The long tail of a complex system

Most attributes of complex systems studied by the exact sciences may be approximated by the Gaussian (normal) distribution. Asymmetric or skewed distributions are transformed so as to make them normal, e.g., the log-normal distribution. On the other hand life generates only skewed distributions. Hitherto those distributions were also transformed so as to make them Gaussian. The short  asymmetric tails were regarded as noise which ought to be reduced by an appropriate transformation.

The Gaussian distribution (model) is generated from random phenomena, and since nothing in life is random the Gaussian model  fails to capture some essential attributes of life.   Life is manifested by the allometric law with  asymmetric tails.

After a century of ignoring these tails as random noise, developers encounter this phenomenon in the Internet,  and since it is bad for business, it is unpleasant.  Particularly since the area under the long tail is larger than the body that wags it. Hitherto you believed that the distribution-body harbors most of your customers only to discover that they hide in the long tail.   The phrase “Long Tail” was coined by Chris Anderson, and highlighted by an influential essay  by Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs and Inequality" (February 2003)

The long tail is a manifestation of the allometric law (a power law) which is an expression of  life, and since the Internet is a living system it behaves allometrically. Thus, in order to improve your business, you ought to abandon the outdated  Gaussian distribution, and turn your attention to life. You cannot generate a long tail from random elements, since phenomena generating long tails are creative. My CA models are such creative constructs which generate long tails.

The long tail carries with it a sad message which led some to conclude that Web 2.0 is dead. On one hand the web is flooded with information, yet most of it is redundant,   irrelevant,  and misleading. Suppose that you fell ill with cancer. You turn to the experts and get treated. Nevertheless you worry. They talk about  probabilities of cure, while you want a definite answer. What about alternative cancer treatments? Google spits out 10,700,000  links within 0.09 seconds. You  start reading  and reading  only to encounter the non-relevant. The distribution of these links forms a  body with a long tail. The first n pages consist  of the  body, while  the creative links are distributed somewhere in the long tail.

More on cancer

The optimists hope to remedy this with new search engines of Web 3.0 . Yet the future lies in Web-Bionics, whose basic ideas were introduced in this thread.

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