March 2019, Vol. 31, No. 3, Pages 555-573
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Advancing System Performance with Redundancy: From Biological to Artificial Designs
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Redundancy is a fundamental characteristic of many biological processes such as those in the genetic, visual, muscular, and nervous systems, yet its driven mechanism has not been fully comprehended. Until recently, the only understanding of redundancy is as a mean to attain fault tolerance, which is reflected in the design of many man-made systems. On the contrary, our previous work on redundant sensing (RS) has demonstrated an example where redundancy can be engineered solely for enhancing accuracy and precision. The design was inspired by the binocular structure of human vision, which we believe may share a similar operation. In this letter, we present a unified theory describing how such utilization of redundancy is feasible through two complementary mechanisms: representational redundancy (RPR) and entangled redundancy (ETR). We also point out two additional examples where our new understanding of redundancy can be applied to justify a system's superior performance. One is the human musculoskeletal system (HMS), a biological instance, and the other is the deep residual neural network (ResNet), an artificial counterpart. We envision that our theory would provide a framework for the future development of bio-inspired redundant artificial systems, as well as assist studies of the fundamental mechanisms governing various biological processes.