The Evolutionary Approach: Small Steps And Occasional Wild Gambles

Stuart Kauffmann and John Holland, both complexity theorists affiliated with the multidisciplinary Santa Fe Institute, have shown that the evolutionary approach is not just another way of solving complex problems. Given the likely shape of these ever-shifting [fitness] landscapes, the evolutionary mix of small steps and occasional wild gambles is the best possible way to search for solutions.

Evolution is effective because, rather than engaging in an exhaustive, time-consuming search for the highest peak -- a peak that may not even be there tomorrow -- it produces ongoing, 'works for now' solutions to a complex and ever-changing set of problems.

-- Tim Harford

from "Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure"

Quoted on Thu Sep 8th, 2011