What is this operating system, LifeOS, designed to accomplish? For one thing it supplies its users with nutrition. It provides the mechanisms and guidance for agents to find and devour the food they need. Moreover, the System supplies all of the food and the food for the food.
Navigation and Supply
What we see as navigation of an individual, is in the systems view a single action that is part of the next level of functionality. Individuals navigate in order to perform their job within the larger system. They navigate in order to participate in a much larger on-time supply management system. Whether we look at a giant ecosystem including many subsystems, individual bodies or even single organs, the supply of nutrients and elimination of waste involves a complex set of logistical challenges. Even under the most difficult circumstances, these challenges are met with elegance and grace. These systems show a high degree of efficiency that can only be maintained by some sort of overall management of resources. Individuals navigate while maintaining order within the system.
Within the human body a steady flow of nutrients, in the proper proportions, is delivered, on-time to trillions of cells. These cells experience an extreme range of activity, from idle to full output, depending on the organism’s reaction to highly variable environmental conditions. The biological system supplies all of its internal components with a steady stream of just what is needed, through a wide range of demands. If the demands change, the structure of the organism is modified to adapt.
Evolution of Industrial Supply Systems
We know from human controlled supply systems what it takes operate one. We have seen the evolution of supply systems from simple barter all the way up to on-time supply systems that make modern factories models of efficiency. First of all, even in relatively primitive systems, everything has paperwork with it, from mailing labels, invoices, assembly instructions, manuals and so on. The efficiency of the delivery system depends on the accuracy of the information passed as paperwork. It depends on other things like equipment and personnel that also have an information component that they depend on for their individual efficiency.
Then there is all the talking we have to do along with every transaction. Like. “How’s the wife and kids?” That is social conversation that maintains the trust and confidence needed to maintain good trade relations. The social interaction is generally what opens up the supply line in the first place, when the sales rep makes a deal. Then there is all of the communication involved in maintaining the supply lines themselves. Someone has to buy trucks, hire drivers and manage deliveries.
In our experience, even the most inefficient supply system requires a lot of information to be exchanged. The efficiency of biological systems suggests they also handle a lot of information.
The difference between the old time supply system and the modern on-time system is the amount of information that is processed. The old system used paper and handshakes to handle the details. Nowadays the computer can handle a great deal more information and the supply system becomes more efficient. Besides, that information is accessible from anywhere, while in the old system much of the information was only available locally.
Even with all the paperwork, the old way required large warehouse facilities to keep enough supplies on hand to make sure the assembly lines could operate continuously. The on-time system uses computers to keep track of everything that could possibly affect the flow of supplies and materials arriving at a manufacturing facility. Shipping dates are coordinated so that each supplier sends small shipments as needed, rather than large ones at random times. By maintaining a steady flow of materials, the need for large storage areas, and their inventories, is eliminated and efficiency increased. By having an overall view of the flow of material, shortages can be identified early and corrective action taken.
It has taken years and billions of dollars to bring our manufacturing systems into the information age, however biological systems operate at this high degree of efficiency, naturally; and they always have. Not only do individual organs and bodies perform amazing feats of internal supply, but local ecosystems accomplish the same kind of on-time delivery of nutrients involving many complex species interactions through daily, tidal and seasonal fluctuations. The efficiency of this physical reality we see around us indicates a high proficiency in information processing. Something is keeping track of everything.