Containment can lead to contagion

Updated November 25, 2019

Containment can lead to contagion.

  • David Stark

Evolutionary niches carve out room for new tactics to incubate, then spread.

One of the lessons from the theory of natural selection is that a degree of isolation can be a great help to a new strategy in gaining a foothold.

  • Cosma Shalizi, "What can emergence tell us about today's Eastern Europe?" SFI Bulletin, Winter 1999

Island ecologies.

Games are an ecological niche where surprising innovations can evolve.

From Evolutionary Design by Computers:

An early example of prehistoric engineering was the spear-thrower. This was a short stick, slightly worked at one end to fit the butt of a spear. The user held the other end, and flung the spear with it. The spear-thrower enabled force to be applied to the spear through a longer distance...

It is difficult to see how such a device arose. It seems unlikely that it was an invention, because it is not an easy device to use and the technique is difficult to acquire. It seems more probable to the writer that it arose in play and developed as an informal game, throwing a spear with a stick. To begin with, range would be reduced, accuracy greatly reduced, and muffed throws common. Moreover, the ideal spear would be lighter than one for simple throwing, a further obstacle to developing the kind of performance that would be necessary before the spear-thrower was a valuable innovation in hunting technology. But eventually throwing spears with improved sticks, now evolved to suit their function well, might have come to be recognized as having potential for hunting.

A role as a plaything may have provided a niche in which the spear-thrower was developed. If that was how it happened, there is a parallel with the way in which the land provided ecological niches in which the mammals developed the attributes which made possible the whales.

And from the Principia Discordia:


The second concept Wiener has to establish is that of entropy. Probability is a mathematical concept, coming from statistics. Entropy comes from physics. It is the assertion-- established logically and experimentally-- that the universe, by its nature, is "running down", moving toward a state of inert uniformity devoid of form, matter, hierarchy or differentiation.

That is, in any given situation, less organization, more chaos, is overwhelmingly more probable than tighter organization or more order.

The tendency for entropy to increase in isolated systems is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics-- perhaps the most pessimistic and amoral formulation in all human thought.

It applies however, to a closed system, to something that is an isolated whole, not just a part. Within such systems there may be parts, which draw their energy from the whole, that are moving at least temporarily, in the opposite direction; in them order is increasing and chaos is diminishing.

The whirlpools that swirl in a direction opposed to the main current are called "enclaves". And one of them is life, especially human life, which in a universe moving inexorably towards chaos moves towards increased order.

Life as scenius?