Cooperating, between efficency and resilience

Card's author : Jean-Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Robert Ulanowicz is a theroretical ecologist known for his studies on the organization of flows of energy and nutrients within ecosystems. Other complex fields such as networks are highly impacted by his discoveries. He noticed that completely optimized systems are not sustainable1. Therefore, if we choose to grow only the most optimized corn seedling, there is a high risk to loose the whole crop with the first parasite. The now retired Professor of Maryland's University, got involved in systems' sustainability and demonstrated that this latter was optimum when the right balance between resilience (which needs a larger diversity to the detriment of efficiency in order to increase the adaptability to problems that may arise). This optimum occurs closer to resilience than to efficiency (in a ratio of one to two thirds).
That balance point between optimization and adaptability, between order and disorder2, is where new possibilities stand out; in a nutshell, where the possibility of innovating is maximal. This result, about the risks of only optimizing without developing adaptability, is not only a statement on biological systems, but rather a deep rule on all complex systems. It can thus be applied to innovation, network's running, complex choices and civilizations themselves3.

1 ULANOWICZ, Robert E. A third window: natural life beyond Newton and Darwin. West Conshohocken, Pa. : Templeton Foundation Press, 2009. ISBN 9781599471549 159947154X.

2 Benoît Mandelbrot: "Between the field of uncontrolled disorder and Euclid's excessive order, there is now a new zone of fractal order". See also the Edgar Morin's notion of "dialogic" which links two antagonistic principles or ideas appearing as if they should repel but which are inseparable and essential to understand a same reality".
3 TAINTER, Joseph Anthony. The collapse of complex societies. Cambridge, Etats-Unis, Etats-Unis, 2000. New studies in archaeology [Texte imprimé] / ed. Wendy Ashmore, Clive Gamble, John O’Shea,... [et al.]. - Cambridge : Cambridge University press, 1976-. ISBN 0-521-34092-6. The idea that the lack of adaptability leads to extinction was taken over and applied to economics by Clay Shirky in the article "The collapse of complex business models" accessible on his blog (it would have been better to talk of a complicated and hard to adapt economical system rather than a complex one).