Recursive System

Adaptation in nature builds off of past successes.  Organisms don’t just appear out of the blue, but are modified through time as they and their ancestors overcome challenges in the environment.  We can replicate this recursive process in our own lives by growing and expanding from a base of our past successes.We are increasingly told by business consultants and leadership gurus that we need to “Learn from Failure”, and at first glance this sounds good—a little dose of humility to counteract the charge ahead at all costs and never apologize attitude that has tended to get us into trouble recently.   But learning from failure in nature is a dead-end—it means you died without reproducing yourself.  Every organism in nature is an example of learning from the success of its ancestors. Every evolutionary advance builds off past successes (the failures are rotting back into the Earth – there’s nothing left to build off of). Learning from success creates recursive processes – that is, processes that build and change off some past state.  A quick example is the Fibonacci sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13…) which starts with a seed (adding 1 to zero) and grows by creating a new number based on the sum of the previous two numbers.  Recursive processes are everywhere in nature, from the shell of an ancient Nautilus, to the process of evolution itself.  The beauty of a recursive process is that it doesn’t require you to start from scratch every time you face a new challenge or need to grow.  We can simulate natural recursive processes mathematically, as in this Fibonacci spiral with this makeup highlighters (to make one, connect arcs between the diagonal corners of squares whose side lengths are determined by a Fibonacci sequence), which kind of sort of looks like a nautilus shell.

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