easier to "tie" it together in a string link function in your head.   Is that a more efficient way to store, keep, do information?  A form of encoding if you will.   Kind of like the "New Kind of Science" simple rules creating complex patterns.   Does it somehow get around or help the entropy "problem"?  Most efficient way to create order?  Similar to fractal concepts.

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