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  • Pauline Hoffmann


Updated: Nov 4, 2021

How punctuated is your equilibrium?

I am a fan of evolution. Heck, if I wasn't I wouldn't have the opposable thumbs to type this post (I suppose I could just use the hunt and peck with one finger method but no) or to easily grab my wine glass. If you do not believe in evolution, you are on the wrong blog. Please leave and may the Lord be with you.

Last week we discussed systems theory. This week I want to delve into evolution, specifically punctuated equilibrium. Evolution is essentially the change in a species over time. Punctuated equilibrium allows for sudden changes to the evolution of a species by the introduction of a sudden event to make a significant change. The official definition coined by Stephen Jay Gould is: the hypothesis that evolutionary development is marked by isolated episodes of rapid speciation between long periods of little or no change.

UC Berkeley, of course, has a fantastic example of punctuated equilibrium. Click on the link to see an explanation as well as graphics to bring the point home. In talking about punctuated equilibrium, you can't help but think about innovation and disruption. Forbes Magazine discusses the difference between innovators and disruptors. All disruptors are innovators but not all innovators are disruptors. I would argue that all disruptors are a sociobiological punctuated equilibrium. There have been many disrupters to human systems and I argue that Covid is certainly another. Some disruptors you are more than familiar with like the printing press, metal forges, the assembly line, the internet. Bloomberg Business detailed the top 85 disrupters in history. You may view the list here. Keep in mind that this list is from 2014. I would add a few more to the list - including Covid.

I have another favorite theory that goes along with our podcast and blog. The MacArthur Wilson Theory of Island Biogeography. I was introduced to this theory when I studied at the Duke University Marine Lab in the summer of 1990 (holy cripe was that a little while ago yet it seems like only yesterday). I took a marine ecology course and over the course of the five weeks we were expected to work on a self-directed project. I wanted to work with sharks but my professor said they frown on letting students work on a project that might kill them so I studied non-reef-building coral instead. It was a bit of a letdown from sharks but I was fascinated by the Theory of Island Biogeography and its implications beyond biology. I'm not the only one. Several study this in the context of sociobiology (using biological theories to explain sociological phenomenon).

So enough of the buildup. What is the Theory? The following definition is taken directly from

Simply, Islands close to the mainland will more readily receive colonists from that mainland and, similarly, probability of colonization of large islands will be higher than that of small islands. Thus the larger the island and closer to the mainland, the more potential species will arrive. Species will also more readily go extinct on small islands than large, due to factors such as smaller population sizes and less available habitat. These parameters go hand in hand predicting that species richness will peak in large islands near mainlands, and be lowest in small islands far away from the mainland.

And I have graphics from the same website to help illustrate the point:

E.O. Wilson (a personal hero and someone I would lose my shit over if I ever met him in person) is still alive and still publishing. In fact, if you are interested, he founded a non-profit titled the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. I am a fan of the Half Earth Project. For more details on both, click here.

I raise the issue of evolution, punctuated equilibrium the the theory of island biogeography because I intend to have several future podcasts related to these topics. I also intend to publish a book detailing my ideas.

Now that I've planted that seed, it's time to think about where I will be able to retire on the monies I earn from this unnamed and unwritten book. The Arbitrary Random Stat (ARS) this week asks exactly that. Where are the best places to retire? International Living posted its top places to retire internationally. It may be viewed here. Forbes Magazine listed it top places to retire within the U.S. View it here. What looks good to me? Listen to the podcast to find out.

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