Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quote: Lewis Carroll


'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!'

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Interestingly, the above quotation has given rise to a principle known as the Red Queen Effect.  In 1973 the biologist Leigh Van Valen (for the benefit of my son, that is Van Valen, not Van Halen) named a principle after the Red Queen, who must keep running just to stay in the same place.  This is because as the Queen is running, everything in the landscape is also moving at the same speed.

Van Vlen’s principle is that regardless of how well a species adapts to its current environment, it must keep evolving to keep up with its competitors and enemies who are also evolving. The Red Queen Effect, at its simplest, says that if a species does nothing, it falls behind, so that it must run to stay where it is.

One writer has commented that:

Look around and you'll see that the "Red Queen Effect" is happening in many places: it's part of the business landscape, new technology development, and arms races. Indeed, in the past few years major universities have a "Red Queen Effect" going in their fund-raising drives. One university will announce a goal to raise $4.5 billion ("the biggest ever"), and a month later another will announce a campaign for $5 billion ("the largest ever"). Small money-raising drives carry less prestige.

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