I found this piece cited in Taleb’s Antifragile, a unique case of an author citing a paper that was itself inspired by a galley of that book. The concept of “antifragility” (systems that gain or improve from disorder, volatility, and chaos) is fascinating. All organic or organic-like systems (economies, social orders) fall into this category, and here we see the concepts applied in biology:
Living systems are antifragile in that they can do much more than simply respond to the “pressure” of the environment by random mutations followed by selection; they have an in-built property that allows them to find solutions in the face of adversity. Antifragility is one such property. It unfolds not only in individual organisms, which age much slower than what could be expected from a fragile entity, but also in the way they generate a progeny. All these processes have in common the ability to create some novel information: antifragility cannot be separated from management of information.
In the paper the authors explore flexible protein development and how the “tinkering” process gives organisms a way to improve in robustness over time:
Choosing among a variety of antifragile processes, we discuss the existence of (literally) flexible proteins and the processes in which they participate. We show how this could help delay the senescence process, providing an example of how tinkering and antifragility work together during ageing.