Expert, iterative, and evolving design

Human beings were designed over hundreds of thousands of generations in a process of evolution, but the institutions of our modern world are mostly expert designed. Here are the differences:

reading a fitness landscape

Expert design

Here, experts share their experience, lines of evidence, personal analyses and come to a consensus on what the best design should be in committees.

expert design

As you can see, because they are forming conclusions before they share, the true shape of the fitness landscape (a metaphor for the complexity of the problem) remains unknown.

Iterative design

Here, a single idea is tested and retested as quickly as possible, with each version scored against the previous tests. It often involves semi random jumps around the landscape at the beginning until a workable design appears, and then further iterations are more conservative.

iterative design within a fitness landscapeTrue Evolution

Evolution is a massively parallel version of iterative design. Even though iterative redesign in biological evolution are entirely random recombinations of traits from successful individuals, the parallel nature of the process makes it more efficient than any other approach. It works best when generations are shorter and there is much trait diversity.

evolution of design within a fitness landscape

My Question

I’ve already talked about this concept at length here. Now I ask you – are these images clearer than the previous explanation? Are fitness landscapes just too complicated to provide a clear explanation of the ideas?


4 thoughts on “Expert, iterative, and evolving design

  1. I found the previous explanation to be clearer. I don’t think you should give up on fitness landscapes as too complicated but I would like if you somehow refined and amplified your explanation of how they work. For instance, I don’t totally understand your first explanatory diagram on reading a fitness landscape. They seem a very rich visualization, and after reading the previous post it clicked for me how, for instance, rugged terrain slows momentum. Keep in mind that I am working from a very untrained (mushy) mind, so I’m sort of the LCD in this case.

    Great work as always, Marc. Fascinating.

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