evolution of organizations

Humans, and all other organisms, evolve. (If you accept natural selection and evolution to be true) Perhaps both in the Darwinian and Lamarckian sense, if epigenetics hold to be true.

We all exist, cribbing some terminology from evolutionary and computer science, in a fitness landscape with local minimums and maximums. I use this language because one of the major challenges of AI development in deep learning these days is getting stuck at local maximums and saddle points when trying to optimize things. Be it image recognition by a computer or board game playing or anything else imaginable.

I like to picture that as making good or bad decisions can lead up the “hill” towards a maxima or down a “valley” into a minima, respectively. (Another possibility are saddle points, which appear to be the top of a hill but are actually not)

An example is that a computer can get better at distinguishing between dogs and cats (going up) or get worse (going down) as more learning is done.

This seems to be broadly applicable to living organisms, such as humans too. For example, if you increase the amount of sun exposure you increase the chance of getting skin cancer and vice versa, or so dermatologists say. (Assuming that is true)

In reality, because every factor has its own dimension, there are far more than the 3 spatial dimensions we are used to, which is all humans can visualize. Therefore “up” or “down” do not have much meaning but you get the point.

So then everyone must be moving “up” and “down”, in this boundless jumble of a landscape, every time they make a decision, as by definition a decision must have some consequence(s) which impacts you and/or the external environment which then must reflect back sooner or later.

Furthermore, groups of organisms, i.e. organizations, must also exist in a fitness landscape, since they are composed of individual organisms who do, and who make decisions about the organization from within.

And many people must have consciously or subconsciously realized this because they say things like “the company evolved” or the “organization’s goal has evolved”. Which really is implying that organizations do go through evolution as well.

It follows then that all organizations, assuming two or more competing organizations, also must go through natural selection, whether they want to or not…. This ties into the grander ideas about never-ending cycles, economic cycles, societal cycles that historians talk about, etc.

Furthermore, just as a computer program can work to the local maximum of cat and dog recognition, animals, humans, organizations, society, etc., should also be able to. Then what happens after that you may say, after all it’s only a local maximum and, given how complex the landscape is, there’s always going to be a higher maximum somewhere else. (And perhaps even to get there you have to descend into a valley on the way.)

Do people and organizations get trapped in local maximums, or saddle points, just like the computer?

Edited from original post on facebook December of 2018