Edited by Cristiano Antonelli
Chapter 2: Complexity and Innovation Dynamics
David A. Lane 1. ARTIFACTS AND ORGANIZATIONS Human life is impossible to conceive without two fundamental ingredients: artifacts and organizations. Just about everything we do involves interactions with artifacts, from the clothes we wear and the buildings we inhabit, to the devices through which we communicate with one another and the tools and technologies we use to make ever more artifacts. And almost all of our interactions depend for their setting, purpose and rules on organizations, whether they be churches, businesses, government agencies, political parties, law courts, police forces, armies, social clubs – or even friendship networks on the Internet. We human beings didn’t invent either artifacts or organizations: biological evolution did. Both fashioning artifacts and deploying collective action are evolutionary strategies that have been around a long time. Artifacts allow the biological individuals and species that make and use them to wrest more usable matter and energy from their environments, allow more of them to live in a given environment, and sometimes allow them to live longer and dedicate more of their time and energy to reproduction. Some biological engineers construct exquisite and complex artifacts, from the fungal agriculture of leaf-cutter ants, through the durable nests of weaverbirds and the beaver’s temperature-controlled aquatic dwellings. In addition, many of these artifacts transform the environments of other biological entities as well as those that construct them, in ways that may be positive or negative for these entities’ biological functionality of survival and reproduction. Examples of collective activity among biological conspecifics range from...
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