When complex systems are built, they’re built out of parts, and the parts come in multiple types.
For electronic circuits, any circuit can be built from a finite, universal set of component types. Does biology follow this “universal language” approach?
Well, no, as I discuss in this paper. And it turns out not even electronic circuits — as they exist in the real world, built by real companies — follow the universal-language approach.
And neither do Legos.
In both biology (networks of cells, neurons, or ants) and artifacts (networks of Legos, circuit components, or people), as the network gets larger, its division of labor increases (and as a power law).
But there are key differences as well that I discuss in the paper: Roughly, biological networks carry out their functions with more of their parts than human-created networks.
Samuel Arbesman, senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, has written a piece about this at WIRED. Roger Highfield also has written a piece on it at the Telegraph, this one aimed more at what’s gone wrong with Legos. And I’ve written a piece for Discover Mag on this what-happened-to-Legos issue.
Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of
Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN, a novel about our human future.