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When it comes to security, think 'natural'
Date:5/20/2010

Security systems could be more effective if officials looked at how organisms deal with threats in the natural world, University of Arizona researchers suggest in the May 20 edition of the journal Nature.

The authors are working with security and disaster management officials to help put some of their recommendations such as decentralizing forces and forming alliances into practice.

"Anytime you have the illusion of full security, you get adaptation," said Rafe Sagarin, an assistant research scientist in the UA's Institute of the Environment who is the lead author of the opinion piece. "Terrorists figure out unexpected means of attack, hackers come up with new software to break through firewalls, and pathogens develop resistance to antibiotics."

Instead of relying on large, centralized bureaucracies that move slowly and often lag behind in addressing threats, the authors encourage officials to look to the natural world for principles that could prove less costly, more flexible and more effective at countering threats.

The security issues of modern human societies are analogous to those of many organisms, according to Sagarin and his co-authors. In nature, risks are frequent, variable and uncertain. Over billions of years, organisms have evolved an enormous variety of methods to survive, grow and proliferate on a continually changing planet. The key to their success is their ability to quickly adapt to rapidly changing threats, and change their structures, behaviors and interactions accordingly.

Avoid centralization

Unlike many security agencies or entities in the human world, the most adaptable and successful organisms avoid centralization. Instead, they distribute tasks among decentralized, specialized groups of cells or individuals.

Sagarin points to the octopus' camouflaging strategy to illustrate this principle: Its networks of pigment cells, distributed all over its body, reac
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Contact: Daniel Stolte
stolte@email.arizona.edu
520-626-4402
University of Arizona
Source:Eurekalert  

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