#7b Disruptive Adaptation

Disruption is ultimately a special type of the much more general phenomenon that we might call “adaptation”. As such, all the same things that apply to general adaptation also apply to disruption, specifically. The specific feature of disruption, in comparison to other types of adaptation, is that disruption makes a process stop. It halts or detours the sequential flow of action that is intended to solve some problem. If that sequential flow of action is a sabertooth tiger eating your baby, that might be a good candidate for disruption, but that process itself is disruptive of your child’s life and your family unit’s own processes, so countering that sabertooth tiger’s action with your own disruptive action is counter-disruptive.

Ironically, a very good solution to someone (or thing) giving you problems is to give them problems. Disruption can be used as a response to disruption. If we look for it in nature or in history, we see a cascade of adaptation -> disruption -> counter-disruption -> counter-counter-disruption.

Early humans who did not hunt, fish, gather, build, etc. as effectively as others may have adapted by taking from others. That taking may have been disrupted by beating the takers over the head with a club. The process of being beaten over the head with a club could be disrupted by stabbing the club-wielder with a really long, pointy stick before they could get close enough to club you. That could be countered by throwing heavy or sharp objects at the guy with the pointy stick, preferably with a lot of force . . .

A gazelle might have used its sense of smell as an early warning against predators. Predators may have adapted to disrupt a gazelle’s sense of smell by approaching from upwind. The gazelle may have adapted to negate that behavior by developing keen hearing and a near-360 degree field of vision. Different predators probably came up with different adaptations to disrupt or negate the effectiveness of the gazelle’s senses. Some got faster (mobility); some gained more stamina (efficiency); some became stealthier (disruptive of discovery); some learned teamwork (cooperative), etc. They’re not all strictly disruptive, but disruption isn’t the only kind of adaptation nor does an adaptation have to be exclusively one kind . . .

Counter-disruption is a sub-category of all disruption and another word for it might be “robustness”, the ability of a process to complete despite the application of disruption.


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