A Tricky Problem

The trick is to state a problem in a manner that can be understood in both biology and engineering. The common factor is the trade-off (Vincent 2017), a major factor in natural selection and evolution.

There are trade-offs, explicit or implicit, anywhere that a system is under pressure to improve.

Common trade-offs: speed versus accuracy, strength versus weight, exploration versus exploitation, and so on.

The same trade-offs are found in biology, engineering, medicine, local government, management, conservation and more.

Trade-off” has a number of alternative names such as compromise, balance, negative correlation, optimisation, etc.

The simplest trade-off is two dimensional, defined by [A] versus [B].  

1. If the trade-off is [A] or [B], it can be a preference and we might speak of a choice;

2. Both [A] and [B] may be preferred, but at different times under different circumstances, so the trade-off becomes subject to external conditions and can be an adaptation mechanism;

3. [A] and [B] may be antagonistic, in which case we might speak of a compromise or optimisation.

Trade-off no. 3 tends to be regarded as the only one. Understanding the full range of trade-offs will improve your understanding of the trade-off.

Reference Vincent, 2017 https://www.icevirtuallibrary.com/doi/10.1680/jbibn.16.00005