Editor's Summary

19 April 2007

Necessary complications

The combination of robustness and fragility familiar in the Internet is, say John Doyle and Marie Csete, a good model for a similar paradox in biological systems. The Internet uses a protocol-based architecture to facilitate rapid development and evolution; underlying complexities are hidden unless highlighted by catastrophic (often tiny) failure. But our dependence on robust, evolvable technological networks means the tools for engineering architectures and protocols are becoming more effective, and biologists can benefit from these developments in their work on complex living systems.

EssayRules of engagement

Complex engineered and biological systems share protocol-based architectures that make them robust and evolvable, but with hidden fragilities to rare perturbations.

John Doyle & Marie Csete