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Modularity and complexity management


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    • 1. Modularity thinking as a way of managing complexity in developmental biology Vivette Garc ía UNAM PhD Student
    • 2. overview
      • Complexity management as problem solving (PS)
      • Reduction of complexity
      • Management and systems thinking
      • Modularity and management (examples)
      • Management beyond problem solving: modularity thinking is not PS
    • 3. 1. complexity management as problem solving
      • Wildness, unruliness, freedom, diversity, and complexity often represent “problems” demanding solutions (Bavington 2002)
      • Reduction of complexity is often treated as a way of managing complexity (PS)
    • 4. 2. reduction of complexity
      • Analytic approaches
      • Complexity surpasses limits of cognition: must be reduced
      • Decomposition and localization (Bechtel & Richardson 1993)
      • Heuristics and their biases (Wimsatt 1974,1980)
      • Cognitive strategies for PS
    • 5. 2. reduction of complexity
      • Clinical approaches
      • Complexity of object of study/situation stands in the way of experimental research
      • Experimental /strategic interventions for PS
      • The experimental system as reducer of complexity (Rheinberger 1997)
      • The social system as reducer of complexity (Thomposn & Trisoglio 1997)
    • 6. 3. management and systems thinking
      • Either a system’s complexity is reduced (analytic approaches) or
      • A system becomes the reducer of complexity (clinical approaches)
      • In both cases, systems thinking enters the picture as part of a managerial solution to a problem
      • We owe this to Simon (1962)
    • 7. 3. management and systems thinking
      • The watchmakers’ parable (argument A)
      • Hora and Tempus face the same problem: constant interruption while assembling watches
      • Hora and Tempus assemble their watches in different ways: the first, hierarchically (in subsystems), the second piece by piece
      • When Hora is interrupted he loses less work than Tempus when he is interrupted
      • Hora prospers -while Tempus fails- because his hierarchical watch design is a solution to the problem of being constantly interrupted
    • 8. 3. management and systems thinking
      • The watchmakers’ parable (argument B)
      • Watches/watchmaking present complexity
      • Hierarchical design allows Hora to manage (via PS) this complexity
      • To have a hierarchical design is to have the property of being modular
      • Modularity is a way of managing complexity within the PS perspective - or is it?
    • 9. 4. modularity and management
      • Even though modularity of developmental/biological systems is linked to Simon’s notion,
      • Use of modularity in biology does not render a solution to a problem
      • Complexity management by way of modularity does not amount to PS
    • 10. 4. modularity and management
      • Is complexity management via modularity a solution to a problem?
      • Problem: > complexity of molecular developmental processes, needs reduction
      • Solution: decomposition of developmental system and localization of developmental modules ?
    • 11. 4. modularity and management
      • It is not modules per se, but other types of decompositions, that participate in PS:
        • gene territories (e.g., oral ectodermal)
        • gene networks (e.g., Pax/Six/Eya/Dach )
      • Modularity thinking does not provide a general strategy for partitioning systems
    • 12. 4. modularity and management
      • The notion of modularity is “a simple, but
      • evocative term to describe an array of
      • signaling pathways, protein interactions,
      • gene networks, etc. Some might even argue
      • that because its definitive meaning is
      • unclear it is useful in its vagueness. We can
      • mold it to suit our particular purpose”
      • (Heanue, interview)
    • 13. 5. management beyond problem solving
      • Complexity management as PS has been fruitful in many ways:
        • Elucidation of cognitive, experimental, and other intervention strategies for dealing with complexity
        • Epistemology of discovery expanded from the individual to the social realm
        • Characterizations of complexity (Simon’s, Wimsatt’s), and as a property that comes in degrees (reducible)
    • 14. 5. management beyond problem solving
      • Simon-like systems thinking constrains our framework for inquiry into complexity management
      • Emphasis on systems thinking has disallowed us to question PS
      • Current accounts of complexity management remain within the PS perspective
    • 15. 5. management beyond problem solving
      • Take home messages:
      • Modularity thinking is a way of managing complexity in biology
      • Modularity thinking is not PS
      • There is more to complexity management than problem solving
    • 16. thanks to
      • Edna Su árez
      • Griesemer Lab
      • Peter Taylor (NEWSSC)
      • Elihu Gerson
      • UNAM funding