Functional blueprints: an approach to modularity in grown systems
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- Beal, J. Swarm Intell (2011) 5: 257. doi:10.1007/s11721-011-0056-x
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The engineering of grown systems poses fundamentally different system integration challenges than ordinary engineering of static designs. On the one hand, a grown system must be capable of surviving not only in its final form, but at every intermediate stage, despite the fact that its subsystems may grow unevenly or be subject to different scaling laws. On the other hand, the ability to grow offers much greater potential for adaptation, either to changes in the environment or to internal stresses developed as the system grows. I observe that the ability of subsystems to tolerate stress can be used to transform incremental adaptation into the dynamic discovery of viable growth trajectories for the system as a whole. Using this observation, I propose an engineering approach based on functional blueprints, under which a system is specified in terms of desired performance and means of incrementally correcting deficiencies. I explore how manifold geometric programming can support such an approach by simplifying the construction of distortion-tolerant programs, then demonstrate the functional blueprints approach by applying it to integrate simplified models of tissue growth and vascularization, and further show how the composed system may itself be modulated for use as a component in a more complex design.