Friday, January 21, 2005

Fish Herding: Open Source Management

In a predator/prey ecology, the open source community are much like fish. Their schooling behavior is observable and appropriate. They use simple rules for collision avoidance and nutrient seeking, and they collect closely and densely to fend off predators. Over time, schooling prey tend to develop their lateral sensors exclusively because the behavior of managing position in a loosely coupled herd dominates their sensory evolution. The fact of genotypic crossover within the herd and a slow rate of mutation mean the herd phenotype converges quickly.

So, as in boids of a feather, they flock and mate together. Because they are not isolated, they are increasingly homogenized. The effect of propinquity is to increase homophily. The rules for significaion and legitimization stabilize the relationships reflexively. They are well-protected and well-schooled.

But the shape of the school in motion is shaped by the distance to and types of predators. The predators are solitary and diverse. Being large means they consume less and digest slowly. The 3/4 power law effect of their metabolic rate and the need for speed when culling individuals away from the herds drives their sensory systems toward forward looking stereo sensors. Their hearing is not as good because ears are used to control lateral motion and as a non-schooling network, lateral motion is deemphasized.

Schools do not need leaders. Predator families do but predators do not school and emphasize an almost darwinian evolution based on a fitness function. They adapt quickly. Schooling systems do not need a fitness function; they use the simple rules and shared goals of consumption to effect direction. Their phenotypic change is very slow and their size can increase in an almost unlimited dimension.

Neither form wins. The predators cull individuals away from the herd and consume them. The schools maintain formation and mate frequently so they always have a reasonable replacement rate as long as they remember where to find food and don't overfeed. Overfeeding slows their motion and because they are schooling, they slow the herd which leads to a rise in the rate of predation. A school that grows too small or fails to maintain close distance is ripe for rapid predation. A predator that exhausts a small school on which it depends for vital nutrition may starve or be forced into a rapid adaptation mode which reduces its size over generations as the metabolic rates rise to compensate for the loss. Catastropic loss may cause a predator type to disappear, but the relief effect on the prey school is short as this is an opportunity for a different predator.

Predators learn to herd prey. Smart predators don't overfeed. If the open source community is to be a source of innovation, special care for culling and feeding must be taken by their predators. Of course, a prey society can evolve into a predatory society, but the need for balance remains the same. They will only be changing roles in the ecology of the games, not the rules.

This is what Lawrence Lessig doesn't get.

1 comment:

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