Green Boxes of Innovation



Thank you M Laurent Fabius and all 195 nation’s delegates for your achievements at COP21 in Paris today.

It is now time to pull together threads from earlier discussion to sketch a morphology for a generic system for innovation.  Our earlier Black Boxes of Innovation can be combined with the idea that innovation is information made valuable through bioenergetic transformations. The black boxes then become green.

 Green Box of Innovation In this generic system of innovation, inputs may include empirical information, other raw materials and energy.

These inputs are transformed in the Green Box into outputs comprising information that has been made valuable.  This information may be embedded in products and services by commercial organisations.  It may be conserved in the generic code and epigenetics that confer survival benefits to organisms.  It may be the content of a newspaper or the legislation to govern a society.

The parameter values set the operational state of the Green Box.

The creation of valuable information through innovation and the replication of this information through production are intrinsically coupled within the Green Box[1].

The number of parameters can vary from zero to very many, each providing an extra degree of freedom or variability to the Green Box operations.  Indeed the structure of this website has been designed around the concept of a Green Box with no parameters, as it provides a qualitative commentary that connects inputs to outputs.  A more quantitative or algorithmic association between inputs and outputs may use parameters as operational variables for the Green Box – in weather forecasting for example.

The change of colour is used to indicate that the Green Box is not simply an automatic means of processing selected inputs into useful and valuable outputs.  There are additional features that together establish a process of Innovation that is Making Information Valuable:-

  1. There is a dynamic search for relevant input information
  2. There is an integration of various inputs into a coherent interpretation, which may legitimately be challenged at any time by new findings and the output information appropriately modified
  3. There is an optimisation through which the value of the outputs is maximised for the available inputs
  4. Information creation through innovation and information replication through production are to varying degrees coupled within an innovation system

The above four points specify a generic behaviour for an abstract innovation system.  In “Writing the Information” we consider how this behaviour arises from energy throughput and transformation in physical and biological systems, and we have extended this concept into the economic and societal domains.

 Tree Innovation  tree production

The tree as a Green Box:  Information creation through innovation (left) and information replication through production (right) are coupled in this biological system

An analogous behaviour of innovation systems with a tree-like morphology can be observed in various real physical, biological and economic settings which are considered below.

53484_femur_sm Wolff’s law reveals that bones are continuously remodelling to enable a skeleton to adapt and be optimised to support loads to which it is exposed.  In the ends of longs bones, such as at the hip joint of the femur shown here, there are filamentous tree-like trabecular structures of cancellous bone that channel the complex forces that are transmitted across the joint into the stiffer and stronger cortical bone below.

  1. It is a dynamic system where input information regarding physiological loads determines whether trabeculae are reinforced or resorbed
  2. The cancellous trabeculae combine to form an integrated structural system
  3. In healthy bone the system is optimised to provide sufficient strength for normal physical activity with lowest physiological cost
  4. The trabecular geometry is broadly similar for all individuals from the same species

Remodelling also occurs in many other tissues through “mechano-transduction” mechanisms that are largely unknown, although collagen fibrils and tree-like proteoglycan structures have a role to play.  Numerical models are being used to explore this specific Green Box of innovation.

 cardiovascular system With every heartbeat blood gushes through the widest lumen of the aorta and outwards into the body, through finer intermediate arteries and down to the finest capillaries.  This tiny capillary blood flow delivers oxygen and energy to the cells of adjacent tissues.  Those tissues cut off from this energy supply will atrophy and die.

  1. Cells can produce angiogenic factors that call for the creation of new capillaries to enhance blood supply when this is needed
  2. The cardiovascular anatomy is a highly integrated physiological system
  3. Bloodflow can shut down preferentially in peripheral regions at times of stress to protect the vital organs
  4. Cardiovascular anatomy is broadly similar for all individuals from the same species

After the delivery of oxygen and energy is made, the vascular system will collect the outflow, which re-emerges in a series of confluences back into the mainstream venous bloodflow, back to the heart to become re-energised and to repeat this cycle through which energy is continuously allowed to flow to sustain life.

BBC News logo

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News items emerge from interesting events in minor crevices of society and are transmitted through social networks and regional agencies into the major conduits of national and international press.  In this way stories are selected to fill the columns of newspapers which flow out through their distribution channels to find their way onto the doorsteps of a nation the following morning, and onto the web pages of computers at any time of the day.

  1. The search for the latest scoop is a never-ending quest for the journalist profession
  2. Various information sources are used for corroboration to “stand-up” a story in a respected publication
  3. Fierce competition and a 24/7 news cycle with fast developing technologies for information dissemination imply the need for continual optimisation of reporting operations.
  4. Dissemination architectures are relatively fixed and through which the press mixes the creation of new information with the copying and distribution of the latest news.
 container port Since the 1950’s the innovation of the shipping container has been responsible for a remodelling of transportation networks around new ports that provide docking hubs for massive container ships.

  1. The old ports such as London and New York have been displaced to Felixstowe and New Jersey
  2. Tree-like transport infrastructures grew out from these container ports to convey the goods from manufacturing centres, and in reverse to deliver the transported goods to the shops and homes of consumers
  3. Whilst the new container ports grew in size and capacity, the old ports atrophied and died through disuse in an analogous manner to bone remodelling.
  4. Whilst the daily operations of a container port are the repetitive actions of a production system, the development of the infrastructures around the production hub provides one element of innovation in this system
 Big Ben And so it is with politics that one can identify analogous innovative patterns.  Votes cast into the ballet boxes of democracies elect representatives who themselves channel their authority into Government by an executive, by a cabinet, that exercises their rights to develop policies that flow out through the tributaries of the state, back into the constituencies and on into the homes of the voter.

  1. Policies evolve with time aiming to attract the interest of an elector population.
  2. A manifesto integrates policies into a coherent package of information intended to be of sufficient value to be “sold” in return for a vote.
  3. The information content and the dissemination networks are in a continual state of flux to gain the furthest reach into an electorate.
  4. Anyone who has worked on the telephones and doorsteps at election time understands the need to continually repeat policy benefits.

Taxes flow in a parallel conduit, from each member in that same society through into the huge central fiscal channel of the Government treasury, whereupon they are redistributed outwards according to the particular ideologies and macroeconomic priorities of the exchequer, back into the many small niches of the society from whence they came.

Innovation and production are economic activities.   In his Économique et mécanique Leon Walras sought to explain that it was of little importance that physical phenomena can easily be measured whilst economic ones cannot  …. because with each exchange, consciously or unconsciously, a person will know deep down whether his needs are satisfied or not in proportion to the value of the goods exchanged.  Innovation and production within the generic Green Box can be explored using models and simulations of this perception and exchange of value.



[1] The special cases of pure innovation and of pure production are described in “A Labour Theory of Value Creation

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