Fascinating post on fundamentals to do with Design as we know it vs. emergent paradigms such as GA-driven problem solving.
The J Curve: The Dichotomy of Design and Evolution
Steve Jurvetson is mostly taking about how to do it, how to get a big system off the ground using parts that are designed and parts that are brewed. The interfaces, aargh the interfaces. Every surgeon knows that evolution gives you beautiful functionality but messy interfaces.
Steve presents these two as divergent paths, but I think I'm more hopeful for success in integration of the two styles of technology. I'm not sure why, but I think Layers and Architectures are significant and helpful.
We could add to this another dimension of systems engineering - the Verification/Validation stage. Many of the patterns that have been establisehd in systems engineering rely on transparency of design. Given an evolved system, or even a designed system containing an evolved system, how do you verify the integrity of the system if you can't inspect the drawing or the code?
Or what if the system itself evolves in use, such as an automonous array of communications routers, or a fleet of spacecraft? How can the safety of the users be assured?
We need to look at tending gardens, using animals and employing people for models of how organisations use evolved resources in systems. Track record and training will be as important for machines as it is for people and organisations.