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Optimal modularity: a demonstration of the evolutionary advantage of modular architectures

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  • Koen Frenken

    ()

  • Stefan Mendritzki

Abstract

Modularity is an important concept in evolutionary theorizing but lack of a consistent definition renders study difficult. Using the generalized NK-model of fitness landscapes, we differentiate modularity from decomposability. Modular and decomposable systems are both composed of subsystems, but in the former, these subsystems are connected via interface standards, while in the latter, subsystems are completely isolated. We derive the optimal level of modularity, which minimizes the time required to globally optimize a system, both for the case of two-layered systems and for the general case of multi-layered hierarchical systems containing modules within modules. This derivation supports the hypothesis of modularity as a mechanism to increase the speed of evolution. Our formal definition clarifies the concept of modularity and provides a framework and an analytical baseline for further research. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00191-011-0240-6
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Evolutionary Economics.

Volume (Year): 22 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 (November)
Pages: 935-956

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Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:22:y:2012:i:5:p:935-956

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Related research

Keywords: Modularity; Decomposability; Near-decomposability; Complexity; NK-model; Search; Hierarchy; D20; D83; L23; O31; O32;

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  1. Frenken, Koen, 2006. "A fitness landscape approach to technological complexity, modularity, and vertical disintegration," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 288-305, September.
  2. Jan W. Rivkin & Nicolaj Siggelkow, 2007. "Patterned Interactions in Complex Systems: Implications for Exploration," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(7), pages 1068-1085, July.
  3. Richard N. Langlois & Giampaolo Garzarelli, 2008. "Of Hackers and Hairdressers: Modularity and the Organizational Economics of Open-source Collaboration," Working papers 2008-53, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  4. Marengo, Luigi & Dosi, Giovanni, 2005. "Division of labor, organizational coordination and market mechanisms in collective problem-solving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 303-326, October.
  5. Sylvie Geisendorf, 2010. "Searching NK Fitness Landscapes: On the Trade Off Between Speed and Quality in Complex Problem Solving," Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 35(4), pages 395-406, April.
  6. Scott E. Page, 1996. "Two measures of difficulty (*)," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 321-346.
  7. Daniel A. Levinthal, 1997. "Adaptation on Rugged Landscapes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(7), pages 934-950, July.
  8. Frenken, K. & Nuvolari, A., 2003. "The Early Development of the Steam Engine: An Evolutionary Interpretation using Complexity Theory," Working Papers 03.15, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
  9. Carliss Y. Baldwin, 2008. "Where do transactions come from? Modularity, transactions, and the boundaries of firms," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 155-195, February.
  10. Arthur, W. Brian, 2007. "The structure of invention," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 274-287, March.
  11. Carliss Y. Baldwin & Kim B. Clark, 2000. "Design Rules, Volume 1: The Power of Modularity," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262024667, January.
  12. Herbert A. Simon, 2002. "Near decomposability and the speed of evolution," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(3), pages 587-599, June.
  13. Tommaso Ciarli & Riccardo Leoncini & Sandro Montresor & Marco Valente, 2008. "Technological change and the vertical organization of industries," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 367-387, August.
  14. Sendil K. Ethiraj & Daniel Levinthal, 2004. "Modularity and Innovation in Complex Systems," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(2), pages 159-173, February.
  15. Luigi Marengo & Giovanni Dosi & Paolo Legrenzi & Corrado Pasquali, 1999. "The structure of problem-solving knowledge and the structure of organisations," LEM Papers Series 1999/09, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  16. Page, Scott E, 1996. "Two Measures of Difficulty," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 321-46, August.
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