In my last post on human augmentation, I discussed what a mitigation strategy is. Now I would like to discuss the role of natural variation in human augmentation and mitigation. While some people might view the products of natural selection to be “optimal”, natural variation actually works against engineering optimization in a number of key ways.
* to fully account for natural variation, we must open up the black box of physiological regulation. To do this, we must understand the process of humans interacting with technology as a homeostatic or allostatic process .
* physiological regulation as a result of technological interaction occurs at multiple biological scales. These include the molecular bases of learning and memory, tissue-specific gene expression, cognitive memory consolidation, and populations in their environment.
* the nature and potential outcomes of this process can be captured using a fitness landscape or related type of n-dimensional phase space . This allows us to understand the adaptability of specific genotypes or populations of individuals .
* The use of fitness landscapes allows us to characterize allostatic regulation as a hill-climbing (or quasi-optimal) process. However, in doing so, we must account for certain regularities of training such as the power law of practice.
 For the concept of allostatic regulation, please see: Schulkin, J. Rethinking Homeostasis: allostatic regulation in physiology and pathophysiology. MIT Press (2003).
For the concept of technology being an environmental challenge, please see: Alicea, B. Performance Augmentation in Hybrid Systems: techniques and experiment. arXiv Repository, arXiv:0810.4629 [q-bio.NC, q-bio.QM] (2008).
 For more information on the geometry of fitness landscapes, please see: Gavrilets, S. Fitness Landscapes and the Origin of Species. Monographs in Population Biology, 41. Princeton University Press (2004).
 Populations can consist of special needs populations, different ethnic groups, and even people of differing body shape and athletic ability. They carry unique molecular, physical, and cognitive features to specific types of interaction.
For more information, please see:
Alicea, B. Natural Variation and Neuromechanical Systems. Cogprints, 6698 (2009).
Alicea, B. The adaptability of physiological systems optimizes performance: new directions in augmentation. arXiv Repository, arXiv: 0810.4884 [cs.HC, cs.NE] (2008).