Fitness, Extrinsic Complexity and Informing Science

Grandon Gill, Matthew Mullarkey
InSITE 2017  •  2017  •  pp. 928
[This Proceedings paper was revised and published in Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline (InfoSci)]

Aim/Purpose: We establish a conceptually rigorous definition for the widely used but loosely defined term “fitness”. We then tie this definition to complexity, highlighting a number of important implications for the informing science transdiscipline.

Background: As informing science increasingly incorporates concepts of fitness and complexity in its research stream, rigorous discussion and definition of both terms is essential to effective communication.

Methodology: Our analysis consists principally of a synthesis of past work in the informing science field that incorporates concepts from evolutionary biology, economics and management.

Contribution: We provide a rigorous approach to defining fitness and introduce the construct “extrinsic complexity”, as a measure of the amount of information required to predict fitness, to more fully differentiate this form of complexity from other complexity constructs. We draw a number of conclusions regarding how behaviors under low and high extrinsic complexity will differ.

Findings: High extrinsic complexity environments are likely to produce behaviors that include resistance to change, imitation, turbulence and inequality.

Recommendations for Practitioners: As extrinsic complexity grows, effective search for problem solutions will increasingly dominate employing recommended solutions of “best practices”.

Recommendation for Researchers: As extrinsic complexity grows, research tools that rely on decomposing individual effects and hypothesis testing become increasingly unreliable.

Impact on Society : We raise concerns about society’s continuing investment in academic research that discounts the extrinsic complexity of the domains under study.

Future Research: We highlight a need for research to operationalize the concepts of fitness and complexity in practice.
fitness, complexity, rugged landscapes, punctuated equilibrium, informing
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