SFI Talk: ‘Scaffolding and Entrenchment in the Evolution of Complex Systems’

William Wimsatt. Courtesy/SFI

SFI News:

The Santa Fe Institute (SFI) presents a talk by William Wimsatt of University of Chicago and University of Minnesota, “Scaffolding and Entrenchment in the Evolution of Complex Systems,” at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30 in the Collins Conference Room at SFI, 1399 Hyde Park Road. The public is welcome to attend and bring a lunch.

Generative entrenchment reflects dependency relations in the development or operation of an adaptive system. Greater entrenchment yields greater conservatism in the evolution of parts or activities of the system because the probability of massive disruption with changes in a part increases exponentially with the number of things it affects.

Scaffolding is the use or generation of external parts or processes to facilitate performance of tasks by the system (as in niche construction theory). These two concepts are important tools in conceptualizing the development and evolution of complex adaptive systems. Wimsatt will apply them to cultural evolution, but they apply equally centrally (e.g., to pleiotropic conservation and to chaperone molecules) in evolutionary developmental biology.

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