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

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  • Koen Frenken

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  • 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

Suggested Citation

  • Koen Frenken & Stefan Mendritzki, 2012. "Optimal modularity: a demonstration of the evolutionary advantage of modular architectures," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(5), pages 935-956, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joevec:v:22:y:2012:i:5:p:935-956
    DOI: 10.1007/s00191-011-0240-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:krk:eberjl:v:5:y:2017:i:3:p:95-117 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Mastrogiorgio, Mariano & Gilsing, Victor, 2016. "Innovation through exaptation and its determinants: The role of technological complexity, analogy making & patent scope," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1419-1435.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • D20 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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