Ecology meta-patterns

Updated December 01, 2019

Emergent patterns that recur in complex adaptive systems:

  • Diversity
  • Recirculation
  • Niche and hierarchy
  • Coevolution

Diversity: an ecology is an economy made up of many currencies. Different species have different goals, and those goals interlock in nonlinear ways.

Recirculation: energy in the system is recycled and spent over and over again. Plants absorb sunlight, animals eat plants, animals fertalize plants. Over time, the ecology evolves complex recirculation webs.

Niche and hierarchy: Like Adam Smith's pin factory, when generalist agents can evolve into specialists, it increases the total efficiency and carrying capacity of the ecosystem. Specialization facilitates recirculation. Hierarchies of specialists emerge, and resources flow from specialist to specialist, as in an assembly line.

Coevolution: several relational tropes continually recur between specialists. Predator-prey, mutialism, commensalism, parasitism.

(Insights from Signals and Boundaries, MIT Press).