Diagram: Fitness Landscape

Fitness Landscape

A fitness landscape is a concept that employs the metaphor of a physical landscape to depict more or less 'fit' regions of phase space. see also Fitness Peaks

A fitness landscape is not a physical space. It is a way of describing the range of all possible behaviors open to a system, or its Phase Space. This is tantamount to a system's Degrees of Freedom. Agents within a Complex System may have the capacity to behave in a wide variety of ways, but some of these are more efficient than others. The landscape is a metaphoric mapping of how well different states within a system's degrees of freedom perform. This performance is measured as Fitness, with more 'fit' states being mapped higher within the landscape, or as Fitness Peaks

That said peaks within the fitness landscape are not static, but change over time. 

Example: At one point, Detroit was a 'fit' site for gaining employment, due to the auto-industry. Subsequently, with shifting global production trends, the forces that made Detroit 'fit' altered, and its 'peak' within the landscape of potential employment gradually eroded. 

The interesting about a fitness landscape is that there are multiple peaks. We can think of these as multiple niches that are ripe for inhabitation. Different species can pursue different survival strategies to fill these niches. Some strategies can support a large population of species (think of this as a broad and tall hill). Others may able to eke out an existence, but their niche may only support a small number of species. This peak might be equally tall, but would be narrower. 

The idea of a fitness landscape serves to illustrate the broader concept of Fitness within a Complex System. 

Related terms:

Fitness Peaks

 

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