Noisy dynamical systems evolve error correcting codes and modularity

25 Mar 2023  ·  Trevor McCourt, Ila R. Fiete, Isaac L. Chuang ·

Noise is a ubiquitous feature of the physical world. As a result, the first prerequisite of life is fault tolerance: maintaining integrity of state despite external bombardment. Recent experimental advances have revealed that biological systems achieve fault tolerance by implementing mathematically intricate error-correcting codes and by organizing in a modular fashion that physically separates functionally distinct subsystems. These elaborate structures represent a vanishing volume in the massive genetic configuration space. How is it possible that the primitive process of evolution, by which all biological systems evolved, achieved such unusual results? In this work, through experiments in Boolean networks, we show that the simultaneous presence of error correction and modularity in biological systems is no coincidence. Rather, it is a typical co-occurrence in noisy dynamic systems undergoing evolution. From this, we deduce the principle of error correction enhanced evolvability: systems possessing error-correcting codes are more effectively improved by evolution than those without.

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