Natural security: how biological systems use information to adapt in an unpredictable world

Raphael D Sagarin, Terence Taylor
2012 Security Informatics  
In this article, we analyze biological evolutionary systems to develop a framework for applying lessons of natural adaptability to security concerns in society. Biological systems do not waste resources attempting to predict future states of an inherently unpredictable and risk filled environment. Rather, biological organisms utilize adaptability to respond efficiently to a wide range of potential challenges, not just those that are known or anticipated. Adaptability is a powerful, but often
more » ... erful, but often misused concept. Typically, dimensionless claims about adaptability, such as, "insurgents are more adaptable than us" are made without clear benchmarks against which to measure adaptability. Our framework for adaptability, which was developed over the course of several multi-disciplinary working groups of life scientists and security practitioners focused on what we can learn about security from biological systems, can be applied broadly to societal approaches to improving security. Here we outline the "rules of engagement" for natural adaptable systems, which state that evolutionary systems do not predict, plan, or perfect the development of biological organisms. Given these constraints, we then outline four nearly universal features of adaptable biological organisms: 1. They are organized semi-autonomously with little central control 2. They learn from success 3. They use information to mitigate uncertainty 4. They extend their natural adaptability by engaging in a diverse range of symbiotic partnerships For each of these attributes we identify how they work in nature and how we have failed to apply them in our responses to security concerns. Finally, we describe a pathway by which adaptable strategies can be incorporated into security analysis, planning and implementation.
doi:10.1186/2190-8532-1-14 fatcat:f7a36uks2vgydnph5qahogaedq