Information and the Ecology of Scholars

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Science  21 Sep 1973:
Vol. 181, Issue 4105, pp. 1141-1146
DOI: 10.1126/science.181.4105.1141


Groups of scholars often behave in ways that are startlingly reminiscent of the behavior of groups of plants and animals in a biological ecosystem. I have tried to show that the parallel may have its basis in two fundamental considerations: (i) the similar properties of stable dissipative structures in a wide variety of contexts and (ii) the mathematical similarity of information to chemical (nutrient) free energy.

A particularly intriguing problem is that of successional trends arising from the kinetic limitation of information flow through the intellectual and social structures created by scholars. The "strategy of ecosystem development" may have implications for the strategy of academic administration. In this connection, it is worth bearing in mind Marglef's dictum (6, p. 77): "Probably the hypothesis holds everywhere that the less mature ecosystem feeds the more mature structures around it."