The Common Good: a semi-rational emergent property of complex collective interaction between diverse actors – Part II

The common good invariably requires diversification, manifest as random fluctuations within the biological phase space from which emerge divisions of labour, and thus necessarily, inequalities among individuals comprising a social collective. Entropic forcing drives increases of the common good, via increased diversity, to an apparent limit.

Explorations are made of philosophical (Part I) and empirical (Part II) studies in politics, biology, and economics.

Cooperation via collective divisions of labour is a necessary prerequisite to biological metabolism and reproduction. A collective comprising diverse actors is thus assumed fundamental to the planetary biome. The preponderance of benefit (here designated ‘the common good’) that emerges for actors (individuals and groups), is mediated by Woesean collective cooperation, defined as “a diverse community of cells(note A) surviving and evolving as a biological unit.”(1)
– see Part I for (note A) and reference (1).

“Diversity is an asset with which to confront uncertainty.”
– Groschl, 2013

Part II: Empirical observations and meta-analyses

Diversified-specialized: a modern economical perspective
The concept of diversified specialization is introduced and discussed in some detail by Farhauer & Kröl (2012), in an empirical study of German kreisfreie städte (cities with county status).(28) The study speaks of Marshall-Arrow-Romer (MAR) externalities, and of Jacobs externalities; both are forms of knowledge spillover. The former generating advantages due to specialization in the local environment, the latter generating advantages due to diversification in the local environment.

A diversified sector structure fosters cross-sectoral (‘Jacobs’) spillovers and lessens the impact of sector-specific demand shocks upon the regional economy. However, cities specializing in several sectors profit from both, MAR and Jacobs knowledge spillovers. Diversified-specialised cities combine the benefits of higher productivity due to specialization, with the advantages of a diversified structure, such as cross-fertilization among differing sectors, thus exhibiting higher growth rates than either specialized or diversified cities.

Specialization is risky. When a highly specialized local economy is exposed to a negative demand shock, local unemployment tends to increase dramatically, resulting in a local economic recession, or possibly even leading in an economic, and eventually cultural collapse of the entire region. In an extreme case the industry sector begins to wholly collapse, causing a widespread cascading shockwave.(29)

Sector-specific demand shocks are better absorbed by a diversified economy. It is reasonable to assume that a diversified economic environment, or indeed the diversified skill-set of an individual, generally allows for greater stability; or biologically speaking, greater fitness via increased adaptive capacity. The viability of a culture surely is in the common interest of all individuals comprising it, whether they are directly or indirectly integrated into the local culture (economy and/or ecology). Thus economic and cultural stability (viability) may reasonably be viewed as a common good.

Farhauer & Kröl report that diversified cities are generally larger, more crowded and chaotic, rendering a business environment that is less efficient and more costly than that found in a specialized city. Interestingly then, diversification requires more space than specialization, not simply geographically but also potentially; a larger realm of possibility (a larger phase space) defines diversified actors.

“Smaller cities tend to be specialised and, as a result, more productive which indicates a negative influence of city size on productivity. However, in large cities inputs can be utilised more efficiently – i.e. put to the best possible use – by means of which productivity is higher.”
– Farhauer & Kröl, 2012

Hitting squarely the predictions rendered by the hypothesis upon which the current thesis rests(note F), the diversified-specialized theory appears to be inconclusive and ambiguous, yet it is obvious that if population number (city size) does not make a clear difference in productivity, then a diversified approach is better, if only because it renders a more stable and viable situation for all stakeholders. And indeed Farhauer & Kröl do report that numerous empirical studies correlating regional sector structure (either diversified or specialized) with economic growth, have found greater employment rates in diversified regions. Critically though, the study promotes the concept of ‘diversified-specialization’ as more productive, more innovative and more stable than either diversified or specialist structures are on their own. Thus a “region specializing in a certain combination of related sectors is likely to experience higher growth rates than a region specializing in an unrelated portfolio or in one sector only.”

An indeterminate confusion in the literature relevant to the empirical study of local economies has been reported; some studies concluding that a city is specialized, while others say the same city is diversified. Farhauer & Kröl tell that “many cities exhibit multiple specialisations, but – apart from specialization in a few sectors – they show a diversified structure at the same time.” One could easily assume that Farhauer & Kröl are fence-sitting on their suggestion of diversified-specialized cities. Rather, I would suggest they have taken a pragmatic perspective, indicative of diversity and diversification as fundamental to local economies; that is to say, specializations cannot exist in the absence of diversity, and that specializations emerge from a milieu of diverse actors. Arguably, the same may be said of local ecologies.

Furthering the economy/ecology analogy, the authors tell that “companies benefit from proximity to upstream and downstream firms […]” – a statement that is strikingly reminiscent of biological commensal symbiosis between upstream and downstream metabolisms, and of the current best guess regarding the origin of life on Earth; the constitution of the last universal common ancestor. Most fascinating of all, due to its similarity with the inefficient process of photosynthetic primary production, is the statement “cities with lower productivity levels are characterised by higher growth rates.”

LUCA and the progenotes
The idea that any group of modern organisms inherited their genes from a single common ancestor is naive. Much more likely is that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) was a complex and diverse, sophisticated global community.(30) Early life forms were particularly promiscuous, sharing their genes in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT); moving genetic materials, signals, metabolic components, and other resources between cells without necessarily reproducing the entire cell.

“Most researchers now believe we should think of LUCA as a pool of genes shared among a host of primitive organisms [though] some biologists believe that horizontal gene transfer makes LUCA unknowable.”
– Whitfield, 2004

Whitfield (2004), proposes that individual cellular components of the LUCA collective may have independently learned how to solve similar problems, such as membrane construction, or the extraction of energy from certain organic molecules, and that HGT allowed for promiscuous sharing of genes coding such solutions with other cells in the commune.

The cellular functions of modern organisms rely on complex enzymatic machinery. Generally enzymatic components are encoded by several noncontiguous genes, which may be located in different regions of the genome. In contrast, the earliest genes would each have encoded an enzymatic product able to function as a stand-alone functional module – “like cassettes that can be loaded, removed and replaced. Antibiotic-resistance genes are like that today.”

The darwinian threshold, estimated to have occurred 3.5 billion years ago, represents the point in biological history when inheritance and mutation of genes replaced HGT as the dominant mode of evolution; individual cells became more complex and their functions became less interchangeable.

Carl Woese (1998), proposed that the LUCA was not a discrete entity, but a diverse community of cells surviving and evolving as a collective.(31) “This communal ancestor has a physical history but not a genealogical one. The [LUCA] cannot have been a particular organism, a single organismal lineage. It was communal, a loosely knit, diverse conglomeration of primitive cells that evolved as a unit, and it eventually developed to a stage where it broke into several distinct communities, which in their turn become the three primary lines of descent. – The universal ancestor is not an entity, not a thing. It is a process […]. Progenotes(note G) were very unlike modern cells. Their component parts had different ancestries, and the complexion of their componentry changed drastically over time. All possessed the machinery for gene expression and genome replication and at least some rudimentary capacity for cell division. But even these common functions had no genealogical continuity, for they too were subject to the confusion of lateral gene transfer. Progenotes are cell lines without pedigrees, without long-term genetic histories. With no organismal history, no individuality or “self-recognition,” progenotes are not “organisms” in any conventional sense.”

Individually, progenotes differed metabolically, their small genomes necessitating individual metabolic simplicity. Collectively however, the diverse and noncontiguous genome of the progenote population was totipotent, and HGT greatly facilitated the spread of innovations through the population, endowing the progenote community with an enormous evolutionary potential.

“not individual cell lines but the community of progenotes as a whole […] survives and evolves”
– Woese, 1989

Glansdorff et al (2008), teach that “the origin of viruses and their possible role in evolution have opened new perspectives on the emergence and genetic legacy of LUCA”.(32) Order and its corollary, organization, have increased during the evolution of biological systems. Complexity remains a rather poorly defined concept, except in the abstract sense of non-computability; irrationality.

Molecular genetic studies have allowed researchers to infer a sophisticated genomic and metabolic capacity for the LUCA. Generally, the view is one of a diversified and promiscuous community, collectively housing a wide spanning genetic redundancy. “It is indeed very likely that most cells in an ancestral community having engendered the diversity of metabolic functions found in the three Domains possessed more than a single copy of every essential gene as well as numerous paralogous genes. This redundancy could have been selected for as an important survival factor for cells with a still primitive, not fail-safe division mechanism.” As we shall see later, functional redundancy, and an apparent ceiling thereof, is documented as an aspect of the relationship between diversity and productivity.
Schematic representation of hypothetical emergence and legacy of the LUCA(33)

Promiscuous and multiphenotypic, dynamic and unstable, LUCA existing as a continual process of unregulated (or poorly regulated) incorporation and/or rejection of innovations via lateral exchanges of genomic and/or catalytic components, presumably via a merging process similar to phagocytosis, between cells devoid of rigid envelopes, living as a community in a broad range of temperatures and chemical environments. The community concept allows for the explanation of major transitional events in evolution, via genetic exchanges within an ancestral and promiscuous community, generating a large variety of forms from which new classes of entities may independently emerge at a new level of complexity. “The emergence of the first Domain must have been the outcome of a crisis rather than a progressive development.”

“Above a certain level of diversification and catalytic interconnections, the [prebiotic] system would undergo ‘catalytic closure’, thereby becoming capable of self-replication.” Catalytic closure refers to a situation in which all catalysts (enzymes) required for metabolisis are synthesized within a cellular system. However, catalytic closure does not necessitate all the catalysts to be enclosed within an individual cell membrane, as evidenced by the many and varied examples of obligate symbiosis, including for example our own human state of obligate syntrophy, facilitated by the microbiome of our digestive tract.

The picture painted here, is one of LUCA and the progenotes, as metabolically and morphologically overlapping heterogeneous communities, continually shuffling around genetic material, which may have been composed of RNA, or DNA, or even a combination of the two. A great but not completely localized conglomeration of biologically diverse actors, collectively producing a common good. Taking a broad view, it may not be terribly unrealistic to assume that the modern planetary biome, driven by a vast variety of symbioses, still exists in this more-or-less promiscuous and evolvable state of nature.

Collective divisions of labour: biological multi-dimensionalism
Clonal populations of wild type Bacillus subtilis can diversify to express at least five (documented) distinct cell types, each associated with a specialized function.
1) Motile cells express flagella, which propel cells in low viscosity environments.
Schematic diagram of flagellar structure.

2) Surfactin-producing cells secrete an amphiphilic surfactant compound that acts to reduce the surface tension of water, as well as functioning as a communication signal, and as an antimicrobial agent (anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-mycoplasmal, and hemolytic). The various services rendered by Surfactin are embedded within the communal micro-habitat, thus bettering the living conditions for all cells comprising the local cellular collective, for this reason Surfactin is considered to be a public good.
Structural formula of a surfactant.

3) Matrix-producing cells secrete extracellular polymeric substances (EPS), the structural protein TasA, and a variety of antimicrobial compounds. EPS acts in a similar manner to the extracellular matrix in higher animals; a biotic medium surrounding and binding cells, facilitating temporary storage and transfer of information and resources between cells, and generally functioning to buffer the cellular collective from environmental stressors. As a component of the EPS, TasA assembles into amyloid-like fibers that attach to cell walls and play a critical role in the formation of various colony morphologies, and in some modes of colonial expansion. The EPS, including the various functional compounds and morphologies embedded within it, is considered to be a public good.
Scanning electron micrograph of biofilm produced by collective secretion of EPS by B. subtilis.

4) Protease-producing cells secrete enzymes that facilitate nutrient acquisition. Secreted proteases are considered public goods.
Schematic diagram of protease function

5) Sporulating cells produce stress-resistant bodies (spores) that can survive extended periods of adverse environmental condition.
Electron micrograph showing an endospore held within a cell body.

Here then is a tentative list of possible states – the phase space of evolutionarily stable strategies of B. subtilis. Importantly, relative proportions of the various specializations observed in any individual colony develop as a result of the environmental condition(s) experienced by the cell collective, and are geared to propagate and increase the common good. Specifically, Gestel et al (2015), have shown that migration of B. subtilis over a solid surface is dependent upon cellular differentiation of cells in a clonal colony, into two distinct phenotypes; surfactin-producing cells and matrix-producing cells. Collectives of these cell types form highly organized structures that the authors have named ‘van Gogh bundles’; tightly aligned, elastic filamentous loops; chains of cells that push themselves away from the colony edge. The geometries of van Gogh bundles are mediated via mechanical cellular interactions, with small-scale local changes (cell elongation, division, orientation, and polar interactions) at the level of individual cells determining the collective properties of expanding filamentous loops, emergent at the colony level.(33)

Two distinct cellular phenotypes arising from differentiation of a clonal population of wild type B. subtilis. Surfactin-producing cells (red), matrix-producing cells (green).(34)

Though migration surely is a good strategy for cells living in a limiting environment, we cannot rightly assume that individual bacterial cells are aware of colony-level (organismal) behaviors. In the specific example studied by Gestel et al cells live on a solid surface making individual ‘selfish’ action (flagellar motility) impossible. Apparently the only manner in which individual cells can migrate away from such an environment is via diversified and cooperative, collective action. Though environmental stimuli are important determinants of the differing growth phases of cell collectives, cell differentiation is also inherently stochastic. Gestel et al tell that “under constant environmental conditions, cells can spontaneously differentiate [metabolically switching] into matrix-producing cell chains that are preserved for a number of generations due to a regulatory feedback loop.”

B. subtilis is not the only ‘unicellular’ or ‘single-celled’ species to exhibit a multicellular lifestyle. “Filamentous structures also occur during the colony growth of Paenibacillus vortex and B. mycoides.” Also B. cereus has been shown to switch to a multicellular lifestyle when grown on filter-sterilized soil-extracted soluble organic matter (SESOM) or artificial soil microcosm (ASM) – physical models of environmental conditions that cells encounter in soils. In all four microbial species, multicellularity allows for and facilitates migration via emergent common goods. Interestingly, the domesticated strain B. subtilis 168, which is documented as defective in surfactin production, cannot make the switch to a multicellular lifestyle when grown on SESOM or ASM.

There is an interesting observation to be made here in regard to ESS theory. The mathematical, logical descendent of game theory, is depicted in the literature essentially as a binary system, comprising cooperative and altruistic ‘dove’ actors, versus selfish and aggressive ‘hawk’ actors. In contrast, B. subtilis is presumed to be a quinary system of evolutionary stable strategies, comprising five expressible types of actor, as well as the higher-level collective actor(s) that emerge from synergy between groups of cellular actors – “the formation of van Gogh bundles depends critically on the synergistic interaction of surfactin-producing and matrix-producing cells.”

“Some problems can be solved only when individuals act together. This applies to bacteria in the same way that it applies to humans.”
– Gestel et al, 2015
Stigmergic ants cooperate to move a large food article to the nest. Individuals lifting the load cannot ‘see’ where the nest is; a ‘driver’ (bottom of image) nudges the ‘lifters’ in the direction of the nest.

The diversity-productivity relationship
Difficulties in finding or creating metrics of the common good are widespread. Bouter (2010), has professed that “knowledge is a common good”, pointing out that “finding good indicators of scientific quality is no easy task”. Recognizing that “research is becoming less and less the exclusive province of the universities”, Bouter calls for “co-operation in a variety of changing contexts”. In specific regard to evaluation of the societal relevance of scientific research, he has suggested there is “plenty of room for discussion about the validity of the indicators, the optimum level of detail and weighing up the relative importance of its various aspects. […] However, it is clearly too early to adopt a strong quantitative approach.”(34) In fact, there is no standard metric of the common good.

Standardized quantification of diversification and specialization processes, and of diversified or specialized states, has also proven largely intractable, with various researchers using, or creating, differing working definitions and tools. Nevertheless, studies of diversity have been endowed with a probabilistic metric called the diversity index. This theoretical object has been interpreted in a variety of ways; relatives of the diversity index have been used by ecologists in studies of the relationship between plant diversity and ecosystem function, generally showing that “productivity increases with diversity”(35). From these studies has emerged a statistical model of “a fundamentally important ecological pattern”(36) called the diversity-productivity relationship (DPR).

Zhang et al (2012), tell that the DPR “has received considerable attention during the past two decades”, and that numerous grassland experiments have demonstrated positive DPRs; that is, production of biomass increases with increased biodiversity.(37) A positive DPR coexists with increases of resource use, nutrient retention and cycling, niche differentiation and inter-species facilitation. Generally, the greater the diversity of organisms in an ecosystem, the better each organism (or group) is able to survive and reproduce, due to increases of nutrient abundance, resource availability, habitat partitioning and mutualistic symbioses. Critically, the DPR body of knowledge includes insignificant, and negative, as well as positive effects of biodiversity on productivity. These should be expected however, as results of physical (environmental) limitation, and differences of assumption and quantification in individual studies.

DPR studies tend not to show direct links between ecological mechanisms and positive DPRs. This failure, or inability, results partially from the form of scientific inquiry; a necessarily narrow field of view, focused upon one, or a very few, specific aspect(s) of the object or process being studied. In a meta-analysis of global forest productivity, Zhang et al, have commented that the majority of “DPR studies have chosen species richness as the measure of species diversity to define and interpret DPRs. However, richness alone cannot fully represent species diversity in relation to ecosystem functioning because it ignores the influence of species evenness (relative abundance) on [interspecies] interactions. The lack of understanding of species evenness in DPRs is presumably limited by traditional experimental and statistical methods.”

Zhang et al, chose three dimensions of productivity in their DPR meta-analysis.
1) Biomass: Kg of cellulose, though in reality a great deal more and varied biological material is present.
2) Volume: m3 of forest canopy,
3) Basal area: m2 of forest floor.

The former two (biomass and volume) vary with biological activity, the latter is invariant; all three represent limited common goods. It is important to realize that none of these dimensions, neither individually nor collectively, account for actual forest ecosystem productivity, because a great deal of biological activity crucial to aboveground production of biomass and volume occurs below the forest floor, in the shallow layer of topsoils ignored by the global meta-analysis. Similarly, other obvious environmental factors, such as solar radiation and meteorological water, have been excluded, presumably along with a vast array of less obvious or unknown factors. Even so, Zhang et al have concluded, in agreement with the majority of DPR studies, that positive DPRs are a global phenomenon in forest ecosystems, commenting that “polycultures are generally more productive than mono-cultures”, and that evenness of the canopy volume, as well as contrasting traits between various organisms, are central components of positive diversity-productivity relationships. Furthermore, they report the existence of a diversity plateau at the high end of the species richness range, resulting from functional redundancies among species cohabiting an ecosystem. Thus, ecosystemic synergy is driven toward a diversity-productivity ‘ceiling’, imposed by functional redundancy, which we may well define as homeostasis of the common good.

This last point exposes what I believe to be a fundamental sociophysical phenomenon of critical importance to the understanding of common goods and of sustainable development; natural limits are imposed upon all complex systems. Interestingly, if shade is viewed as a phenomenon emerging from the metabolic activities of plant growth, and that shade produced by these conditions drives speciation, then we may rightly consider shade to be a limited common good.

Trogisch (2012), has focused upon processes occurring below the forest floor, specifically the states of nitrogen and leaf litter decomposition in soil samples from a subtropical forest. He has suggested that primary productivity and nutrient cycling be considered common goods, and has confirmed a consensus regarding the reduced vulnerability of diversified ecosystems to environmental stress. Furthermore, he has proposed functional redundancy among diverse species as a systemic stabilizer, allowing ecosystem functions and services to remain unchanged, or less affected, after environmental perturbation.(38)

“Forests account for 80% of the world’s plant biomass and are therefore a main driver and component of the Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. Their versatile services such as climate regulation and protection of soil resources, denotes them as one of the most important terrestrial ecosystems for human wellbeing.” Indeed one may justly argue that forest ecosystems are common goods that propagate wellbeing for a vast, uncounted, number of species.

A most remarkable passage in Trogisch’s thesis teaches that “decomposition dynamics in mixed leaf litter often show non-additive effects so that [nitrogen] is released at a faster rate than predicted from decomposition rates of corresponding single-species leaf litter. Such litter diversity effects during decomposition can lead to a feedback reaction positively influencing plant productivity”. Thus, species diversity affects irrational, non-computable, synergistic processes, that act to increase and stabilize the common good.

Jacobs knowledge spillover: relating the DPR with the common good in an economic context
Jane Jacobs questioned why some cities grow and others decay. Her theory of agricultural origin, published in 1969, proposed that agricultural knowledge and practical technologies emerged from a diversified human collective. Jacobs concluded that “high and sustained levels of innovative behavior and entrepreneurship inevitably result in the increased diversification and complexity of the local economic base over time and that a diversified urban economy provides the best setting for entrepreneurial and innovative behavior”. Thus, increases in the number and diversity of divisions of labor endow an economy with an increased capacity for production of goods and services.(40)

Reviewing Jacobs, Desrochers & Hospers (2007) list four characteristics of economic systems(39) that are also common to biological systems:
1) Development is dependent upon the self-organization of numerous and various complex relationships, from which differentiations emerge, giving rise to an organ from which further differentiations emerge.

2) Expansion (growth) is dependent upon the capture and use of energy. The greater the diversity of means for capturing, using, recapturing, and reusing energy before its discharge from the system, the more resilient the system is.

3) Self-maintenance (constitutive self-regulation) is an intrinsic systemic process, incorporating positive and negative feedback, along with aspects of development and growth.

4) Evasion of systemic collapse incorporates self-maintenance, bifurcation, positive and negative feedback, and emergency adaptations, together helping to ensure systemic longevity. However, entropic effects are certain to impact upon any system, as a gradual increase of disorder (disorganization) in internal (systemic) and external (environmental) structures.

The similarities between ecology and economy in regard to the relationship between diversity and productivity are striking. Critically however, the economic literature ignores, or fails to identify, the presence of natural limits to productivity imposed by a diversity plateau; a functional redundancy among local actors. Building upon Desrochers & Hospers (2007), I propose that the emphasis of economics in modern culture has switched from natural diversity and complexity to artificial specialty and simplicity; from a natural stable-state driven by dynamism, to an unnatural unstable-state propagated by statism; from divergent inefficient creativity, to convergent efficient monotony.

As seems to be the case with all researches attempting to relate diversity and productivity, Desrochers & Leppala have admitted that quantification of frequency and relative importance of Jacobs spillovers (diversity index of knowledge sharing) could not be measured satisfactorily, commenting that “simply because something is immeasurable does not mean that it is necessarily unobservable, unintelligible or unimportant.”(40)

The synergistic function of complex systems identified here as the Jacobs spillover and the DPR is reminiscent of the messy workspace phenomenon – in which the current project(s), may ‘shake hands’ with past works and even future hopefuls, allowing for greater capacities of creative problem solving, insight, adaptation and innovation. Vohs et al (2013), have reported that “disorderly environments […] can produce highly desirable outcomes, […] encourage novelty-seeking and unconventional routes, [thus stimulating] creativity, which has widespread importance for culture, business, and the arts.”(41) Strangely, and rather irrationally, Vohs et al have omitted the sciences in their list of beneficiaries, thus apparently denying scientific pursuits the privilege of “disorderly environments”.

In 1945, the economist and Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek suggested that “any approach, such as that of mathematical economics with its simultaneous equations, which in effect starts from the assumption that people’s knowledge corresponds with the objective facts of the situation, systematically leaves out what is our main task to explain.” He believed that “objective or scientific knowledge is not the sum of all knowledge”, that there are other unorganized kinds of knowledge. Critical of economic theory, Hayek proposed that, in reality, no one has perfect information, only the capacity and skill to find information.(42) Thus the reality of economics is not, as commonly held by economists, a pure logic of choice, but rather “knowledge relevant to actions and plans”.(40)

“Unfortunately for mathematical economists, this kind of knowledge [relevant to actions and plans] cannot enter into statistics: it is mostly subjective”.(40)
– Friedrich Hayek, 1945

“There is something deadening to the human mind in uniformity; progress comes through variation.”(40)
– Malcom Keir, 1919

Desrochers & Leppala (2011) describe an essential aspect of creativity (divergent thinking) as “the capacity to look beyond the normal application context of artifacts and ideas”. Creative, inventive and innovative progress, leading to increases in diversity, knowledge and productivity, is facilitated by opportunities for specialists to explore areas in which they are not experts, and to work on several different projects simultaneously, by means of a variety of familiar and unfamiliar methods. This pair of practical concepts is the path to polymathy. Unsurprising then, that polymaths are viewed by history as individuals who have produced the greatest common good – in the sense that they have given, most often at no cost, greatly useful intellectual gifts to humankind.

Common uncertainty: the diversity index
In a meta-analysis of global economic development, aimed at drawing generic conclusions for all countries with available data, Kaulich (2012), echoes the concerns of Farhauer & Kröl (2012), Bouter (2010), Zhang et al (2012), and Desrochers & Leppala (2011), reporting that “different and sometimes conflicting definitions and measurements of diversification/specialization have been used, together with different datasets”.

The economies of all countries are based upon agriculture, with the successful export of agricultural goods allowing for diversification away from primary production, via the manufacture of initially simple products, leading to increasingly sophisticated activities. Diversification, claims Kaulich, is intrinsic to, and is the driving force of economic development.

Kaulich has also found a positive relationship, specifically between the diversity of products exported by an economy and its per capita level of income.(46) At “quite a high level of income per capita” (~ $22,000 / year) economic diversification of the average country slows down, lead by the manufacturing sector toward a plateau. Thus, as a country transitions from a developing to a developed economy, it simultaneously encounters a diversity ‘ceiling’, which limits its economic growth. This pattern is very similar to the ecological DPR, in which productivity is driven toward a diversity ‘plateau’ imposed by functional redundancies among species cohabiting an ecosystem. Is it fair, then, to speak of an economic diversity-income relationship, and of economic homeostasis?

“A country’s economic growth may be defined as a long-term rise in capacity to supply increasingly diverse economic goods to its population.”(43)
– Kuznets, 1971

“Whatever it is that serves as the driving force of economic development, it cannot be the forces of comparative advantage as conventionally understood. The trick seems to be to acquire mastery over a broader range of activities, instead of concentrating on what one does best.”(44)
– Rodrik (2004)

“The common notion to specialize in “what one does best” as a means to achieve economic prosperity and hence poverty reduction seems to be fundamentally wrong.”(45)
– Kaulich, 2012

Kaulich cites an earlier report, UNIDO (2009), suggesting that re-specialization may occur at the high-income end of economic development. This affords a diplomatic position within the diversity vs. specialization debate, which Kaulich makes masterful use of, posing that economic theories arguing exclusively for or against economic specialization appear contradictory, but may both be correct, albeit identifiable at differing points in the economic development of a country. However, his own analysis of global trade data does not conclusively show a U-curve, suggestive of a decrease in economic diversification at the high-income end in combination with continued increase of income. Instead, Kaulich has confidently reported an L-curve.
Sketch graph showing economic diversification increasing with product sophistication and income per capita, leading to a diversity-income plateau.
– adapted from UNIDO (2012)

In stating that “successful policies for economic diversification cannot consist of a top-down process with a static set of rules for the private sector”, the UNIDO working paper clearly advocates a policy admissive of complexity; reliant upon self-regulation, and based upon bottom-up self-organization of diverse actors.

The use of various diversity indices in empirical studies of ecologies and of economies, has produced a pattern among observations. A generally positive relationship is identified between quantitative measures of diversity and productivity, leading to a plateau at the high diversity end of abundance and evenness.

One must ask: is the observed limit a physical, entropic, phenomenon, or an artifact of the diversity index? Irrationally, I prefer the former, and suggest that various independent empirical studies have collectively identified an apparent homeostatic epiphenomenon of sociophysical dynamism; steady-state animism on a macro scale, perhaps even a planetary scale. A common-good-state-of-nature.

It should be appreciated that the terms ‘synergy’, ‘epiphenomenon’ and ‘sociophysics’ sit rather uncomfortably within the envelope of science, because their meanings act as signposts toward an understanding of metaphysics. Perhaps Rosen intuited correctly that relational studies of living systems may produce new knowledge of physics and result in profound changes for science?

At the very least, scientific understandings of economics and politics appear to be fundamentally incorrect, requiring revisions permitting the inclusion of non-computable phenomena, emerging from interactions between diverse actors to produce common goods.

F) Hypothesis:
i) Universally, the collective efficiency of a diverse set of actors is greater than that of a specialized set of actors.
η(ΣAd > ΣAs) → U

ii) Locally, the collective efficiency of a specialized set of actors is greater than that of a diverse set of actors.
η(ΣAs > ΣAd) → L

Where U is universal (i.e. global) effect, L is local effect, η is efficiency, Σ is sum (collective), Ad is diverse actor, As is specialized actor.

Hypothetical predictions:
A diverse set of actors is a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of specialized actors.
A diverse set of actors is a necessary prerequisite for the emergence of common goods.

G) Progenotes are defined as organic elements comprising the communal ancestor, identified in the lineages now assumed as the phylogenetic ‘tree of life’.

28) O. Farhauer & A. Kröl, “Diversified Specialisation – Going One Step Beyond Regional Economics” Specialisation-Diversification Concept”, (2012), JAHRBUCH FÜR REGIONALWISSENSCHAFT, Vol.32, Number 1, p.63-84,

29) “The collapse of manufacturing”, (February, 2009), The Economist,

30) J. Whitfield, “Origins of life: Born in a watery commune”, (2004), Nature Vol. 427, p. 674-676, abstract:

31) C. Woese, “The Universal Ancestor”, (1998), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 95(12): 6854–6859,

32) N. Glansdorff, Y. Xu & B. Labendan, “The Last Universal Common Ancestor: emergence, constitution and genetic legacy of an elusive forerunner”, (2008), Biology Direct,

33) J. Gestel, H. Vlamakis, R. Kolter, “From Cell Differentiation to Cell Collectives: Bacillus subtilis Uses Division of Labor to Migrate”, (2015), PLOS Biology,

34) L. Bouter, “Knowledge as a common good: the societal relevance of scientific research”, (2010), Higher Education Management and Policy, Vol. 22/1,

35) J. van Ruijven and F. Berendse, “Diversity-productivity relationships: Initial effects, long-term patterns, and underlying mechanisms”, (2004), Vol. 102.3, PNAS, abstract

36) H. Hillebrand and B. Cardinale, “A critique for meta-analyses and the productivity-diversity relationship”, (2010), Ecology, Vol. 91.9, p. 2545-2549,

37) Y. Zhang, H. Chen, P.Reich, “Forest productivity increases with evenness, species richness and trait variation: a global meta-analysis”, (2012), Journal of Ecology, Vol.100, p.742–749,

38) S. Trogisch, “The functional significance of tree diversity for soil N-pools, leaf litter decomposition and N-uptake complementarity in subtropical forests in China”, (2012), ETH ZURICH,

39) P. Desrochers & S. Leppala, “Opening up the ‘Jacobs Spillovers’ black box: local diversity, creativity and the processes underlying new combinations”, (2011), Journal of Economic Geography, Vol 11, p. 843–863, abstract only

40) P. Desrochers and G-J. Hospers, “Cities and the Economic Development of Nations: An Essay on Jane Jacobs’ Contribution to Economic Theory”, (2007), Canadian Journal of Regional Science, Vol. 3(1), p. 115-130,

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