The “action” in Complex Adaptive Systems takes place at the margin – fueled and driven by “butterfly effect” feedback mechanisms.
“At the margin” – if you saw a meteorite fiercely blazing its way through the sky as it sped to earth and it fell to the ground near you so you could run up and pick it up – you should not do so! Do you know why? (Bear in mind that the reason that it has burnt so fiercely through the sky is because of the friction between the meteorite and the atmosphere which raises the temperature at the surface of the meteorite well over 1 000 degrees Celcius and that the meteorite will be as smooth as glass on the surface because it has been molten and sintered.)
If you say that you shouldn’t pick it up because you will burn your hand – you are only half right.
The reason that you will receive a “freeze” burn – is because the meteorite in space has a temperature very close to absolute zero, and it will still be very, very cold – so if you pick it up it will be much worse than grabbing a chunk of dry ice!
The heating and melting of the rock have only taken place “at the margin” – on the surface where it has been in frictional contact with the air. The rest of the mass of the rock is extremely cold and the surface rapidly reverts to such a temperature when it hits the earth – if the meteorite is big enough to make it to the ground.
This illustrates how different micro-environmental conditions can be “at the margin” compared to the rest of the structure in question.
This is why it is possible to measure and monitor 99% of a water body or wastewater treatment processing unit and not detect the degradation and imminent system transformation, and why there is such surprise and alarm when the first major toxic algae bloom occurs on an open body of water.
The Biotechnology Solution Platform acts at the margin and commandeers the “butterfly effect” to deliver an exponential systemic response that is not proportional to such red herring factors such as the volume of air discharged by a diffuser or the number of billions of “effective bacteria” poured fruitlessly into the water. In this way, the BSP harnesses the full potential of biotic systems for adaptive self- optimization, inertia to disruption and self-recovery.
Just as Progressive Displacement degrades a biotic system, so Biotechnology is implemented within a Systems Theory paradigm to reverse the process through the exact same process of Progressive Displacement through “Progressive Replacement” or “Progressive Recovery” of the system.
Progressive Displacement typically happens in one direction only, with no sign of any natural Progressive Replacement or Progressive Recovery of the system.
This phenomenon is because of the Ratchet Effect because each deterioration of the system seems to become entrenched and the system has extreme difficulty making even a marginal recovery.
In the face of persistent perturbances, the biotic system appears to adopt a “defensive” mode whereby it concedes ground in the face of such persistent perturbances and “digs in” in an attempt to hold its ground, but loses the capacity to “push back”.
By providing a sustained supporting resource the BSP creates a platform from which the system is able to launch a sustained fight back, and is stimulated into doing so. The BSP restores system inertia to disruption and adaptive recovery capacity.
Benoit Mandelbrot, who pioneered much of the understanding of Systems Theory and the mathematical models that underpin it, particularly Fractal Geometry, gave an interesting example of the Ratchet Effect in a TED talk that you can watch here.
He presents the graph below which shows the performance of the S&P 500 over a 20 year period (blue line).
The red line is the S&P 500 over the same 20 year period, but the 10 biggest one-day moves have been eliminated from the data. The biggest one-day moves in the stock markets are mostly market crashes and therefore have a negative impact on the S&P 500. With just 10 of these “perturbances” in 20 years ignored as if they never happened, you can see that the S&P 500 would have been about 50% higher had these events not taken place.
Understood in terms of the Ratchet Effect, this illustrates that these 10 “black swan” events knocked the S&P 500 index value down and the market never fully recovered from the knock. The market moved up again over time, but the “Ratchet Effect” of just 10 events over a 20 year period was sufficient to ensure that market performance was reduced by 50%.
The analogy to be drawn in a Waste Water Treatment Works is that the 10 biggest perturbances (a power failure, a broken pump or motor, a massive stormwater inflow) over a 20 year period can similarly have a lasting effect that can reduce the performance of the WWTW.
In a eutrophic water body, a particularly hot summer, particularly heavy stormwater inflow or flooding can have a similar effect that locks in a worsening of the eutrophic condition.
The Biotechnology Solution Platform installs robust adaptive recovery capabilities, initiating and sustaining a supportive “butterfly effect” of constructive feedback loops that act “at the margin” to counter and reverse the effects of such disruptive perturbances.
Robust System sustainability requires the presence of a sustained support program in order that the “butterfly effect” can be invoked to counter the perturbance. A once off clean up and repair does not provide full System recovery.
The BSP has been demonstrated to be an effective solution to both Progressive Displacement and the Ratchet Effect because it is architected and implemented from a Systems Theory perspective and discipline.