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Appreciation of the Machinations of the Blind Watchmaker

Arkin, Adam and Doyle, John (2008) Appreciation of the Machinations of the Blind Watchmaker. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 53 (Specia). pp. 8-9. ISSN 0018-9286. doi:10.1109/TAC.2007.913342.

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One danger in using the language of engineering to describe the patterns and operations of the evident products of natural selection is that invoking principles of design runs the risk of invoking a designer. But as we analyze the increasing amount of data on the genome and its organization across a wide array of organisms, we are discovering there are patterns and dynamics reminiscent of designs that we, as imperfect human designers, recognize as serving an engineering purpose, including the purpose to be designable and evolvable. There is no doubt that biological artifacts are the product of Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker, natural selection. But natural selection has at its heart one of engineering’s most prized principles, optimization. Survival of the fittest, while not directly specifying an objective function that an organism must meet, nonetheless provides a clear figure of merit for long term biological success, persistence of lineages through reproduction of organisms, and is a well-formed if ever-changing specification. The mechanisms which provide the optimization algorithm for an organism to meet the demands of this changeable requirement, composed of a program subject to operations of mutation and interorganismal transfer and inheritance, are themselves under selection. Repeated rounds of this process leads, some argue, to architectures that facilitate evolution itself, the evolving of evolvability.

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Doyle, John0000-0002-1828-2486
Additional Information:© 2008 IEEE. Reprinted with permission. Posted online: 2008-01-22. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control & IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I: Regular Papers, January 2008 Joint Special Issue on Systems Biology
Issue or Number:Specia
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:ARKieeetac08
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9684
Deposited By: Archive Administrator
Deposited On:03 Mar 2008
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 21:01

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