Red Queen Effect

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The Red Queen Effect means constant change is necessary for survival. It can be observed in a situation in co-evolution where individuals must adapt constantly to changing environments just to survive. Constant change is necessary for no change (survival). Despite constant change, the fitness of a species does not change, due to simultaneous changes in the environment or competing species. The effect or principle was discovered in 1973 from the evolutionary biologist Leigh Van Valen of the University of Chicago. For an evolutionary system, continuing development and improvement is needed just in order to maintain its fitness relative to the systems it is co-evolving with. Organisms must keep evolving simply to maintain themselves in constantly changing environments with other evolving organisms.

The effect is named after Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass". In this sequel to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", Alice experiences in chapter 2 "The Garden of Live Flowers" that you must run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place:

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to 
somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running 
you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run 
at least twice as fast as that!"

It is related to the old chinese proverb "Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back" (here running is replaced by rowing, and the environment by the river).

Arms Race

The idea that systems have to keep evolving to "outwit" enemies can also be found in the concept of an arms race. An arms race is a competition between two or more systems for superiority and supremacy: between two countries for military supremacy, between predator and pray, between hosts and parasites,.. The term "arms race" is used generically to describe any competition where there is no absolute goal, only the relative goal of staying ahead of the other competitors.


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