Modularity and complexity management


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  • Modularity and complexity management

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