Diagram: Fitness Landscape

Fitness Landscapedefinition.php

A fitness landscape is a concept that employs the metaphor of a physical landscape to depict more or less 'fit' regions of phase space.

Related Terms and Topics: Fitness Peaks, basins-of-attractions, critical-point, Tipping Points, Phase Space


A fitness landscape is not a physical space. It is a way of describing the range of all possible behaviors open to a system, or its Phase Space. Agents within a Complex System may have the capacity to behave in a wide variety of ways, but some of these are more efficient than others. The landscape is a metaphoric mapping of how well different states within a system's degrees of freedom perform. This performance is measured as Fitness, with more 'fit' states being mapped higher within the landscape, or as Fitness Peaks.

That said peaks within the fitness landscape are not static, but change over time.

Example: At one point, Detroit was a 'fit' site for gaining employment, due to the auto-industry. Subsequently, with shifting global production trends, the forces that made Detroit 'fit' altered, and its 'peak' within the landscape of potential employment gradually eroded.

The interesting about a fitness landscape is that there are multiple peaks. We can think of these as multiple niches that are ripe for inhabitation. Different species can pursue different survival strategies to fill these niches. Some strategies can support a large population of species (think of this as a broad and tall hill). Others may able to eke out an existence, but their niche may only support a small number of species. This peak might be equally tall, but would be narrower.

The idea of a fitness landscape serves to illustrate the broader concept of Fitness within a Complex System.

This is tantamount to a system's Degrees of Freedom.

Fitness Peaks

 


Cite this page:

Wohl, S. (2019, 31 October). Fitness Landscape. Retrieved from https://kapalicarsi.wittmeyer.io/definition/fitness-landscape

Fitness Landscape was updated October 31st, 2019.


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Santa Fe Institute; Fitness Landscape

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    A tipping point (often referred to as a 'critical point') is a threshold within a system where the system shifts from manifesting one set of qualities to another.

    Related Terms/Topics Bifurcations; Fitness Landscape; Attractor States; {{critical-point}}; {{catastrophe}}

    Most of us are familiar with the phrase 'tipping point'. We tend to associate it with moments of no return: when overfishing crosses a threshold that causes fish stocks to collapse or when social unrest reaches a breaking point resulting in riot or revolution. The concept is often associated with an extreme shift, brought about by what seems to be a slight variance in what had been incremental change. A system that seemed stable is pushed until it reaches a breaking point, at which point a small additional push results in a dramatic shift in outcomes.

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    Complex Adaptive Systems become more 'fit' over time. Depending on the system, Fitness can take many forms,  but all involve states that achieve more while expending less energy.

    What do we mean when we speak of Fitness? For ants, fitness might be discovering a source of food that is abundant and easy to reach. For a city, fitness might be moving the maximum number of people in the minimum amount of time. But fitness criteria can also vary - what might be fit for one agent isn't necessarily fit for another. For example, what makes a hotel room 'fit'? Is it location, or price, or cleanliness, or amenities, or all of the above?  For different people, these various factors or parameters have different 'weights'. For a backpacker traveling through Europe, maybe the price is the only thing worth worrying about, whereas for a wealthy business person it may not factor in at all.

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    Complex Systems can unfold in multiple trajectories. However, there may be trajectories that become more stable of 'fit'. Such states are considered 'attractor states' to which a system tends to gravitate.

    Attractor States or 'basins of attraction' and can be visualized as part of a fitness landscape.

    Complex Adaptive Systems do not obey predictable, linear trajectories. They are Sensitive to Initial Conditions and small changes in these conditions can lead the system to unfold in entirely unexpected ways. That said, some of these 'potential unfoldings' are more likely to occur than others. We can think of these as 'attractor states' to which a system - out of all possible states - will tend to gravitate.  However, these attractor states may also shift over time, and are subject to system disruptions or  what is referred to as a Perturbation. Attractor states can also emerge gradually over time, as the system evolves, but once present can reinforce itself by constraining the actions of the agents forming the system. Thus we can think of Silicon Valley as being an emergent attractor for tech firms, that has, over time, reinforced its position. When a system finds itself 'trapped' in a basin of attraction (such that it cannot explore other potential configurations that may be more fit, it is considered to be in an Enslaved States .

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  • There would be some thought experiments here.