Developmental Insights into Evolving Systems: Roles of Diversity, Non-Selection, Self-Organization, Symbiosis

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4 Author(s)

A developmental view of evolving systems (ecological, social, economical, organizational) is examined to clarify 1) the role of selection processes versus collective, non-selective processes, 2) the origins of diversity and its role in system performance and robustness 3) the origin of explicit subsystem interactions (cooperation/symbiosis that enhance individual and system performance, 4) the preconditions necessary for further evolutionary development, and 5) the effect of environmental timescales with adaptation timescales. Three sequential stages of evolving systems (based on the work of Salthe) are proposed: a Immature stage dominated by highly decentralized, selective processes with chaotic local and global dynamics, a Mature stage dominated by non-selective, self-organizing processes with global robustness but locally chaotic dynamics, and a Senescent stage dominated by rigid interactions with global fragility. A simple model problem with many optimal and non-optimal solutions - an agent solution to a maze - illustrates the entire developmental history. Within the model, the agents evolve their capability from a random approach to an optimized performance by natural selection. As the agents develop improved capability, natural selection becomes rare, and an emergent collective solution is observed that is better than the performance of an average agent. As the collective, self-organizing structures are incorporated into individual capability within a stable environment, constraints arise in the agent's interactions, and the system loses diversity. The resulting Senescent system exhibits reduced randomness due to the rigid structures and ultimately becomes fragile. Depending on the degree environmental change, the Senescent system will either “die,” or collapse under environmental stress to the Mature or Immature stage, or incorporate the constrain ts system-wide into a new hierarchical system. The current study adds to the literature on developmental systems by finding: Transitions between stages are dependent on the degree of sustained environmental stability and how exclusive cooperation (e.g., symbiosis) in a subsystem can originate, and how it results in a decline in diversity