Remember when you were instructed in Algebra class to “show your work”? I have been working on a hypothesis that diversity is more important to resilience than redundancy. I’m not ready (able) to offer the full algorithm, but here are some elements of the equation.
Resilience: “The ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.” (Presidential Policy Directive 8 and other federal documents).
“Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks…” (Diversity and Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems)
Recover: 1. to get back or regain (something lost or taken away): to recover a stolen watch; 2. to make up for or make good (loss, damage, etc., to oneself); 3. to regain the strength, composure, balance, or the like, of (oneself). (From Dictionary.com)
“The term “recovery” refers to those capabilities necessary to assist communities affected by an incident to recover effectively, including, but not limited to, rebuilding infrastructure systems; providing adequate interim and long-term housing for survivors; restoring health, social, and community services; promoting economic development; and restoring natural and cultural resources. (PPD-8 and other federal documents)
Restore: “1. to bring back into existence, use, or the like; reestablish: to restore order. 2. to bring back to a former, original, or normal condition, as a building, statue, or painting. 3. to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor. 4. to put back to a former place, or to a former position, rank, etc.: to restore the king to his throne. 5. to give back; make return or restitution of (anything taken away or lost).” (See Dictionary.com)
(In contemporary usage there is little distinction between recover and restore. We may tend to recover things that have been lost and restore things that have been damaged. Sudden losses are usually recovered, while slow deterioration is typically restored. We are inclined to recover what is personally owned and restore what is shared in common. But exceptions abound. Etymologically there is a slight suggestion that recovery obscures what has been lost (covers it over), while restoration is often celebrated precisely because of what had been lost or nearly lost.)
Redundant: 1. characterized by verbosity or unnecessary repetition in expressing ideas; prolix: a redundant style. 2. being in excess; exceeding what is usual or natural: a redundant part. 3.having some unusual or extra part or feature. 4. characterized by superabundance or superfluity: lush, redundant vegetation. 5. Engineering .a. (of a structural member) not necessary for resisting statically determined stresses. b. (of a structure) having members designed to resist other than statically determined stresses; hyperstatic. c. noting a complete truss having additional members for resisting eccentric loads. Compare complete ( def. 8 ) , incomplete ( def. 3 ) . d. (of a device, circuit, computer system, etc.) having excess or duplicate parts that can continue to perform in the event of malfunction of some of the parts. (See Dictionary.com)
“Since the notions of redundancy and diversity are often confused, we will here define our usage: assume we have a group of units and that each unit is characterized by ten attributes. If all units have the same values for each attribute, we have “true” redundancy. If there are differences in values in one or another attribute we have diversity.” (From Diversity and Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems) This is a chapter in Complexity Theory for a Sustainable Future. Elsewhere the text suggests that “too much” information sharing suppresses diversity and undermines resilience. That’s worth a blog post or two.
(The Latin origin of redundant – redundare – means to overflow or flow back (undare referring to a wave, think undulate). In a purely redundant system strength is derived from exact duplication. Like the Borg, a redundant system can overflow non-systemic threats. But any vulnerability built into the system (known or unknown) will also propagate a wave-like system-wide threat. Redundant systems are often strong but inflexible. Redundant systems are highly resistant-to-change and therefore innately non-adaptive.)
Renew: 1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume. 2. to make effective for an additional period: to renew a lease. 3. to restore or replenish: to renew a stock of goods. 4. to make, say, or do again. 5. to revive; reestablish. (See Dictionary.com)
(I’m surprised by the retrospective character of renew. I expected it to mean new-again and imply starting over. But that pesky “re” insists on honoring the past. In English renew and innovate are treated as synonyms, but the Latin for innovate is much better at escaping the past.)
RE-: “a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion: regenerate; refurbish; retype; retrace; revert.” (From Dictionary.com)
Recently a couple of colleagues have argued that resilience — despite the “re” — can empower innovation. Trying to be collaborative: The Latin origin of resilience means to jump or leap again. I suppose the direction of the leap — backwards, sideways, or forward — is not prescribed. Still… if innovation, adaptation, and moving in a truly new direction is the goal, resilience will probably restrain more than enable.
“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” Confucius
(Or at least recognize the confusion of wrong names.)