Our histories constrain what opportunities we notice and can take in life. The genes you have define the shape your body can grow into, in concert with environmental influences. But the cards you’re dealt don’t tell you how to play your hand; for that, you have to know which game you’re playing. Natural selection acts through the relationships between an organism and ecology, a business and economy. What works in one environment may fail in others. The rub is that the rules are set by the collective action of all players, so the game keeps changing as the players change: disruptions shift the so-called “fitness landscape,” opening new possibilities, reallocating fortune.
Creation and destruction, then, are two sides of the same coin: The deeper a crisis, the bigger the opportunity. Too much opportunity precipitates a crisis. A mass extinction or a market crash can be both the effect and cause of major innovations. In these punctuations, our strategies for navigating stable worlds don’t work. Amidst catastrophe, survival hinges on evolvability. What organisms, policies, and practices will rule the post-coronavirus world? To answer this, we need to ask two further questions:
“What will the new rules be?” and “Who is already suited for this brave new world, or flexible enough to turn and face the strange?”
Welcome to COMPLEXITY, the official podcast of the Santa Fe Institute, the world’s foremost complex systems science research center. I’m your host, Michael Garfield, and each week we’ll bring you with us for far-ranging conversations with our worldwide network of rigorous researchers developing new frameworks to explain the deepest mysteries of the universe.
In Transmission, SFI’s new essay series on COVID-19, our community of scientists shares a myriad of complex systems insights on this unprecedented situation. This special supplementary mini-series with SFI President David Krakauer finds the links between these articles—on everything from evolutionary theory to economics, epistemology to epidemiology—to trace the patterns of a deeper order that, until this year, was largely hidden in plain sight.
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Podcast Theme Music by Mitch Mignano.
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