Meeting Summary: We can't replay the tape of time, but it is clear that seemingly inconsequential decisions can strongly constrain future innovations. For instance, the choice of the U.S. Standard railroad width in the 1800's impacts today's engineering decisions about high-speed train design. This phenomenon of entrenchment is found in biological evolution, the assembly of ecological communities, the development of human artifacts such as software or corporations, and even in the progression of science itself (e.g., Kuhnian paradigm shifts). Where does it come from? What are its underlying properties, and how may it be inferred, predicted, or controlled?
Taking a complex systems approach, we aim to construct a generalizable framework to examine entrenchment across numerous scientific disciplines. Adopting a broad perspective, we will compare if and how entrenchment differs across systems to identify its general principles. This approach will allow us to develop a theoretical understanding of entrenchment, as well as generate hypotheses about how to infer and mitigate the process.